Five new donor-supported spaces in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications will make learning visible beyond the classroom and support the college’s Experience Lab.
In the fall of 2021, the College of Journalism and Mass Communications launched an innovated program that builds upon our strong tradition of “doing from day one.” Beginning in their first year, students from across the college can enroll in the Experience Lab. Mentored by faculty and professionals in residence they will work for one of the college’s media outlets or agencies for 4-6 hours per week where they will gain an understanding of our industries.
“Our vision of “do from day one” will be accessible and serve every student that enrolls in our college,” said Shari Veil, dean of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications. “To make the Experience Lab a reality we knew we would need the support and commitment of our faculty, our alumni and our industries. We also knew we would need new, innovative and visible spaces to support student learning.”
The visible learning spaces include a new, open air integrated television studio and newsroom, a sports media lab, an integrated advertising and public relations agency and media production space, a multimedia classroom, and a photo studio.
Supported by generous donations from the Don and Lorena Meier Foundation and the Nebraska Broadcasters Association, an open-air integrated television studio and newsroom is under construction on the second floor of Andersen Hall. The project will replace an existing studio hidden in the back corner of the building. The new space will include a newsroom, television control and three separate sets. It will also incorporate cutting-edge technology that supports full live broadcasts or one-person productions. Through a balcony the space is open to the third floor of the building, which will allow faculty, students and guests to get in on the buzz of the live newsroom.
Bob Bennett, Meier Foundation Board Member and nephew of Don and Lorena Meier, explained how the project aligns with Don and Lorena’s understanding of the need for hands on learning. “Don would advise students to gain as much experience as they can,” said Bennet. “That’s how he learned about television. There weren’t schools teaching it at that time. He learned through experience.”
Don Meier also understood the need for visibility and marketing in media. “When Don started out as a television producer he had to go out and raise advertising dollars. He knew how important advertising was,” said Bennet. Don applied his knowledge about advertising and the need to create visibility when he funded the Meier Commons on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. “To market his scholarship fund to potential students, Don funded the Meier Commons. What kid doesn’t see that walking through the campus,” said Bennet. “I thought when the studio concept came along, wow, this is like a virtual Meier Commons.”
The foundation board voted unanimously to support the project in September 2021. As a result of their generosity, the studio will be named the Don and Lorena Meier Studio.
Construction will last through the summer of 2021. Once complete, the Don and Lorena Meier Studio will be home to the Nebraska News Service and Nebraska Nightly, as well as being available for classes and programs throughout the college.
The previous television studio will be converted into a sports media learning lab with the support of Pepsi-Co of Lincoln. This multimedia classroom will be open to the building through large windows and will be the hub for all things Nebraska Sports. The space will feature state-of-the-art computers and media production software, along with a set so students can go live on-air during sports broadcasts. Construction on the lab will be complete in 2022 and will be home to Unlimited Sports. The Nebraska advertising and public relations community has come together to sponsor The Agency, an integrated advertising and public relations learning lab located on the third floor the Lincoln Childrens Museum. Agencies have signed on to sponsor rooms within The Agency for a five-year term, providing support for the space and matching donations to enhance student experiences through travel and scholarships. Sponsoring agencies include Firespring, Bailey Lauerman, Swanson Russell, OBI Creative, Pixel Bakery, Agent, Maly Marketing, KidGlov, Look East, Digital Sky, Eleanor Creative and Revolution Wraps.
One of the first to sign on as a sponsor was Nebraska advertising and public relations agency Bailey Lauerman. Bailey Lauerman has a long-standing relationship with the college and has for many years funded the college’s National Student Advertising Competition team. More recently they have established a scholarship and design competition in the college aimed at increasing the diversity of emerging professionals in the field.
Greg Andersen, CEO of Bailey Lauerman and CoJMC alum, served on the college’s 20-21 strategic planning committee that engaged faculty, staff, students and alumni in developing strategic priorities for the college, including the launch of the Experience Lab and the facilities to support it. “Creating more experience qualified talent to come into our industry is of critical importance, not just to Bailey Lauerman, but to the broader advertising and public relations field in the state,” said Andersen.
In addition to their support, the agencies also get the opportunity to decorate their rooms with equipment, furniture and designs that mimic their professional environments and give students a direct taste of the industry. A friendly competition has arisen among the agencies to offer students the best room. “Students will see that friendly competition from area agencies and, hopefully, feel like they matter. That the program matters.” said Andersen.
“Companies are putting effort into it, it is not an afterthought, it is an important part of all our collective present. I hope the students’ takeaway from that friendly competition is that they are sought after, that this is an important initiative and that they have future homes.”
The Agency will be home to Jacht, Buoy and Heartland Webzine and include dedicated space for the college’s National Student Advertising Competition and Bateman Competition Teams and advertising and public relations capstone courses.
A new multimedia classroom and photography studio will also be in The Agency. These spaces will provide students with access to high-powered computers, cutting-edge software and the latest in cameras and lighting to increase their media production capabilities and ensure they are ready for their future careers. Supported by a generous donation from UNL alum Phil Perry, construction on these spaces will begin in Spring 2021.
“The creation of the Experience Lab has truly been a team effort,” said Veil. “Our alumni and industry partners have joined together with our faculty, staff and students to create visible experiential learning spaces. We are incredibly grateful for their support.”