Networking and real-world experience program in works for Schieffer School

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    Sophomore strategic communication major Kari Berdelle said she hopes to bring the networking opportunities and real-world experience of the Neeley Fellows program to the Schieffer School of Journalism.

    “I thought it was a really cool program to have because they get a lot of opportunities that I feel would be relevant to the journalism school too,” Berdelle said.

    Berdelle, a representative for the College of Communication, said the idea was part of her platform when she ran for her position in the House of Student Representatives in 2009. She said her first steps would be researching the program at the Neeley School of Business.

    According to the Neeley Fellows’ online brochure, it is an undergraduate honors program that selects 30 exceptional freshman pre-business majors each year for summer internships, service learning projects, research projects at Fortune 500 Companies and other privileges.

    Neeley Fellows’s Program Director, Beata Jones, said the program was proposed by a former dean of the business school. The majority of the process involved working with the director and council of the university’s honors program because the Neeley Fellows courses needed to with coincide with honors program’s requirements, she said.

    Berdelle said she is in the process of speaking with John Tisdale, associate director of the Schieffer School of Journalism, and said she hopes to urge Schieffer School administrators to offer a similar program to strategic communication and journalism majors. She said the Schieffer School would be ideal for the program because it would allow students to study real-world convergence and the integration of cutting-edge technology in the communications field.

    “The biggest thing about the journalism school is networking, and that’s the same at the business school,” Berdelle said. “This would be a huge networking tool, and that’s really what I’d like to see come out of this more than anything.”

    Tisdale said he thought the program sounded like a good idea, but he could not make a judgement about it without a written proposal from Berdelle. Most upper-level strategic communication classes already include an experiential learning element in their curriculum, and many classes even have their own clients, he said, including professor Peter Noble’s class which had Exxon-Mobil as a client last semester. Tisdale said the Fort Worth Star-Telegram also worked with junior and senior journalism students in the public affairs and sports writing classes.

    The journalism school already has a student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Public Relations Student Society of America and a Washington, D.C. internship program for student networking. In addition, the school participates in the departmental research of the university’s honors program.

    Jones said the current sophomore Neeley Fellows are all also part of the university’s Honors College. She said the Fellows program has more requirements than the regular honors program.

    Out of the 27 Neeley Fellows 2009 graduates, all of them are now in the work force or in a full-time graduate program, Jones said. The average starting salary of a Neeley Fellow is 25 percent higher than the average Neeley School graduate, she said.

    In the Schieffer School, funding for the program would be a problem, Tisdale said, because the journalism school does not have the same financial resources as the Neeley School. It would be hard to convince already busy journalism faculty to take on more work with no additional compensation, he said.

    Jones said the Fellows program does not have any full time employees, but that many faculty members support the program as part of their job requirements.

    Jones said she could not release exact figures for the program’s expenses, but the primary expense of the program, she said, is student travel. Participating students go to New York during the spring break of their sophomore year, and to Santiago, Chile, during the spring of their junior year. While students pay for transportation and program fees, the Fellows Program pays the majority of the cost of the trip, she said.

    Meagan Wayland, a senior accounting and management double major, said her participation in the Neeley Fellows program had been a valuable part of her experience at the university.

    Wayland said she hopes to work for a public accounting firm in the Dallas-Fort Worth area after attending graduate school.

    Former Neeley Fellows who have entered the work force are giving their employers a positive impression of the program’s graduates, she said.