By Drew Roberts
After the departure of several faculty members over the past few years, the Mass Communication Department has hired three new professors. Though their backgrounds and areas of expertise vary, all share a common goal of connecting with students and preparing them for success.
The mass communication major is divided into two concentrations: broadcast production, focusing on the technical aspects of mass communication, and multimedia journalism, which leans more towards writing.
On the multimedia journalism side of things, Dr. Samantha Kocan has joined the department and is excited to engage with students. After five years of working as a TV reporter and anchor, she discovered her love of teaching. She went on to earn a Master’s degree in strategic communication. Following this, she earned a Ph.D. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Alabama.
By weaving her industry experience into classroom lectures, Kocan hopes to set her students up for success.
“I feel like there’s only so much that a student can learn from a textbook,” Kocan said, “and you learn more when you’re in the field, so being able to bring that experience in the classroom is going to better prepare my students for future careers in journalism.”
Much of Kocan’s research involves the mental health of journalists, an aspect of the industry she hopes to emphasize in the classroom.
“I don’t think mental health is talked about enough in the industry,” she said. “You’re expected to work long hours, weekends and holidays. There’s really not much time to prioritize your mental health, so I think teaching the students ways to navigate the industry is really going to help them in the long run.”
For the broadcast production concentration, there have been two new hires. The first is professor Logan Freeman, who is helping to develop the digital filmmaking minor into a major.
“[It’s] a lot of pressure, but luckily, it’s fun,” he said. “Luckily there’s a lot of really good faculty to support [it]. I get to come in and help students get weird.”
With a few short films under his belt, a Master of Fine Arts in digital art with a focus on film directing from Emerson College and experience working in Boston, Los Angeles and New York, Freeman has plenty of experience behind the camera. In the classroom, however, he hopes to help students tell stories with or without it.
“I think anybody can learn the technical aspects,” he said, “but you have to nurture what it means to be a storyteller, so you have to figure out what is your best mode of storytelling, and that’s different for people. It’s a different voice. You don’t just tell stories in one medium.”
The second hire is professor Kaley Martin, who is a UM alumna. Martin is an Emmy-winning documentarist and has worn many hats in the media world: social media, sports and corporate branding, to name a few. Martin credits much of this professional versatility to her time as a UM student and the lack of restriction in the mass communication program.
“To me, that’s what makes it stand out, and the fact that it’s rooted in a liberal arts degree, so we’re always pulling knowledge from a lot of different places and that’s informing how we choose to create and communicate. So, Montevallo was always the place.”
She hopes to employ this same philosophy in the classroom in order to optimize student creativity.
“I want the students to be able to explore wherever their creativity takes them because you may have a student who originally thinks they’re more journalistically inclined, but then they may decide later that they want to be a documentarist,” Martin said. “I think exposing the students to all the areas and allowing [them] to sort of play in the sand box lets [them] stretch [themselves] creatively and gives [them] a really good portfolio when [they] graduate.”