UND Communication Appreciation Day

Keynote Speaker, Laura McCallum, gave a speech about her experience within the news industry

Kelsie Hildebrand, Editor-in-Chief

Last Thursday, April 20th, was the University of North Dakota’s third annual Communication Appreciation Day. There were several events throughout the day that consisted of student showcases, alumni panels, a keynote speaker, and a networking event. This day is meant to provide students within the Communication Department a chance to talk with alumni about career opportunities and expand on and understand the meaning of what is behind a communication degree.   

From 9:30 am to 12:30 pm, the Memorial Union hosted this day. There were events, such as the Communiation class showcase session where student got to put on display their achievements, internships, and project within their communication classes. Opening remarks were made by Dr. Bradly Rundquist, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Sarah Prout, the Vice President of Marketing and Communications of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation, and Dr. Soojung Kim, the Chair of the Department of Communication, who then introduced this year’s keynote speaker, Laura McCallum. McCallum graduated from UND in 1989 and has gone on now to become the Politics and Government Editor for the Start Tribune.   

McCallum shared with the audience her experiences at UND and how she got to be an Editor at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, MN. She shed light on how different the Department was when she was a student here and how it has evolved from the School of Journalism to the Department of Communication. She went from being the weekend reporter for the News Station here in Grand Forks to applying for an internship in New York for CBS News. She didn’t get it the first time through, but tried again and was one of 16 students across the country to receive this opportunity. Although she was just answering phones and getting coffee, she was experiencing journalism and news reporting in the real-world. McCallum said, “do not give up and especially do not get discouraged if you don’t get it the first time because sometimes it pays off. And don’t be afraid to put yourself forward for opportunities.”   

McCallum previously worked for Minnesota’s MPR News before the Star Tribune where she was an editor as well. She has reported on Jazz Musician Wynton Marsalis, Actor Alec Baldwin, the 2018 Superbowl, several Presidents and politicians, and the Grand Forks floods in 1997. McCallum describes journalism’s role in society as “educating the public and providing factual information.” The journalism field is a continuously growing industry with more of an online presence and competition, so McCallum’s advice for aspiring students is that “get as much experience during college as you can.” In addition to her WDAZ television experience, McCallum wrote for the Dakota Student, reported for KFJM on campus, directing for Studio One, and interned at her hometown newspaper and the local CBS affiliate.   

“Every experience you get will teach you more about what you like and don’t like, what you’re good at and what you need to work on, and it also gives you this bigger network of people who can help you get that first job,” said McCallum.   

Following McCallum was a communication student and alumni panel and Communiation Professional session where the attendees got to ask questions, share stories, and learn about the opportunities and growth in the department. The panel consisted of three communication majors, Sarah Dignan, Matthew Hjelmstad, and Hailey Thorlakson, and three alumni, Matt Mamura, Peter Monsrud, and Hennessy Locsin. There were about 40 alumni who came to the Professional Session from various fields, such as journalism, advertising, marketing, and more.   

Continuing with the day was a luncheon at the Memorial Union and the Communiation Networking Social at the Gorecki Alumni Center. The luncheon was a chance for Dr. Kim to conversate with the alumni about the future of the department. At the Networking Social, Dr. Jeffrey Weatherly, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Prout, and Dr. Kim gave opening remarks with the presentations of this year’s scholarships to follow. Several scholarship recipients were there to be recognized and accept their donations for their remaining years at UND.   

Dr. Joonghwa Lee, Associate Professor of the Communication Department, has been working on the Appreciation Day since last year and has put in the time to make it possible. His team, consisting of two seniors within the Communication Department, were a part of the campaign coordinating team and helped Dr. Lee pull the day together. Charlotte Sonterre and Trandon Lehrer are the senior interns who worked directly with Dr. Lee during the entirety of the planning, organizing, and execution of Communication Appreciation Day.   

UND’s annual Communiation Day will return next year with new students and new alumni who will be graduating this spring. The Communication Department and field are growing and changing, so events like these are beneficial to those studying communication and are a great opportunity for graduated alumni to learn new things. 


Kelsie Hildebrand is the Dakota Student Editor-in-Chief. She can be reached at [email protected].