Q&A with Debra Pierce, Faculty Associate, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This week we’re kicking off W2O Days at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (#UW2O)! Modeled after the success of our Syracuse University Social Commerce Days, this inaugural two-day event is focused on educating students about healthcare marketing and communications by connecting them with industry leaders and having some the best minds teach them . One of those minds includes Debra Pierce, Faculty Associate, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In the Q&A below, she discusses her method for teaching journalism and mass communications, shares the one skill students need to have, and shares why she’s excited for #UW2O. Check out her interview.

You’ve been an instructor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (aka the J-School) for quite some time.  Tell us about your approach to teaching journalism and mass communication in today’s environment.

Debra: I take a professional, hands on approach in the classroom. Students are put into agency teams, where they work together to solve real life business challenges from real clients. My hands on approach includes studying recent industry case examples and the latest trends in communications. I think this professional approach has paid off for our students upon graduation; employers tell us that our students are ready to hit the ground running and make real contributions to their businesses, right out of the gates.

As someone who has worked in agencies and in-house you’ve been on the front lines of many changes in the industry.  What do you think is the biggest change that you’re trying to share with your students?

Debra: AI has already had such a large impact on the communications industry, and it is going to continue to evolve. We study and discuss how AI has helped communications so far, and how we can positively augment it going forward.

What do you think is the most important skill students need coming out of school today?  

Debra: I think employers are seeking candidates who can multi-task across a wide variety of forms of communication. Multi-tasking requires being able to work on multiple projects at once and learning how to prioritize – and how to manage upwards regarding time constraints, if needed. As to the forms of communication, being able to effectively tell a story that provides a humanizing touch is important – and students need to so that across a wide variety of media – social, web, video, long form, etc.

Talk about the importance of joint programs that bring industry, and agencies like ours, and academia together.

Debra: It’s a win-win-win, really. Our students benefit because they can learn from the best in the industry, while W20 can get exposed to the next generation of communicators from a globally recognized program like ours. Our faculty are some of the top health communication researchers in the field, as well; they get the opportunity to showcase their research, and understand how their research can best be applied to the industry.

What are you looking forward to most about this week?

Debra: I can’t wait to see the excitement percolate throughout the department – it’s going to be contagious! We have several events set up where the W20 team and our students will be getting together – interviews, presentations, and networking, for example. Our students are thrilled to learn from some of the best in the industry!

W2O Group
W2O Group

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