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November 2012

Education and Journalism: Hard work and worth the effort

wellsRobert Marshall Wells was looking out the window of his corner office at AT&T, where he was working as a public relations specialist, looking beyond the rolling hills and D.C.-area cityscape, not really seeing anything. Wells was pondering his future.

He had already racked up an impressive set of credentials, with a bachelor’s of general studies from American University in Washington, D.C., and was then completing a master’s of communication, also from American. For nearly 10 years, he’d worked in banking, marketing, and finally public relations.

“I didn’t like it, I certainly didn’t hate it,” Wells, associate professor of communication, mused recently during a break from sabbatical work on a certificate in documentary studies at Duke University.

“But I came home at the end of each day and asked, ‘What have I really accomplished today?’” That question began to gnaw at Wells.

His entire career track changed in 1989, when a journalism professor in his master’s program pointed out a posting for a job fair at The News Tribune in Tacoma – wherever that was. On a whim, Wells booked a flight out to the Northwest and showed up at the job fair with hope, a resume, and no journalism experience whatsoever.

Wells received polite passes from most of the editors, until one, TNT City Editor Gary Jasinek, sat down and gave Wells the cold hard facts of journalism: He was probably going to face long hours and make half of what he was making at AT&T. Maybe less.

But Wells was resolute. “I remember wanting to feel involved in something, something larger than myself.”

The interview concluded, and Wells was walking out of the door of the TNT and into the fall sunshine, figuring “oh well, back to PR” when he heard someone hail him. Jasinek told Wells that an internship would be available that next summer. Pay was lousy, but would he be interested? Wells snapped at the chance to follow his passion, and a journalist was born.

Since then, Wells worked for the TNT, Congressional Quarterly, and the Seattle Times. He arrived at PLU in the fall of 2003, as a fill-in for now-retired communications professor Cliff Rowe. Wells found himself delaying, and delaying, his return to the Times.

Finally, he admitted to himself he just didn’t want to leave PLU.

“There’s something about this place. It gets into your blood,” Wells mused, now going on 10 years at PLU. In that time, Wells has fed his passion by shaping future journalists, creating the award-winning MediaLab, and contributing to efforts to create a media studies center at PLU.

The MediaLab idea was born in 2004. The best and brightest media students in journalism, video, photography, public relations, and other disciplines have since scored over a dozen awards as well as one Emmy. MediaLab students have traveled into areas ravaged by tornados and oil spills, gone up the Alaskan Highway in search of unsung war heroes, and looked into weighty topics such as immigration, the changing American family and attitudes towards Islam in the United States.

“I view teaching much like I view journalism,” Wells said. “It’s still an education process. And here, you give students a good start, and help them find their way. I think of the professors who encouraged me, and gave me a kick in the butt when I needed it.”

Wells would like to return the favor. And he has found it here – a place that is small enough that he knows each and every student, and large enough “so we can do some pretty remarkable things.”

His job at PLU is more to encourage students, rather than tell them what to do. And his advice for recent graduates, not only facing a tough job market, but an industry in turmoil? Take chances, albeit calculated ones. (He’s not sure about flying across the country based on a classified ad.) Be flexible, and learn how to think. Finally, learn to write well and tell a good story.

“That will lead to everything else.”

Christmas Concerts return with
"A Child is Born"

The time for awe-inspiring music is coming this December. Please join Pacific Lutheran University's Choir of the West, the University Chorale and members of the University Symphony Orchestra for our 2012 Christmas Concert, "A Child is Born." 

This magnificent holiday tradition will take on added significance this December with the world premiere of “Unto Us,” composed by PLU Professor of Music, David Deacon-Joyner.

As a tradition with PLU Christmas concerts, University Pastor Nancy Connor will provide readings to illuminate the musical offerings, and the audience will participate with the choirs during familiar Christmas carols. This concert will provide an evening of beautiful reflection, and pageantry, sure to bring a joyous beginning to the Christmas season.

Students spend hundreds of hours preparing for the five concerts they perform each holiday season. The following video from last year shows why they devote so much of their time and passion to a truly extraordinary concert series.

Tickets on sale now.

Seattle: Mon., Dec. 3, 7:30 pm, Benaroya Hall

Portland: Tue., Dec. 4, 7:30 pm, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

Tacoma: Sat., Dec. 1, 8 pm, Lagerquist, PLU-SOLD OUT

Tacoma: Sun., Dec. 2, 3 pm, Lagerquist, PLU-SOLD OUT

Tacoma: Fri., Dec. 7, 8 pm, Lagerquist, PLU-SOLD OUT


Juried Student Exhibition shows PLU talent

Juried Student ExhibitionThe University Gallery opens its fall semester’s final show with the annual Juried Student Exhibition on Wednesday, November 14, 2012, with a reception that night from 5 to 7 p.m. Works will be on display until December 12, 2012. The reception is open to the university community, as well as the general public.

Students not only compete to be featured in the show but also for monetary prize. Three awards will be announced during the reception at 5:30pm. 

"This fall's Student Juried Exhibition represents the best of PLU's student artists," Gallery Coordinator and Assistant Professor, Heather Mathews, says. "We were pleased not only with the large number of submissions (approximately 80), but especially with the high quality of the work we received. More than 60 pieces will be featured in the exhibition, with a wide range of media: from lithography to ceramic, photography to oil, and more."

The juror for this year’s exhibition is Kate Albert Ward. Ward received her M.A. from the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art, and her B.A. from the University of Washington. She is a managing editor and writer for the online arts and culture magazine, Post Defiance, a co-chair for the Tacoma Arts Leadership Lab, and an administrator for Campus MLK, which serves at-risk youth in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood. She has worked with college students as the Kress Foundation Interpretive Fellow at the Portland Art Museum and as an Adjunct Assistant Professor for Portland State University.

"Kate brought her considerable experience to the process, and was able to draw themes and resonances out of the large pool of works to create a cohesive, and very strong, collection," Mathews says. 

If you’re unable to make it to the show, keep an eye on for a slideshow of the selected works. 

Opening Reception: Nov. 14, 5 to 7 p.m., The University Gallery
Location: Pacific Lutheran University, University Gallery. On the edge of north campus on the corner of 8th Ave. Ct St. and 121st St. S.  
Suggested parking lot:  Wheeler at Wheeler and 121st, lot is open to the public after 4:30p.m. 
Directions and Map: 
Regular Hours: 8 a.m.–4 p.m., Mon.–Fri

*Please note that the gallery will be closed during Thanksgiving break, Nov. 22–23.

"Empty Bowls" gives back to the community

Andrew Deem - Empty BowlWednesday, November 28, PLU artists, chefs and gardeners will come together to give back in the fourth annual “Empty Bowls” event. PLU and the greater community are invited to purchase a bowl of soup from 4-6pm in the Anderson University Center. Costing $10 per meal, 100 percent of proceeds will benefit local food banks.

More than a dozen students have crafted bowls to donate to the project. Students in the community garden have spent the past season planting, growing, and then harvesting vegetables for the event. The kitchen will take the produce the garden harvests, spice it, and create a tasty soup. Guests are asked to keep their handmade bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world.

Mackenzie Carlson ’14 is one of three students who have been tasked with organizing the event this year.

“The event falls near Thanksgiving, very much on purpose. The goal of the event is not only to raise money for those in need, but also to encourage appreciation for the things we have in life,” Carlson says. “It is all about being thankful for what we have.”

To purchase this handmade meal, "Empty Bowls" tickets can be purchased in advance at Old Main Market with Dining Dollars, debit/credit or cash. Tickets will be available for purchase starting November 26 and will then be redeemed on November 28 between 4 and 6pm. This year a little more than 100 bowls are available. PLU Art Instructor Steve Sobeck, a recognized artist in Puget Sound, made about twenty of those. When the bowls are gone, they’re gone. 

In the past PLU has donated to local food banks, which have included Trinity Lutheran Church in Parkland and Fish Food Banks of Pierce County. Now in its fourth year, the project has donated close to $2,500, and looks forward to continuing for years to come. “Empty Bowls” is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger. Any group that deals with feeding the hungry can be the recipient of the donation. For more information go to

APO show opens in the Studio Theater

Buried Child"Buried Child," written by Sam Shepard, opens December 5 in the Karen Hille Phillips Center for the Performing Arts Studio Theater. The production will run December 5*, 6, 7, 8 at 7:30pm and December 9 at 2pm. 

First presented in 1978, this powerful and brilliant play probes deep into the disintegration of the American Dream. It won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and launched Shepard to national fame as a playwright. Buried Child is a piece of theater which depicts the fragmentation of the American nuclear family in a context of disappointment and disillusionment with American mythology and the American dream, the 1970s rural economic slowdown and the breakdown of traditional family structures and values.

“Buried Child is the theatrical equivalent of an optical illusion: it messes with your mind. Thematically you could sum it up very simply as an eloquent depiction of the inescapability of the family bond, a favorite subject for Shepard and indeed many American playwrights, and in that respect it ranks right up there with The Glass Menagerie and Long Day's Journey Into Night. But what's extraordinary about Buried Child is that, like Shepard's best plays and decidedly unlike most conventional family dramas, it acts on the audience the same way the tensions of the play act on the characters. It becomes the things it is about--emotional violence and the mystery of the family bond.” --DON SHEWEY, Sam Shepard

Produced by our national theatre honor society, Alpha Psi Omega, the production will be entirely student run and led under the direction of Frank Roberts ’13. 

To purchase tickets call the Campus Concierge at 253-535-7411.

Tickets are $5 with PLU ID and $8 General Admission. 

*Indicates student preview - PLU students admission is only $2