Get to know your M.S. Com Students: Kevin Jurvis

One of the great things about Grand Valley’s Masters of Science in communication program is the wide variety of students it brings. Current M.S. student Kevin Jurvis is getting ready to finish his second semester in the program. Kevin double majored in Political Science and Communication Studies in his undergrad while also being very involved in Alpha Sigma Phi’s fraternity. He served as the Executive Vice President and President of the Fraternity his Sophomore and Junior years. Kevin has always been interested in Politics and has had multiple opportunities to work on various campaigns. He notes that he decided to pick up the second major (communication studies) after taking COM 101 as an elective in his undergrad, stating, “I really loved the material,” and further expressed the remarkable experiences with all Communications Faculty.

Kevin is currently weighing all of his options regarding his future career. For the last few years, he has been working as a transaction coordinator remotely for RE/Max Nexus in Birmingham, MI. And after working in a variety of communication-oriented positions and opening a dialogue with a few different companies, he is very interested in securing a role in the field of Public Relations. Kevin is originally from Huntington Woods, MI, and enjoys playing hockey, visiting his family’s cottage up north, and loves a good round of Euchre. However, in our interview, he mentioned that he is interested in exploring career options outside Michigan.

During his time in Grad School, Kevin has gathered some insight he’d like to share with others who are considering furthering their education.

  1. The program will be what you make of it. The effort you put in will directly correlate with your results. Therefore, it is essential to set goals for yourself, remain on task, and find a balance between school and other extracurriculars.
  2. It is important to understand that the professors are there to help you some days, it may feel otherwise, but the level of material is also meant to challenge you. You are choosing to get this level of education, and therefore it is your responsibility to hold yourself accountable for the level of work you are given.

So far, Kevin says he’s had a great experience in the M.S. program and is happy with his choice to pursue an advanced degree. He closed his interview by saying he would recommend this program to anyone interested in expanding their knowledge in the realm of communications.

GVSU Health Communication Coalition Connects Students to Community

Health Communication majors attending GVSU who are interested in critical thinking regarding issues surrounding health-in-society should consider joining the Health Communication Coalition (HCC).

The HCC helps interested students better prepare for their future careers in the health communication field by preparing them to apply for internships, providing networking opportunities with guest speakers, hosting Panel of Professionals events, resume workshops, and connecting with other GVSU students majoring in Health Communication.  

This year, the coalition’s E-board consists of Erin Martin as President, Kiersten Duiven as Event Coordinator, Grace Milo as Community Engagement Director, Ally Galanty and Sara Zennedjian as Public Relations Co-Directors, Addison Davies as Membership Co-Director, and Regina Porretta as Membership Co-Director/Secretary. Professor of Communication Studies and Health Communication Lorie Jager is the group’s advisor.

This year the HCC has put on many events such as hosting guest speakers, social media takeovers with professionals, the Fall Semester Panel of Professionals, and the Winter Semester Panel of Professionals. Coming up on Tuesday, March 23 at 7 p.m., the HCC will have Professor Jager come in to talk with their group about how, where, and when to get an internship. This will give students a chance to ask her any questions they have about internships. They may also have another guest speaker join them in April to speak about their professional world experiences.

Besides gaining access to networking events, professionals in the field, and obtaining information about the major, the HCC allows Health Communication students to come together, support each other, and make connections with other students.

“I enjoy being part of the HCC because it’s a great opportunity to get to know people in the major while also participating in events that will help build my career path. Being in a leadership position has also helped me grow on a personal level, making me more confident and excited for my future in Health Communications,” said Duiven.

The group strives to help advance students academically, socially, and in their future careers by providing them with opportunities to explore the major, interact with other students, and network with professionals that may help them land a job one day. 

“I enjoy being a part of the Health Communication Coalition because I love to interact with students who are taking the same classes as I am, and my favorite part is having the opportunity to network with professionals in my field and hearing what tips they have for us,” said HCC President Martin.  

The coalition also gives students a chance to explore the major if they are still undecided and hear from peers and professionals who can guide or act as mentors through their undergraduate studies. Students can join the organizations through LakerLink or by following them on Instagram @gvhealthcomco to keep with their events!

GIFT – Great Ideas For Teaching: Online Class Meets Hollywood Squares

Dr. Valerie Peterson

There is a lot of value in being able to see your students’ faces during distance learning. However, as we all know, we can’t force them to be on camera. 

This issue led our very own Grand Valley State University Communication Studies professor, Dr. Valerie Peterson, to experiment and arrive at a helpful strategy called ‘mini-classes’ to encourage students to participate and, in many cases, TURN ON THEIR CAMERAS!

We sat down with Dr. Peterson to learn more.

What is the problem?

“You have only one or two students turning on their cameras (Blackboard Collaborate) – or, you have many students with cameras on, but they all act like wallflowers (Zoom),” said Peterson. “Also, on Blackboard Collaborate, there is the ‘only-four-students-visible-at-a-time’ situation, which means students don’t like getting stuck having to keep their cameras on so as not to embarrass the teacher (after they’ve become visible and/or spoken). They also don’t like feeling bad about turning off their camera after the interaction (and leaving the teacher ‘behind’).”

The solution: 

1 – Break up your class into groups of four students. Call them ‘mini-classes’ or ‘pods’ – or whatever name fits your style. Let students know that these groups are not meant to work together; they are simply being used to arrange the class. 

2 – Assign each mini-class to a different day of class (mini-class one on the first day, say Monday; mini-class two on the second day, say Wednesday, etc.). In a 28 person class, that would be seven groups of four students, or seven consecutive days of class – each with a different mini-class. During the first class where you use this method, mini-class one would be ‘on deck’ to have their cameras on and microphones on or at the ready. Students in mini-classes two – seven are encouraged to participate but could also lurk. 

3 – Mini-class gives you four faces you can see to help you gauge how the bulk of students are reacting. It also offers students a day when they should be braced for interaction with you and be ready to share their faces/voices with the class (and perhaps even be especially familiar with the material). 

4 – This method helps democratize classes where only one or two students regularly speak and helps lurkers, some who have helpful observations that might otherwise go unsaid, come out of the shadows. It could be used for one ‘cycle’ in a class, or it could be used for multiple cycles or across the entire course, but you’d need to explain it first, so the soonest you could use it would be after the first day of class once students understand the expectations. 

5 – I don’t grade this or give this extra credit. I explain it as a compromise – one day of focused participation (for which they can be prepared) in exchange for other days when others will be more ‘on the spot.’ I do try to make sure students have the same number of times they’re asked to appear so that all students are asked to share in the responsibilities of participation equally. 

6 – Mini-class can also be used to schedule speeches or other staggered assignments – especially if you allow students to, when needed, adjust their due dates by trading places with someone in a different mini-class (whose work is due at a different time). Another plus is the added interest provided by a rotating group of new classmates about whom students get to know a bit more via their in-class interactions.  

We hope this sit down with Dr. Peterson helps other professors and faculty thwart class participation issues. If you have any questions regarding Dr. Peterson’s method, please feel free to reach out to her via email.

Learn how one international student has made a significant impact in the lives of people living in her home country of Nicaragua

Grand Valley State University international student Dayana Flores, Public and Nonprofit Administration major and Advertising and Public Administration minor, has her very own feeding center that has helped individuals in her hometown in Nicaragua persevere through difficult times. However, her efforts to support her community go far beyond home-cooked meals and food packets. 

Her family has been volunteering with multiple nonprofit organizations since she was six years old. The main nonprofit they worked with was called Manna Project International, which focuses on community development. The Manna Project International helped host programs such as English classes and child sponsorship opportunities. Flores’s family hosted a lot of the volunteers that would come in from all over the United States. Some of them came for a week, a month, or a year. Since her family hosted so many of them and for so many years, she was able to learn how to speak English. 

Once she became fluent in English, Flores started teaching with the volunteers at the age of 13. The English classes were held in her community, just a block from her house. When Flores learned English, she saw all the benefits that came with understanding the language. 

“I was able to start working at the age of 13 translating for so many missionary teams in Nicaragua,” Flores said. “I was able to help my family financially, and I also learned the value of working and earning my own money.  With that money, I was able to help my mom pay for a lot of bills, buy school uniforms and school supplies for the whole year.”

Because she was able to see all the benefits of learning English, she wanted to help more people from her community get there as well. She taught an English class every Tuesday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Combined with the other volunteers; they helped teach over 100 students. The youngest of the students she helped was eight, and the oldest one was 65. 

“I miss my students every day, but it has been rewarding to see a lot of my students get jobs where they can use their English language skills,” Flores said.

Since Flores grew up volunteering, she knew this is what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. One day Flores went up to her mom and told her about her dreams of starting a community program. 

“Since I grew up in a poor community, I was always able to see the need all around me,” Flores said. “Many of the kids in my community still today cannot have more  than one meal a day.” 

On August 6 of 2016, just a few days before her senior year of high school began, she started her feeding program with six kids from her community. That is when her dreams finally begun to come true. The program is still going on to this day, but they now have 32 kids.

Due to political issues in the country, Flores has not been able to make the program into an actual nonprofit organization, but her hope is to do so whenever they are able. Recently she decided to name her food center Unidos por Cristo (United By Christ) because she believes “we are all brothers and sisters, and that is how we should treat one another.” 

A large part of her food center is feeding kids lunch twice a week after school. Once they are done eating, they get a lesson about respect, diligence, love, friendship, hygiene, or any other lesson that would be easy for them to put into practice. Flores and her family also play games with them and make sure to remind them that they are loved and cared for. On top of that, they help them with their homework since a lot of their parents do not know how to read or write. Since she currently does not live in Nicaragua, her mom, sisters, and nephew run the program while she manages all the fundraising and all the budgeting. 

“Our program mainly helps the kids, but it also helps the parents since they do not have to worry about feeding them twice a week at least,” Flores said. “This also helps my community as a whole because I can see these kids become adults one day. My vision is to see them use all their potential and all their tools to reach success and become people of good.”

Other than the 32 kids from their after school program, Flores has helped 40 families to be fed for a week over this past holiday season. Every family they helped has at least five people to feed. 

Nicaragua is a developing nation that has recently been hit by two hurricanes within weeks of each other during a pandemic. 

“It was so devastating to see so many people lose the little bit that they had. Many families lost their jobs, and on top of that, their homes were destroyed,” Flores said. “I remember sitting in my room, crying, trying to figure out a way to help from afar, and I decided to record a video explaining what was happening in Nicaragua to raise awareness. I posted on every social media platform I had. I also shared my Venmo username to give people a chance to donate. In a week, I was able to raise $1,390!” 

Flores sent the money she raised to Nicaragua, and her mom and sisters were able to deliver the food. The money raised also allowed her to buy other necessities, including medical emergency kits. In total, 232 people from her community were fed this year by her program.

Just last month, Flores and her husband decided to sponsor three kids from the feeding program and pay for these kids to go to a private school all the way through high school and college. 

“My whole career as a student, I have been on a complete scholarship,” Flores said. “In fact, I even have a full ride to go to GVSU now. I know what it’s like to get a chance to succeed in life through education, and that is exactly what we want for the kids.”

She has faith that the children she helps support will be the next leaders in the community and become the ones leading the feeding program one day. 

“They are very smart kids, and I know that this chance will help them reach their potential,” Flores said.

The professors at GVSU have helped her to fall in love with her major even more. Flores’s classes have taught her the skills that will help to turn her feeding program into a nonprofit one day.  

Flores and her efforts are a wonderful example of how GVSU students display excellence in and out of the classroom. Her thoughtfulness and valiant dedication for doing good is something to admire.

To donate to Flores’s food center Unidos por Cristo (United By Christ), you can Venmo her at @Dayana-Flores-2.

SoC Student Bradyn Mills Wins Awards at November Speech Tournaments

Grand Valley State University (GVSU) sent its first ever competitor to an intercollegiate speech competition this past weekend. Bradyn Mills, a first-year student majoring in Advertising and Public Relations and a founding member of the speech team, traveled to West Lafayette, Indiana, to enter two tournaments. The “Purdue Boiler Bash” was hosted by Purdue University on Saturday and the “Illini Cornfield Clash” was hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Sunday. Both tournaments were held on the Purdue University campus as part of a “swing” weekend when schools may enter two consecutive contests.

Offering all eleven events recognized by the National Forensic Association (NFA), and two experimental events (Radio and Public Narrative), the tournaments drew competitors from sixteen schools, including Northwestern University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Illinois-Chicago, East Michigan University, and others. Bradyn entered two events: Impromptu Speaking (speaking about a prompt with a limited amount of preparation time) and After-Dinner Speaking (a humorous special occasion speech, often with a persuasive or informative goal in mind).  

During the first tournament, Bradyn advanced to the open finals of After-Dinner Speaking, placing 5th overall in the event. During the second half of the swing, he was recognized by the tournament as the top novice speaker (the best speaker in his or her first year of collegiate competition) in After-Dinner Speaking.

SoC faculty members Isaac Simon and Dr. Richard Besel also attended and served as judges for the tournaments. According to Simon:

Brady worked diligently in the weeks leading up to his first collegiate forensics competition but was somewhat nervous because his previous experience was at the high school level. The increase in his confidence was evident half way through the first day of competition. After placing 5th in after dinner speaking it was obvious that Brady was in his element and ready to take on the challenges of university level competition.  

The fledgling speech team is off to a great start. Congratulations to Bradyn and the team! And thank you to Dr. Richard Besel and Mr. Isaac Simon for spearheading this effort!