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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ex-offenders graduate from UNO educational inmate project

Fifteen of 25 ex-offenders graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Transformation Project at Nebraska Correctional Services on Dec. 17 at 6 p.m.

Chris Rodgers, lead organizer of the project, spoke about the project and the challenges faced while putting it into fruition.

David Booker, dean of UNO's College of Arts and Sciences, spoke about how the project is a representation of the university's core values.

(More video and interviews coming soon.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Stay tuned next semester

A BubbleTweet From @aciurej

Minneapolis feature reporter brings the art of storytelling to UNO

More than a dozen members of the UNO and Omaha-area community gathered to learn about the art of storytelling from former KETV reporter Boyd Huppert in the College of Public Affairs and Community Service Building on Dec. 5.

Huppert speaks before UNO students, faculty and Omaha-area professionals about the art of storytelling (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Huppert, who started in broadcasting at 16, serves as a feature reporter for KARE-11 in Minneapolis. He was also a TV reporter for WSAW-TV in Wausau, Minn., WEVR in River Falls, Wis., and WITI in Milwaukee. He is also the recipient of four Edward R. Murrow Awards, a National Headliner Grand Award and an Emmy for feature reporting.

Before Huppert's presentation, father-son duo Dave and Roger Hamer of WOWT gave audience members the 101 on camera techniques.

As a reporter, you have to know your focus, Huppert said.

"The focus can be whatever we want it to be," he said.

The focus of your story needs natural moments to personify the story, so viewers can get to know the interviewee.

Huppert said there is a difference between the character and an interview. Viewers don't get the opportunity to know or learn about the source in an interview-like setting, he said.

Huppert said reporters can do the following to treat their interviewees more like a character in a story:

- Establish a focus.
- Have a handshake shot by introducing the character and showing the handshake.
- Provide one quality that will stick out about the character.

This is where TV reporters have an advantage over print journalists, who have to paint a picture through words.

"Say it, prove it," Huppert said. "We have a variety of ways to convey information."

Huppert also spoke about the benefits of natural sound.

Natural sound - real world sound during action sequences - places viewers at the central location of the story, he said. It also provides additional information, so the reporter doesn't have to do all of the talking, and sets the pace or "throttle" for the story.

"This is the case where less is more," Huppert said. "We need to get really good at the set-ups. Then we give the punchline to someone else."

But remember, every story needs to have a beginning, middle and end, the Hamers said.

Meghan Bird (left) does a stand-up interview with Roger Hamer (middle) and Dave Hamer (right) (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

"You basically have a front row seat to what is going on in the community," Roger Hamer said. "Think outside the box, think outside the norm."

The Hamers provided tips on how to use the camera effectively:

- Shoot and move. Don't shoot from one spot.
- Stick to the 180 degree rule, stating that two characters or elements in the same scene should always have the same left/right relationship to each other. Draw a line through the scene to compose the shot and maintain foreground/background relationships.
- Sequence your story using cutaway shots, an image different from the current action. These shots will add human interest and save time when editing.
- Practice conservation of movement. Don't run back and forth when filming, shoot as you go.
- Watch the position of the microphone. Make it natural.
- Ask yourself, "Do I need it and is it vital to the story?"
- Dont' stage your shots. You don't want to influence action in the story.

"You are your own photographer, you are your own reporter," Roger Hamer said. "If you've seen it in the viewfinder before, stop."

UNO students, faculty and Omaha-area professionals listen in on the presentation (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

The Hamers also gave tips on how to show reporters on camera:

- Keep it brief.
- Keep it interesting and meaningful.
- Maintain from story.

Keep the reporter close by, though, Roger Hamer said. You can stir away from using the viewfinder and develop a feel for the camera in use.

Remember to get differing opinions when searching for a focus.

"Don't be afraid to bounce the idea off of someone else," Roger Hamer said.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

UNO College Democrats, Environmental Club push for more sustainability on campus

UNO student organizations are taking preliminary steps to promote the next biggest issue surfacing in the United States after health care – clean energy.

Campus organizations are teaming up with Repower America, a campaign launched by the Alliance for Climate Protection, to "galvanize the American public around a bold, new clean energy plan and a revitalized national energy infrastructure."

Scott and Eric Williams, community organizers for the campaign, have paired with the UNO College Democrats and the Environmental Club to organize seminars and movie showings relative to clean energy and sustainability efforts.

The Environmental Club, for example, is co-hosting a free movie showing of "Prairie Wind: Nebraska's Wind Energy Harvest" on Dec. 15 from 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m at the College of Public Affairs and Community Service's Collaborating Commons. The documentary explores how local communities could benefit from Nebraska harnessing wind energy, how farmers and ranchers could use wind energy in their operations and how landowners could reap economic benefits from wind structures.

(Flier courtesy: Scott Williams/Repower America)

Following the documentary is a panel discussion featuring Perry Stoner, the documentary's producer; Neb. Sen. Ken Haar, District 21; Robert Byrnes, President of the Nebraska Renewable Energy Association; and Paul Vonderfecht, Omaha small-business owner, Energy Smart Company.

Ranked sixth in the nation for wind-energy potential, Nebraska has the ability to save native households $800 a year by 2030 with its wind-energy producing capabilities and biomass resources, according to Repower America's Web site.

Scott Williams said taking advantage of Nebraska's wind-energy potential is one step to keeping carbon dioxide emissions under wraps and Earth's rapid change under control.

"The wind is basically right here in the middle of the country," Williams said. "If we took advantage of the wind energy here...and they only operated at 20 percent of their operating capacity...we would have 40 times the electricity produced in the country today."

Andrew Burdic, vice president of UNO’s Environmental Club, said recycling habits and adapting to a sustainable lifestyle isn’t enough.

"It's definitely a good thing to do," Burdic said. "I personally feel that we haven't really done enough as a city."

The College Democrats held similar events in November with a clean energy lecture by Scott Williams and a showing of the documentary “The 11th Hour,” narrated by actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

Some members of the organization also promoted clean energy in 30-second video clips used for the Repower America Wall. The online video wall features the voices of singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow and Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle. It also includes statements from companies such as Nike and Starbucks.

In his lecture, Williams said some people believe volcanoes are to blame for the 380 parts per million of carbon dioxide residing in the atmosphere while others believe this is far from the truth.

“Every year, humanity releases more than 100 times what volcanoes do every single year,” Williams said. “Hundreds of millions of years ago, volcanoes created our atmosphere and they allowed the planet to warm up to the point where life could exist.”

Regardless, Williams said polar bears will go extinct in our lifetime and more than half of Florida will be underwater.

“Fortunately, the humans probably won’t go extinct hopefully, but it’s going to be really difficult to fit off the ocean,” Williams said.

Kara Kingsley, College Democrats president, said the changing environment cannot be ignored.

The College Democrats will continue to invite the Williams brothers to future meetings to present new materials and shed light on environmental changes.

“We want to inform other students about important issues that are happening right now,” Kingsley said. “A lot of people in our group are passionate about this issue and we’re going to do our best to educate and get the word out about it.”

UNO violinist strums sweet music in Omaha

When she was introduced to the violin at age 4, Sophie Genevieve was given her “voice.”

Genevieve’s mother, a choir director and organist, introduced her to the bowed-string instrument. Immediately, Genevieve developed a passion for the instrument, which served as a tool to express her inner self.

“I liked its sound and how it made me feel,” Genevieve said. “I enjoyed the challenges that playing the violin gave me.”

The 22-year-old UNO violin performance major now serves as the concertmaster of the 70-member Heartland Philharmonic Orchestra, which is comprised of students and community members.

Sophie Genevieve playing the violin in the Strauss Performing Arts Recital Hall (Photo courtesy: Tim Fitzgerald/UNO).


Genevieve auditioned for the orchestra once she transferred to UNO in January 2009.

“Being concertmaster involves a lot of work not only with the music but between the musicians and the conductor,” she said, “and if something goes wrong, it’s my fault, but it is an honor….my job is much easier because we have such talented and dedicated conductors and musicians.”

Another one of Genevieve’s accomplishment include an invitation to play in a master class for world-famous Classical violinist Midori Goto in 2008. She was also invited to attend a month-long Quebec-based international music festival called Domaine Forget.

“This has allowed me to get exposed to all kinds of music, different violin techniques, as well as to play with some incredible musicians,” she said.

She is now going to bring her experience to center stage in January 2010, with a violin solo featuring works from Classical-Romantic composer Ludwig van Beethoven to French composer Camille Saint-Saens.

“The recital is quite varied,” Genevieve said. “The last part of the piece I play 372 notes in about 35 seconds to 40 seconds.”

Genevieve said she has no limits when it comes to down to playing the harmonic complexity of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach, the soul-wrenching lyricism of Romantic composer Johannes Brahms, the fire of Classical-Romantic composer Ludwig van Beethoven or the raw emotion of 20th century Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

Genevieve mostly enjoys playing the first movement of 20th century Russian composer and pianist Sergei Prokofiev’s first violin concerto.

Prokofiev’s concerto echoed the collapse of Imperial Russia, which led to the abdication of Czar Nicholas II of Russia, and the outcries of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.

“It is an amazing piece that goes from a haunting Russian theme to extreme horror and the reconciliation,” she said.

Genevieve said the most enjoyable piece to play is Shostakovich’s Piano Trio in E Minor – which depicts the annihilation of the Jews during the Holocaust - with her piano group TriO!

“It requires so much mentally, physically and spiritually,” she said, “but at the end of the performance, one feels exhausted and yet as though you have participated in an immortal art.”
Genevieve finds her third hour of playing to be her peak performance.

“I try to warm up for about 90 minutes to two hours before a performance,” she said, “but after that, I just go running, take a nap and read my Bible.”

Someday, Genevieve – who also plays the trumpet – said she has dreams of amping up her performances by learning how to play the pipe organ.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” Genevieve said, “like a whole symphony beneath your fingers with such a glorious and powerful sound.”

With the continued support of her family and mentors, Genevieve said the power exerted by the pipe organ is in reach.

“Music is such an addicting art [and] the more I perform, the more I can’t get enough of it,” Genevieve said. “All of my professors have challenged me and have been so interested in me, not only as a student but as a musician.”

Former Maverick linebacker tackles NFL career with Minnesota Vikings

Former UNO Maverick offensive linebacker Olayiwola Kendae “Kenny” Onatolu could be on the road to Super Bowl XLIV in Miami with the Minnesota Vikings.

But, Onatolu wasn’t always a Vikings fan. He started out as a San Francisco 49ers fan at age 10, when football became a part of his life.

“I used to always watch it on TV and play outside,” Onatolu said, “but I actually started playing in peewees and…just kind of carried on from there.”

Born in Chicago, Onatolu even spent three years in his parents’ home country of Nigeria.

“It wasn’t anything what people think,” Onatolu said. “The only reason we ended up leaving [was] because the president at the time was a little corrupt, so my parents didn’t want me and my brother raised in that situation.”

Onatolu eventually moved back to the United States and grew up in Omaha, where he played high-school football for the Papillion-LaVista Monarchs.

Onatolu almost couldn’t even play high-school football because of some doctors, who were close family friends.

“They didn’t let their sons play football just because they’ve done surgery, ACL surgeries, broken legs and all of that kind of stuff,” he said.

After some heavy persuasion with his twin brother Taiwo, who was his teammate at UNO and now a graduate assistant on the Maverick football staff, Onatolu was able to launch his football career.

Onatolu would go on to earn second-team, all-state honors and set a school record with 326 rushing yards in one game. As a high-school senior, he rushed for 1,500 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. He also played in the Nebraska Shrine Bowl, an all-star football game for graduating high-school seniors in Nebraska.

After high school, Onatolu went on to be a four-year starter for the UNO Mavericks from 2002-2006 with his brother.

Kenny Onatolu seen as a UNO Maverick (Michelle Bishop/The Gateway).

“It was definitely tough with the coaches,” he said. “We put in a lot of time and hard work, but that just made it a lot easier for me when I went down to Canada.”

Onatolu, a redshirt freshman, started as a strong safety in 2002 and shifted to offensive linebacker status in 2005, earning all-North Central Conference first team honors along the way. He was also named second-team, All-American by CollegeSportsReport.com and was named second-team, all-region by Daktronics to name a few.

Onatolu admitted that his brother was the better linebacker of the two.

“He was actually better than me coming up,” he said. “Even at UNO, Taiwo was always the number one linebacker.”

In high school, Taiwo earned first-team, all-state player and earned 133 tackles as a senior linebacker. Also an emerging redshirt freshman for the Mavericks, he earned second-team, all North Central Conference, was named the NCC’s most valuable linebacker and went on to earn All-America honors by D2Football.com to name a few.

Taiwo Onatolu seen as a UNO Maverick (Photo courtesy: unofootball.com).

However, Taiwo shared the titled all-NCC linebacker with his brother in 2003.

“He’s still coaching me,” Onatolu said. “He critiques me, tells me what I need to do and I’m still learning from him.”

After graduating in 2006 with a degree in communication, Onatolu would go undrafted the following year. The Edmonton Eskimos in Canada eventually picked him up in 2007.

“Statistically, it’s hard for you to even get an opportunity coming out of a small school like UNO,” he said. “I kind of traveled the long road going to Canada first.”

As a rookie, Onatolu recorded eight tackles and a sack for the Eskimos. He then recorded 59 tackles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries in 2008.

“It’s a little more fast-paced because it’s more of an offensive game, more like arena football,” Onatolu said. “It’s still football in the end. It’s still running and tackling and catching and scoring.”

The Minnesota Vikings then picked up Onatolu as a free agent on Dec. 31, 2008.

Onatolu said his schedule includes playing games on Sunday, watching film on Mondays and workdays Wednesday through Friday.

Tuesdays are our day offs, he said.

“But, I always like to go in and get another workout in,” Onatolu added.

He said his teammates give him a little guff for playing in the Midwest.

“Everyone has their stories because most of the guys all played DI and a lot of them played against each other,” Onatolu said. “I could never reference to anybody…so they kind of make fun of me a little bit because of where I went.”

Teammate Brett Favre, however, is a “good dude.”

“He’s another one of the guys on the team,” Onatolu said. “You just watch him practice and…you just try to learn from him and see the little things he does.”

Kenny Onatolu seen as a Minnesota Viking (Photo courtesy: Espn.com).

Under Favre’s leadership, the team hopes to face-off against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts or Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Onatolu said there is still too much football left to be thinking ahead of the game.

“Obviously, we have a great opportunity to get there and to win it,” he said. “We just go week by week and the opportunity is going to present itself and hopefully we can take advantage of it.”

Although the Vikings are at the forefront of Super Bowl fever, Onatolu still has Maverick Mojo.

“I keep tabs on the outcomes of the games and how they are doing and certain players that come in,” he said. “I pay attention to the Huskers, too, a little bit, but I mostly pay attention to UNO.”

Until this day, competition hasn’t surfaced between the two brothers.

“We just always wanted one of us to make it,” Onatolu said, “and one of us actually ended up making it and that’s all we ever wanted.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

UNO inmate program will graduate 15 ex-offenders this month

Fifteen of 25 ex-offenders will graduate on Dec. 17 as transformed individuals from a University of Nebraska at Omaha project centered on the disciplines faced by Omaha native Malcolm X.

UNO implemented the 20-week Transformation Project in October 2007 with the help of a $1 million private donation from UNO alumnus and Winmark CEO John L. Morgan.

Chris Rodgers – Douglas County Board of Commissioners Chairman, District 3, and senior community service associate at UNO – said the project was the “first of its kind” but it would face some challenges.

Rodgers spoke to lecturer Karen Weber's public affairs reporting students about these challenges, as well as the upbringing of the project for the students' speech story assignment on Nov. 24.

“I knew the biggest hurdle would be curriculum,” said Rodgers, who is responsible for putting the project into fruition.

Chris Rodgers speaks to lecturer Karen Weber's public affairs reporting students on Nov. 24 (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

With the help of Manning Marable – director of the Malcolm X Project at Columbia University and Transformation Project consultant – Rodgers formulated the curriculum for the project. The curriculum focuses on the values of discipline, faith, kinship, literacy, honesty, respect and historical perspective.

Rodgers said 20 modules were formed using these values to evoke introspection and behavioral change to promote offenders’ successful re-entry into the community after prison. The project will prepare offenders using real-life struggles faced by Malcolm X: health, employment, job training, social networking, housing and transportation.

Rodgers said the project attracts offenders with 18-20 months left until eligible for parole.

“Toward the end, they realize that is the step to go,” Rodgers said. “It’s not going to come easy.”

The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, Douglas County Department of Correctional Services and community-based organizations You Are Not Alone and the Malcolm X Foundation will attempt to prompt interest beyond Nebraska.

Project partners, along with the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center, are looking to pilot the project into other jurisdictions.

“It’s not like this light at the end of the tunnel,” Rodgers said. “It can change direction.”

Sunset highlights fall scene on campus

A fall sunset scatters over the University of Nebraska at Omaha's campus as Nov. 26 comes to a close for students, faculty and staff.

The fall sunset strikes the bell tower on Nov. 26 (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

The fall sunset scatters over leafless trees in Elmwood Park (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lambda Pi Eta prepares for Warm Winter Drive this December

Members of the Lambda Pi Eta will host a warm winter drive before the brink of the holiday season in support of the women and families of the Lydia House.

The facility provides emergency services for women and families in need of immediate assistance. To assist its efforts, the communication honor society will be accepting campuswide donations for the Warm Winter Drive from Dec. 1 - 17.

Students gathered on Nov. 15 to wrap three boxes, which will be placed throughout the university for the warm winter clothing donations. The students gathered in UNO's Speech Center.

Megan Schmitz (left), Rachel Hohman (middle) and Jenna Zeorian (right) decorate one of the bins for the warm winter clothing drive (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).


Stephanie Bonnett (left) and Kristin Webb (right) are wrapping one of the boxes for the warm winter clothing drive (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Donations such as new or used coats, hats, gloves, mittens, earmuffs, scarves and other items used during the winter season will be accepted. These items should be taken to one of the following locations: Arts and Sciences Hall Room 140, the Criss Library entrance or the Milo Bail Student Center near the Fireplace Lounge.

Monetary donations will also be accepted by the following individuals: Mary Gum in Arts and Sciences Hall Room 140, Linda Riviera at Criss Library front desk and Melissa Berry at the Student Organizations and Leadership Office on the first floor of the Milo Bail Student Center.

The event is co-sponsored by The Gateway and Ad Club.

(Flyer created by Jenna Zeorian, Lambda Pi Eta creative designer chair. Vice President Anna Berlett contributed to the making of the flyer.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Poynter Institute columnist holds media workshop at UNO

The Poynter Institute's Al Tompkins presented "Cool Tools to Release your Inner Geek" to more than a dozen UNO students, faculty members and Omaha-area professionals at the Thompson Alumni Center's Centennial Hall on Nov. 20.

Al Tompkins speaking to UNO students, faculty and Omaha-area professionals during a demonstration (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Tompkins presented and demonstrated the tools of the future for online mediagoers.

"I think it's a cool time to be a journalist," Tompkins said.

He also revealed a secret to getting these cool tools for half price - misspell the name of the product on eBay.

These tools include the following:

- Mac's Final Cut Pro and VideoCue Pro for video blogging
- Flip Video Camcorder, going wireless in 2010, to produce on-the-go video footage in HD
- Utterli online program to begin mobile multimedia discussions from your mobile phone to social media sites
- Livestream online guide to broadcast your own video channel
- LiveU pack, which enables live wireless, high-quality multimedia transmission from any location
- BubbleTweet to amp up your tweets with personal messages and breaking news
- Vlingo phone application to update or send information online by speaking into your phone
- Digital SLR camera to create videos
- Contour HD Wearable Camcorder to amp up your video footage
- Mac's SoundtrackPro to eliminate background noise amd restore audio in your footage
- Qik online program to share live video from your mobile phone
- Layar augmented reality browser application, which reveals real-time digital information from your mobile phone
- iBypass online program to sneak around filtered Web sites
- Using an HTML to PDF converter to save your Web sites

"...and it's free," Tompkins said about some of the cool tools.

He said the popularity of Layar's augmented reality will skyrocket in 2010. Layar combines GPS, camera and a compass to identify your surroundings and overlay information on a mobile device screen in real time.

"Very few people know about this," Tompkins said. "It is like the mullet of 2010."

After his presentation, Tompkins spoke with attendees about online media and the journalism workforce.

The use of advanced online media tools will reshape the defintion of ethics and the news value of timeliness. With these products already hitting the market, mediagoers aren't having to wait minutes to post the latest news for media outlets. This immediacy has the ability to burden media coverage.

"Time is the enemy of truth," Tompkins said. "It's possible for you to use this for good, not evil."

One of the challenges for independent journalists is how to use online media as a business.

Tompkins said the best way to approach the situation is knowing how to shoot, write and edit.

"Just cash in on what you what you know," Tompkins said. "This is going to be a market for it."

Journalists still need to become educated in other fields of interest.

"Learn about the stuff you don't know...because you're going to cover them," Tompkins said.

Journalists need to find a niche before approaching the workforce.

"There needs to be something about you...that you're the logical choice," Tompkins said.

As for online mediagoers, it is important to remember that the story creates the most impact, not the "cool" editing software.
"It's always about the story," Tompkins said. "If the story is strong, people will always watch."

Students listen in on Al Tompkins' presentation (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Maverick PR holds bake sale to fundraise for Toys for Tots

Maverick PR held a fundraiser on Nov. 19 to support the Marines Toys for Tots campaign.

The organization's goal this year is to raise more than 400 toys.

New, unwrapped toy donations can be placed at the following collections centers: Arts and Sciences Hall Room 140, Weber Fine Arts Building Theatre Box Office and the Milo Bail Student Center near the Student Organizations and Leadership Programs Office.

Monetary donations are being accepted in ASH 140. Donations can also be mailed to UNO PRSSA, Arts and Sciences Hall 140-E, 6001 Dodge St., Omaha, NE, 68182.

The Cheesecake Factory and Blue Planet Natural Grill are also collecting toys on behalf of Maverick PR.

Maverick PR members Kristin Webb, Kelsie Olson and Ben McCall (left to right) are selling baked goods and nutritional items to raise funds for the Toys for Tots drive (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Maverick PR sold an array of items from $1.25 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to $.50 fruit (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day Five: Maverick PR bids farewell to San Diego

Maverick PR students bid farewell to San Diego on Nov. 10 as the conference comes to a close.

View of Holiday Inn on the Bay (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Julio Badin, Disney's California Adventure park operations general manager, served as the keynote speaker at the farewell breakfast. Badin spoke the guest relations department at the tourist attraction and how to tackle public relations based upon the philosophies of Walt Disney.

Before take off, Maverick PR members made their final rounds around the downtown area.

Students Andrea Ciurej and Heather Nasif spent their final hours at the San Diego Zoo.

Ciurej and Nasif made a point to explore the giant panda research station.

Giant pandas are sleeping before lunch time (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Maverick PR students headed over to San Diego International Airport around 12:30 pacific time by taxi cab.

Students Jessica Legg (left) and Shannon Stawniak (right) wait to board the plane to Denver (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

The final view of San Diego taken from the airport (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).


If you would like to learn about the events Maverick PR attended at the national conference, or if you are a Maverick PR member looking for information on the sessions you attended, click here.

Day Four: Maverick PR wins most outstanding chapter in the nation

Maverick PR was named the most outstanding chapter out of 284 Public Relations Student Society of America chapters across the nation at the Academy of PRSSA Awards Ceremony and Dinner on Nov. 9.

The "Outstanding Chapter" award, the highest award given to any chapter, is determined based on the chapter's efforts of leadership, community and university service, professional development and internships.

The chapter has earned 11 national awards in the past six years: three third place awards and eight first place awards, Faculty adviser Karen Weber said. This, however, is the first time the chapter has been recognized as "Outstanding Chapter."

Maverick PR students Jill Sauser, Shannon Stawniak, Yan He, Faculty adviser Karen Weber, President Cassie Prestia, Kristen Martin, Andrea Ciurej (front, left to right), Jessica Legg, Janna Brock, Alicia Kettleson, Heather Nasif, Mikaela Knipe, Bre Gehrken and Sarah Waller (back, left to right) stand in front of San Diego Bay on Nov. 9
(Photo courtesy: Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Maverick PR placed first in the 2009 National Plank Center Ethics Advocacy Awards for its roundtable discussion titled "Ethics & Bad Behavior: It's All About Choices." The first-place win earned $1,000 for the chapter and $250 for its faculty adviser Karen Weber.

The discussion, held in September, featured 14 corporate and non-profit Omaha professionals who discussed ethical scenarios related to corporate blogging, employee privacy and academic honesty with students. Seniors Stephanie Bonnett, lead event planner, Andrea Ciurej and Shannon Stawniak partnered with the Greater Omaha Alliance for Business Ethics to organize the event.

Maverick PR also earned third place in the National Organ Donor Awareness Competition for the event "Be a Team Player: Become an MV Donor." Seniors Alicia Kettleson and Jessica Legg organized the event held last spring. About 35 students registered to be organ donors and more than 300 students received organ donor information at the event.

Seniors Alicia Kettleson (left) and Jessica Legg (right) earned third place in the National Organ Donor Awareness Competition (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Senior Juan Carillo also earned an honorable mention for the PRSSA National Multicultural Affairs Scholarship.

Michael Steger, who stars as Navid Shirazi on the CW's hit television series "90210," made a guest appearance at the awards dinner. Steger assisted CW publicist Jeff Tobler in announcing the winners of the CW Campaign. Maverick PR did not participate in the campaign.

Andrea Ciurej and Michael Steger following the awards ceremony (Yan He/UNO PRSSA).

Before the big win, Maverick PR enjoyed a bayside lunch at Anthony's Fish Grotto.

Students Heather Nasif, Cassie Prestia, Jill Sauser, Sarah Waller, Yan He, Kristin Martin, Bre Gehrken (left, front to back), Alicia Kettleson, Jessica Legg, Shannon Stawniak, Janna Brock, Faculty adviser Karen Weber and Mikaela Knipe pose in front of a view of San Diego Bay. Not pictured: Andrea Ciurej (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

After the lunch, Maverick PR students attended the professional development sessions focusing on building a professional image, graduate work and networking etiquette.

Walter Bateman, retired CEO of the Harleysville Group, and Natalie Neczypor, marketing executive of Ernst Young LLP, lead the professional image session titled "Resumes, Portfolios & Social Media - 'Building a Professional Image on Paper, Online and in Person.'" A question-and-answer session followed the presentation.

Bateman began the session by presenting the following tips for building a professional image:

 - Define success.
 - Conduct an introspection.
 - ID your value proposition.
 - Develop a personal brand.
 - Create a vision.
 - Exploit a search strategy.
 - Delineate and execute a tactical plan.
 - Establish a network.
 - Research targets.
 - Exercise discipline.
 - Start at the top.
 - Understand your marketable value.
 - Use the king's english.

Bateman presents ways of building a professional image to PRSSA students (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).
Bateman said job seekers need to rise early, work hard and "strike oil." Before "striking oil," Bateman said you need to do the following:

- Buy one manilla folder and write job search on it.
- Define success. Start by looking at yourself. (Place your definition in the manila folder.)
- Write a paragraph about what your job would be. (Place this paragraph in the manila folder.)
- Self-analyze yourself to a CEO. (Place your analysis in the manila folder.)
- Capitalize on what values you have to offer.

Bateman said job seekers also need to engage an influential network, obtain knowledge of the economy and buzz of the business and do dilligence as a potential employer.

Neczypor concluded the session with a five-step process on securing an internship or first job.

Neczypor addresses tips on how to secure an internship or first job to PRSSA students (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Neczypor said the first step is awareness.

Job seekers need to use resumes to present he or she's future goals. A portfolio should be used to tell your story and show your experiences and how they can impact the company. A mission statement should also be included into the mix.

"You need to figure out who you are," she said.

Positioning is the second step. This involves branding, selling and networking your "body of work" to the company.

Neczypor said job seekers need to build repoire by shaking hands and carrying on general conversations, as well as set a soft agenda regarding a course of action. Job seekers should give a concise overview or "elevator pitch" of their goals and accomplishments. They should also probe by asking open-ended questions and be able to present and defend their qualities.

Be assertive at the end of the interview by asking for the job, as well as a business card to confirm your sincerity for the position. Being assertive also involves your willingness to move abroad.

"Don't sell yourself short," she said. "Nobody is going to sell you but you."

Prior planning is the third step in securing an internship or first job. This involves researching the company, practicing your pitch through behavioral-based interviewing, preparation and performance.

Neczypor speaking to students about landing an internship or first job (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Neczypor said it is important to show your coachability, be humble, cool and collected and do whatever you can to mirror your interviewer throughout the hiring process.

Job seekers should also take notes during an interview to improve their preparation skills.

The final steps are follow-up and pursuit of the position and remember the big picture.

"It's a full-time job finding a job," Neczypor said. "It needs to be your second, third or fourth responsibility."

Maverick PR ended the evening by attending the "Stay Classy PRSSA" After Party, followed by a get-together in Downtown San Diego.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Day Three: Huffington Post founder addresses PRSA, PRSSA members at San Diego's Marriott Hotel

"The Huffington Post" founder Arianna Huffington addressed about 3,000 PRSA and PRSSA members at the Marriott Hotel in San Diego about her new book and streaming topics in politics on Nov. 8.

PRSA and PRSSA members crowd in front of the room Huffington will be speaking (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Janna Brock, President Cassie Prestia, Heather Nasif, Yan He, Jill Sauser and Faculty adviser Karen Weber (left to right) wait in front of the hall where Huffington will speak (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

After addressing the crowd, Huffington interviewed Wendell Potter, the Center for Media and Democracy's Senior Fellow on Health Care. Potter left his 20-year career as a corporate public relations executive for one of the nation's largest health insurance companies to advocate for health-care reform.

Huffington also held a book signing in the Marriott's San Diego Ballroom following her speech.

Arianna Huffington signing various books she has written for PRSA and PRSSA members (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Students Andrea Ciurej and Yan He purchased Huffington's book "Right is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution and Made us all Less Safe (and What you Need to Know to End the Madness)." Both attended the book signing and posed in a photo with Huffington.

Andrea Ciurej seen with Arianna Huffington as she signs Ciurej's book (Yan He/UNO PRSSA).

Yan He (left) and Andrea Ciurej (right) are seen with PRSA President Michael Cherenson after Huffington's speech and interview (Photo courtesy: Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Before Huffington's session, PRSSA students sat in officer discussions. These discussions were a time for students who hold an executive board position with thier chapter or are interested in holding a position meet with other chapters to share ideas about their position.

Officer discussions were held for the following positions: president and vice president; secretary and treasurer; PR liaision, historian and webmaster; and publications and student-run firms.

Assistant newsletter editor Andrea Ciurej (center) met with other publications officers during a boxed-lunch officer discussions (Photo courtesy: Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

After Huffington's session, professional development sessions were held regarding health care, entertainment and sports, corporate and agency PR and diversity. The sessions following involved investor relations and ethics, hospitality, travel and tourism, the bateman case study competition and speed networking, which Maverick PR attended.

The Celebrity Source's Rita Tateel, president, moderated the panel titled "Entertainment and Sports - 'Entertainment and Sports PR Roundtable.'" The panel featured four professionals, including Harry Medvet, head of public relations for Fandango, and Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times sports writer.

The Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin meets with students following the entertainment and sports panel (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

The evening concluded with a Pier Party.

Students gather for the Pier Party (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day Two: Professionals talk social media landmines, media relations with PRSSA students

Professionals from the San Diego area and beyond spoke with PRSSA students at a series of sessions about the power of social media and building relationships with the media on Nov. 7.

Before the sessions began, Mona Pasquil - the western political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs and the Clinton Administration - delivered the keynote address.

Mona Pasquil addressed several PRSSA chapters on Nov. 7 (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Pasquil spoke to students about effective crisis communication and the challenges faced by today's public relations professionals.

"Think of scenarios and put them in a can," she said. "It's easy to say, hard to do."

Pasquil addressed the importance of timing when dealing with crisis communication scenarios.

"You've got to wait and you've got to think about it," she said. "You've got a millisecond."

Pasquil also addressed the importance of knowing who you are as a person and a professional.

"There are people that don't need you to save the world, but do that one thing, that one simple thing," she said. "You will be the answer to the struggles today."

Chapter roll call immediately followed Pasquil's speech.

PRSSA chapters were called upon to stand up and deliver a cheer expressing to demonstrate school and chapter pride. Treasurer Shannon Stawniak created Maverick PR's cheer.

P-R-S-S-A (clap)
From Omaha, Nebraska - Hey!
We do PR the Maverick way!
Go Mavs!
Beef - it's what's for dinner.
Dun, dun, dun.

Following role call, students participated in a series of professional development sessions.

The first session involved four workshops: crisis, event planning, media relations and social media ethics. The second sessions involved international PR, career preparation, fashion and public affairs and community engagement. The third session involved non-profit PR, entertainment, employee relations and environmental public relations.

Brigham Young University's Susan Balcom Walton, associate chair of the department of communications, and Joel Campbell, associate professor of the department of communications, both led the discussion on the power and misuse of social media.

Susan Balcom Walton (left) and Joel Campbell (right) led the discussion on social media landmines (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Walton and Campbell weighed in on the fair-use factors that comply with social media, especially blogs. Both shared material from BYU to deliver an explanation.

The following factors should be considered when determining the fair use of a copyrighted work, according to BYU's Blog Content Policy:

1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes.
2. the nature of the copyrighted work.
3. the amount and sustainability of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Walton and Campbell both spoke about the importance of having blog moderation policies for your blog. They also talked about strategies on how to avoid saying regretful words online by use of the "24-hour Rule."

1. Physically leave the computer area.
2. Before sending, call someone you trust and talk it through with them.
3. Save the draft or send it to yourself and reread the next day.
4. Ask yourself: Would you say this face to face? Would you be comfortable seeing it in print or saying it in a court of law?

Regardless of the landmine experienced in social media, truth is the best defense.

"It's our job to take the high road," Walton said.

Sempra Energy's April Bolduc, public relations manager, led the discussion on public affairs and community engagement.

April Bolduc speaks before a crowd of PR students about public affairs and community engagement (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Bolduc focused on tackling a crisis and how to win over publics from the standpoint of a Fortune 500 energy service company. When a PR team reacts to a flood, for example, Bolduc gave the following tips on how to work as a team and with the media:

- Know who's going to be on your team.
- Always be prepared and run drills with your team detailing the situation.
- Understand the potential negatives of the situation.
- Monitor media calls.
- Meet for status reports and update talking points.
- Keep your officials up to date on the situation.
- Let officials know when the story will run.
- Know who you are talking to and get feedback from clients.

"The key thing is talking with one voice," Bolduc said. "How can you be the calming voice? You really need to be the expert and know how to give corners to your clients."

A presentation from Jana Hartline, environmental communications manager, and Amy Taylor, environmental, safety and quality communications, of Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. was one of the final discussions of the evening.

Jana Hartline (left) and Amy Taylor (right) spoke before a group of students about the affects of environmental PR  the Toyota way (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).

Hartline and Taylor focused on "Environmental Public Relations - 'The Greener Side of PR.'" Hartline began the presentation by focusing on Toyota's vision for sustainability. Taylor continued the presentation with a discussion on "greenwashing" and the public relations challenges faced when tackling sustainability efforts.

Greenwashing is when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be "green" through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact, according to the EnviroMedia Greenwashing Web site.

Taylor provided some tips for tackling "greenwashing" in a business:

- Be authentic and transparent when communicating your message as a company.
- Understand the difference between educational and promotional.
- Partner with third party advocates, such as social media, to relay your message.
- Be an advocate for yourself.

After the sessions, Maverick PR dined in Old Town San Diego for a mexican dinner.

Maverick PR dines at San Diego Old Town Mexican Cafe on Nov. 7. Not pictured: Alicia Kettleson, Andrea Ciurej and Yan He (Andrea Ciurej/UNO).