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Posts Tagged ‘pandemic’

Learning Behind the Mask: Communities come together in remarkable ways to learn and adapt through COVID-19

Posted on: July 25th, 2022 by ldrucker

It has been two years since Ole Miss students were sent home, in-person classes were moved online and COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. There have been challenging moments, deep sorrow over lives lost and moments of social disconnect. Nonetheless, communities have come together in remarkable ways to learn how to adapt and reconnect.

Integrating technology into classrooms has provided opportunities for students to learn beyond the traditional classroom setting and instantly connect with anyone, anywhere and at any time. The enhanced learning environment inside and outside the classroom has provided interactive experiences and intentional education. The combination of in-person, virtual, and hybrid appears to be conditioning students for the technologically-dependent world they live in today. The current student generation should be better equipped, more resilient, and more prepared to face whatever communication challenges and experiences should come because of the skills learned by communicating online.

Video conferencing, for example, has served a variety of purposes and enhanced learning because people have been able to virtually connect from across the globe with their peers, co-workers, and family members. Students meet inspiring speakers from their field on a Zoom call that they may not otherwise have had the chance to meet if they were in a traditional, everyday classroom setting. Throughout the school year, many professors, club leaders and organizations invite alumni and guest speakers to speak on Zoom.

Jacqueline Cole is a junior integrated marketing communications major from Memphis, who enrolled at Ole Miss in Fall 2019. Cole reflected and compared her experiences before and through the pandemic.

The graphic reads: Learning Behind the Mask: Communities come together in remarkable ways to learn and adapt through COVID-19

The graphic reads: Learning Behind the Mask: Communities come together in remarkable ways to learn and adapt through COVID-19

“We didn’t video-conference in our classes or anything before the pandemic,” Cole said. “But now, it’s a regular thing that I look forward to in many of my classes and clubs. Last semester, we had an influencer reach out to my internet marketing class. The influencer, Sara Caroline Bridgers, actually went to Ole Miss. She now lives in Hawaii, and we were able to talk to her about how she became an influencer, how she makes money, and how to promote a self-brand.”

Remote opportunities have also provided many options for students in terms of learning and future possibilities for flexibility in the workforce. It has been to the advantage of students to learn more about the latest opportunities that have emerged in the past few years.

“I can go beyond what I have always known because I have the idea now that you can work remotely from everywhere. So, I don’t feel like I have to be stuck in one city,” Cole said. “I could definitely move around and have the opportunity to work for the same company, and my life wouldn’t be affected because I had to move to a different location for another job. I feel like this [opportunity] has definitely opened up since COVID.”

Since returning to campus this school year, Cole has noticed the empathy of her professors. She feels like her health is a priority. When Cole has to miss class for being sick, she knows she can rely on her professors to work with her outside of class to make up her work. She feels less pressured to constantly show up for class when she is not feeling well.

“The teachers have become more understanding,” Cole said. “I have noticed that the teachers take more time and are a lot more caring about out-of-class circumstances. When students are sick, Zoom options for students make things healthier, especially for someone who gets sick all the time. I never feel like I’m missing something anymore.”

As the world is evolving at an extremely fast technological pace, The University of Mississippi is growing with it. The University has employed several initiatives to help students continue to learn and prevent learning gaps.

“I have been able to connect with people despite the literal communication gaps,” Cole said. “I think the pandemic has helped the world, as a whole, communicate.”

Students can pursue and balance their passions and hobbies with their academics when flexibility is built in by a remote schedule. Combining traditional and virtual procedures where necessary, timely, and convenient helps the day-to-day tasks flow more smoothly. The developments from the past few years, such as online advising, virtual tours and virtual speakers, should remain because they are efficient and informative.

Dawson Wilson is a senior majoring in integrated marketing communications from Ocean Springs. He is the current director of photography for UM Square Magazine and was the 2020-2021 photo editor for The Ole Miss yearbook. Wilson also shoots freelance photography.

“Ever since COVID hit two years ago, I have learned just how much better of a learner I am when I take online and pace-yourself classes,” Wilson said. “I am a photographer, so this gave me leeway to really hone in on my craft while also being able to do school on my own time. I ended up finding the perfect balance of work, school, and play.”

The novelty of the technology and circumstances at hand proves there is no true expert in the room–or on the Zoom. However, this is how and where great ideas can be born and developed. Students are navigating, growing, and learning during a highly confusing time when much of the world is trying to do the same.

“I feel like going through all of this and knowing what I know now, the basic message that I have learned is just to live your life,” Wilson said. “If you don’t do it, your mind will eat away at you with the ‘what-ifs,’ but if you do it and don’t like it, then you have the ‘well, at least I tried it’ mindset.”

Wilson went on to say, “I think that whenever something major like this happens, technology will always advance to make things easier for us. As much as I think I remember the internet being super popular before the pandemic, it, no doubt, got much more popular during and after COVID. A big thing that people learned is how easy it is to find inspiration and a passion, while also being able to monetize that passion. At the beginning of the pandemic, when people were making small businesses in their homes with their stimulus checks, they realized how much the internet could open the world to everyone.”

The University of Mississippi PRSSA chapter members.

The University of Mississippi PRSSA chapter members in masks.

The world is more than what students have known thus far, in terms of location or opportunity. With the world becoming more technologically advanced, each generation must refine their online communication skills. Integrating technology into the classroom has helped college students navigate the complexities of communicating professionally and socially.

“I was literally blown away when Kara Brand, who worked at Vogue, told us her story in our Square Magazine virtual meeting one day,” Wilson said. “The story was that she had graduated from Ole Miss and decided to move to New York. She worked for the MET Museum, where she worked the MET Gala annually.

“One year, she met the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, and she was offered a job on the spot. From there, she moved to L.A. to work for Teen Vogue, where she eventually ended up landing a job at Vogue in New York City. That is the short story, but I was so fascinated by her and her luck. I definitely do not think we would have gotten to hear from her if we had not had the pandemic.”

Elena Ossoski is a sophomore pursuing degrees in education and integrated marketing communications with an emphasis in public relations. Ossoski currently serves as editor-in-chief of UM Square Magazine, where she works with a team of directors to lead the staff. The staff worked together to publish the first volume of the student-run fashion magazine during the pandemic.

The pandemic provided an opportunity for reflection, outreach, and creativity for Ossoski and the magazine staff. Since UM Square Magazine posts weekly content online, including social media and blog posts, the team members could still contribute to story-telling, despite obstacles put in place by the pandemic.

“I’ve been able to form connections and relationships with people through social media and email, whether they are professional or friendships, even with people I haven’t met in person,” Ossoski said. “I would reach out to alumni, fellow students, and just people I thought were cool. Since it was during the pandemic, most people I interviewed I haven’t met in person. I would form relationships and share the stories through Square.”

“It has been very rewarding,” Ossoski said.

Social media became a direct reflection of what people were craving during the pandemic. Society had been missing out on normalcy: students wanted to know what everyone else was doing daily, so students constantly watched everyone post about it online. Students longed to be with each other.

“There’s so much knowledge that you can share from one person to another,” Ossoski said. “You can share someone’s life experiences, what they did that day, what they did at school, what they choose to wear each day–it’s a very intimate way to get to know somebody–and it also happened during the pandemic, when we also weren’t able to meet face-to-face, so it was just nice to hear about how other people lived their lives and share about these experiences on social media and on the blog. It just gave more insight to life in general.”

Social media and blogs became an outlet to get to know each other. Students desire human connection. Sometimes, you need that “push” from someone who has done something slightly scary before you; deep down, you know it will be okay, but when you hear a story from an inspiring individual who has “made it,” it motivates you. Social media provided that extra level of connection during that time of disconnection that allowed our generation to reach out instantly and take that leap of faith that students otherwise may not have been brave enough to take.

This story was written by By Haley Clift.

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The graphic features a student sitting at TV monitors and reads: Turn Your Dreams Into Reality.


In a world of pandemic problems, some workers value remote options

Posted on: March 23rd, 2022 by ldrucker

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted and changed our lives.

But for some, having the option to work remotely and by teleconference is one of the positive changes.

University of Mississippi graduate Emmy Stephens, a former IMC student and marketing associate for Georgia Banking Company in Atlanta, said remote work has been beneficial for employees in her marketing department.

Emmy Stephens, a former IMC student.

Emmy Stephens, a former IMC student.

“It’s taking a lot of things virtual, so that’s beneficial in a lot of ways,” she said. “My boss works two hours away sometimes, and we can still get together and do Zoom meetings and stuff, which has been super helpful.”

That means clients are also doing business remotely.

“A lot of our search engine optimization . . . has been key to reaching our clients and customers and pushing social media,” said Stephens who began her college career seven years ago after touring and falling in love with the Ole Miss campus.

“I kind of wanted to go somewhere not in Georgia,” she said. “That’s where I’m from. I went to (Ole Miss) to expand my horizons and go somewhere new with new people, and I think it’s the best decision I made.”

Stephens was initially undecided about her studies before realizing her passion and goals involved integrated marketing communications (IMC) and journalism. She loved the hands-on projects and opportunities the major offered.

“(IMC) just fit what I wanted to do . . ,” she said. “It’s so broad that you can go into so many fields, and it helps in so many ways.”

To read the full story, visit the Oxford Stories website.

This story was written by Gabrielle Fairey for Oxford Stories.

How University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media student journalists cover the pandemic

Posted on: April 27th, 2020 by ldrucker

How does journalism and integrated marketing communication education change in the midst of a pandemic? Here’s a look at how our faculty and students took on the challenge.


Coronavirus reporter illustrration

Anna Grace Usery, an instructor of journalism and integrated marketing communications who is the editor-in-chief of, said the Hotty Toddy News interns and her IMC 390 Advanced Writing students found new and innovative ways to tell community stories during this time.

“I’ve got students focusing on how local pastors are strengthening their faith by connecting with congregants who they can’t even see,” she said. “One intern is writing a really positive story about the abundance of fresh, local vegetables we’re going to have this summer and how to support farmers.

Anna Grace Usery

Anna Grace Usery

Usery said she thinks it’s fascinating that, in conjunction with students, teachers are discovering new ways to facilitate deep human connections.

“I’ve always taught that phone calls and email interviews should be last resort situations because we know that face-to-face interactions are the lifeblood of community journalism,” she said, “but those new media aspects are integral to storytellers during the quarantine. How do we make those deep connections that embody face-to-face interactions?

“You humanize those stories. You empathize. You give truthful representations of what people are feeling and facing. It’s so exciting to hear interns come back after they’ve researched, written and edited to say they’ve found deeper context to an issue because they found passionate people behind it. Then they become passionate about it. It’s a cycle you hope to inspire in young storytellers.”

Students in Interim Dean Debora Wenger’s J480 Advanced Video Newsgathering class held Google Meet news conferences with newsmakers, including the local school superintendent, the head of University Communications, and the head of communications for UM Athletics.

“They’ve been using FaceTime and other tools to get the people side of the story, i.e. the parent now homeschooling, the student wondering about refunds, and the spring athlete mourning their lost season,” Wenger said. “They also just recently wrapped up an assignment using an animation tool that allows you to easily illustrate concepts, like how to wear a mask properly or whether wearing gloves is a good idea. They’ve been doing amazing work – figuring out new tech and tools and, for the most part, cheerfully getting it all done.”

Graduate students in Wenger’s J610 Multimedia II class had been working on a semester-long project related to hunger in Mississippi when the campus closed.

“Much of their reporting was already done, so they are updating their stories in light of COVID-19, using an audio streaming service to interview their original sources,” Wenger said, “and then we’ll embed these episodes into the Feeding Mississippi website we’re creating. They have been a good team — working with and supporting each other.”

Wenger said one thing that’s essential in any career is adaptability.

“Boy, are they learning that right now,” she said. “They’re also learning that the storytelling principles we talk about are the foundation no matter what format or software you use. I’ve seen wonderful stories produced with an iPhone app, some designed solely for social media and others created for a TV news show – yet they all communicate the essential information people need to understand the story. Kudos to all of them!”

LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker

Professor LaReeca Rucker’s J102 Introduction to Multimedia Writing class reported on the pandemic and published their stories to the website

“They have written about how some healthcare workers say more supplies are needed for them to do their jobs, how unemployment offices are struggling to address a record number of claims during the pandemic, and how panic buying has eliminated some necessary supplies in small towns like Eupora,” she said.

“They have written about how the Oxford Park Commission is working to improve its programming while it’s closed, how Mississippi hotel and Airbnb owners are feeling the effects of COVID-19, and how some are coping by volunteering during this time.”

“I hope that they realize they are doing important, meaningful work this time by providing information that connects their community and moves the conversation forward,” Rucker said. “I’m proud of the work they are doing. Keep reading Oxford Stories where they will be sharing more of their work.”

You can also find their work on social media. Look for Oxford Stories on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @oxfordstories1.

Michael Fagans

Michael Fagans

Professor Michael Fagans teaches two sections of Jour 456 Capstone Journalism Innovation.

Some of his students worked on stories about student services being offered during the pandemic, how college seniors are presenting their thesis/final art portfolios online and staying sane while social distancing with your family.

They also covered topics about child abuse and neglect, businesses still operating, how workers at Parchman handled COVID-19 from prison, and how treatment and addiction centers were coping with the situation.

Some students explored how churches held services, what apartment complexes did for residents, the impact on study abroad students, guns as big sellers, and students also produced weekly vlogs.

Cynthia Joyce

Cynthia Joyce

Professor Cynthia Joyce said students from JOUR 377 Advanced Reporting continued to report from home and did a fantastic job.

Their work was published on HottyToddy, the Daily Mississippian and The Oxford Eagle websites. They wrote about subjects ranging from mental health access, grassroots aid for restaurant workers, rental issues, and the campus ministry adjusting to online fellowship.

Assistant Professor of Journalism Iveta Imre, Ph.D., said her students in a JOUR 378 Television Reporting class also covered local stories about the pandemic.

Iveta Imre

Iveta Imre

“They are interviewing sources via Zoom, getting creative with footage, and doing stand-ups all from their homes,” she said. “I have been really impressed with their effort and focus on the work. They have easily transitioned to online teaching, which, for this video class, was not an easy task at hand. I think they are getting valuable experience on reporting during trying times, and I could not be more proud.”

One social media video has been viewed more than 6,000 times.

Professor R.J. Morgan, who is also the director of the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association, said he’s seen countless teachers and students working overtime to cover the virus and its impact on local communities.

“It’s a major, major disruption of life for, well, for all of us,” he said, “but even amidst all the chaos, I’m still seeing students post meaningful, well-thought-out content in service of their audience.”

R.J. Morgan

R.J. Morgan

Morgan said high schools were out, but many teachers were still meeting regularly with their staffs via Zoom, etc., and editors were still making assignments and proofing pages.

“It has all been amazing to watch,” he said. “We had our annual MSPA spring awards ceremony on March 31, which we conducted digitally for the first time. In light of the ongoing crisis, we added four special COVID-19 categories to our carry-in contests, and we got some really incredible examples of student work that had been produced in such a short amount of time.”

Morgan said the student work demonstrates how seriously students take their jobs and how much their role as student reporters means to them.

“You don’t see that kind of commitment evolving from many other curricular activities,” he said. “We posted the winner/finalists’ works on our website if you’d like to see them.”