The Southeast Journalism Conference (SEJC) began today, marking the first time the conference has been held in Arkansas. Every spring semester, student publications from various universities in the southeast gather at one university campus to learn and network with fellow communication-oriented students, professors and professionals.
According to Katherine Ramirez, SEJC 2018 president, this year’s conference has been two years in the making, since Harding’s department of communications placed a bid for Harding to host the conference in 2016. Though he was a freshman at the time, junior Kaleb Turner agreed to be student president of SEJC if the bid was accepted. Ramirez and Turner have been planning the conference for several months alongside senior Savanna DiStefano, Vice President of SEJC.
“We are happy to be able to expand our community and invite students and faculty from all over the southeast to kind of see what Harding is all about,” Ramirez said. The SEJC committee decided to invite participants to attend chapel on Friday morning in order to help visitors gain insight into Harding’s culture.
Historically, SEJC has been held at universities with different values those at Harding, according to Turner.
“When we initially put the bid in for us to host it, we said we’re not going to shy away from the fact that we’re a Christian university,” Turner said. “That’s who we are, and that’s in our identity.”
The conference kicked off Thursday evening with a showing of “Missing Micah,” a documentary about the murder of a former Harding student, produced in part by Dr. Ginger Blackstone, associate professor of broadcast journalism.
Friday morning, around 300 students will be participating in the conference and can attend breakout sessions and panels based on their areas of interest. Attendees will listen to speakers, many of whom are Harding graduates or current Harding professors, according to Turner. There will be onsite award competitions for journalism, reporting, storytelling, public relations, and online media.
“What we’ve tried to do is get a mix of print journalism, broadcast journalism, radio, design, public relations, advertising, photography, just really anything that’s going to be on the communications spectrum,” Ramirez said. “We’ve had students get internships in the past from things like this…It’s such an opportunity to grow in communications.”
On Friday evening, many students will be awarded for previously submitted work at the Best of the South Awards banquet. The keynote speaker for the banquet is a Los Angeles Times and Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Sonia Nazario.
Participating schools are visiting from states including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.
The executive committee of SEJC includes junior Megan Ledbetter, breakout session coordinator, junior Ally Parrett, exhibit hall and volunteer coordinator, junior Carlie Tacker, graphic designer, junior Hannah Hitchcox, social media coordinator, and Z’Ann Allison, on-site competition coordinator.
For information and updates from the conference, search @SEJC2018 or #SEJC2018 on Twitter or #SEJC2018 on social media.