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In this issue - Spring 2019

6th annual Media Week event features premier of Uncovering Jax

 Uncovering Jax Panel  

Panelists Rita Regan, executive director of Norman Studios; Adonnica Toler, museum administrator of the Ritz Museum; UNF production students Chelsea Rafan and Kendall Russ; and Mike Clark, editorial page editor for The Florida Times-Union, answer questions from the attendees at the premier of Uncovering Jax.



The Department of Communications’ Media Week 2018 opened on Oct. 22 with the screening of Uncovering Jax, a new initiative designed to educate the community about its rich and diverse cultural history. About 125 people filled the student union theater where various student video documentaries took center stage to tell the historical stories of Jacksonville. These stories included those on Richard E. Norman, founder of Norman Studios, which produced silent films with an all African-American cast; Joseph H. Blodgett, an African-American architect, who was instrumental in building around 250 homes and was one of the wealthiest black men in Jacksonville; and Asa Philip Randolph, a strong civil rights activist. Other stories included those of Ana Kingsley of Kingsley Plantation and the Old Brooklyn neighborhood of Jacksonville.

This premier screening of student documentaries was the culmination of the efforts of several faculty members, including Dr. Paula Horvath, professor Frank Goodin, Dr. Nataliya Roman and professor Dee Colvin, dating back to the spring 2018 semester.

Immediately after the documentary viewings, a panel discussion took place with former students who worked on the project, and key black historians and leaders who helped guide the student projects, as well as a representative from The Florida Times-Union who partnered in the project. 


 Frank Goodin, Moderator
Professor Frank Goodin, UNF multimedia production instructor, introduces the premier of Uncovering Jax.


Many attendees of the event expressed appreciation for having been exposed to these local historical people and events that they never knew existed.

"As I kept researching the project and visiting the (Kingsley) Plantation, it went from an assigned project to almost like a passion project," said Kendall Russ, a recent production graduate who worked on the project. "I just wanted to learn more and more about it. It was a really cool experience."

A social media campaign also coincided with the premier. Roman was instrumental in gaining more than 22,000 unique views over a 22-day plan on the communication department’s social media channels.

So what’s next for the future of the project?

"We will continue this initiative and expand it to include all cultural minorities and women," Goodin said. "We are currently working closer with MOSH and have plans to work with the UNF Department of History."

For more information, please visit


Enemy of the people: This too shall pass?

By Marcia Ladendorff
Associate Instructor of Multimedia Journalism, Department of Communication

 Enemy of the People panelists
“A country can’t be free with the press in chains,” said Dr. Brian Thornton, moderator of the “Enemy of the People” panel. The journalists included (left to right) Thornton; Timothy Gibbons, editor, Jacksonville Business Journal; Mary Kelli Palka, editor, The Florida Times-Union; Robbie Gordon, VP Investigative Media Group Inc; and Mike Miller, retired broadcaster.


Frustration, confusion and even shock are familiar emotions in many newsrooms across the country as President Trump continues his campaign against the Fourth Estate.

But at the Enemy of the People panel on Oct. 23 during Media Week 2018, there were moments of determination and clarity as local journalists shared the challenges of working in a climate of distrust.

“It’s a very dangerous time to have our leader not to acknowledge our role as the Fourth Estate,” said investigative producer Robbie Gordon. After decades of exposing fraud, abuse and deadly medical mistakes for ABC News and other national news organizations, Gordon said, “I’ve never seen an administration that points fingers and turns people against us.”

Dissatisfaction with journalism is nothing new. The Pew Research Center studies the relationship between the people and the Fourth Estate, noting that public discontent has increased dramatically since the mid-1980s. Then came 2016 and Donald Trump’s initial attacks on the credibility of journalists. According to CBS reporter Leslie Stahl, Trump told her during a conversation, “You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.”

For Mary Kelli Palka, editor of The Florida Times-Union, and Timothy Gibbons, editor of the Jacksonville Business Journal, Trump’s strategy is dangerous. “The thing that scares me is that it demonizes the media writ large and makes people not trust the facts,” Gibbons said. “We’re left with nothing to have a conversation with.”

Palka says the effects of Trump’s attacks are not limited to national media. “We’re at the point where the city council president thinks the editor of the T-U is just making stuff up,” Palka said. “… It is shocking to me how everyone wants to disagree with the basic agreement over the facts.”

Confusion and bias are at the core of the challenge, according to this group of panelists.

“People are confused about what journalists do,” Palka said. “It’s not a bias to ask questions of people in power. It’s our job.”

According to Gibbons, “It’s not personal…I’m asking the question not to be rude but to get to the truth.”

But in this time of extreme polarization, truth depends on who is looking for it. Journalists and scientists who study these things agree. Most people choose news sources that validate their beliefs. They seek fewer news sources that disagree with their perspective.

The panelists expressed hope, despite these challenges. “The enemy of the people will change once Trump is out of office. That rhetoric will die down,” said Gibbons.

Gordon put a different spin on Trump’s slogan: “In a weird way, America is being made great again in that we’re being forced to step up and fact check. It’s a call to arms,” she said. “Stop doing celebrity news and start doing what the American people need to know.”

The biggest challenge is to regain the trust of the people and, said Gordon, “make yourself indispensable to the community.”

The best way to do that, she said, is to get it right.

Social media is changing the relationships between companies and consumers

By Frank Goodin
Instructor of Multimedia Production, Department of Communication

Jennifer Radke speaking at State of Social Media   
 Jennifer Radke, CEO of the National Institute for Social Media, appeared via web-conferencing and talked about the importance of branding yourself.

"We as consumers have more power than ever before," said Dr. Margaret Stewart, assistant professor of Communication Studies. “We used to talk about word of mouth, but now we have electronic word of mouth. This gives us the ability for our opinions, through the comments we make, to go viral so quickly that it changes the relationship between brands and consumers. It can be very empowering."

This was just one of the many observations and insights on the latest trends in social media made by several industry leaders at the final event of Media Week 2018, “The State of Social Media,” on Oct. 26. The panel included Ashton Elder from EXIT 1 Stop Realty; Audrey Lane Seymour with the Mayo Clinic; Daniel Burstein with MECLABS Institute; Danny Monzon of DM Digital; Jennifer Radke, CEO, National Institute for Social Media; and Stewart.

"Social media has given the ability for creative, independent business owners to compete with national brands, and I think that's awesome," Seymour said.

The panelists pointed out how quickly things change in the social media environment, and how those changes affect business. Elder discussed how changes impacted her at EXIT 1 Stop Realty.

"A recent change that really affected us was the way they reviewed businesses," Elder said. "They used to average the ratings, and if you had one bad rating it would greatly damage your overall rating. Now they've changed the way they do that because there's always that one upset person who writes a bad review. Things like that really affect our business."

The panelists acknowledged how consumers are using social media in different ways for different things. "For health care, people aren't really going to Instagram to buy health care,” Seymour said. “Instead, they want to find out from others what their experiences were. So we share a lot of patient stories on Facebook, which is our most popular platform where we have over one million followers."

Jennifer Radke, who joined the panel through web-conferencing, stressed that students should strongly consider their personal brand.

"It's a good time to start thinking through what kinds of things you want others to know about you online,” Radke said. “Then, examine the various platforms and decide exactly how you share that information. Radke stressed that those who use social media need to learn how to brand themselves before they can effectively do so for other brands.

Department of Communication creates ad competition

Emily Tomasello holding her award

 Emily Tomasello proudly displays her winning ad for the Creative Advertising Competition.

Emily Tomasello, a senior in the advertising concentration of the B.S. in Communication, was the inaugural winner of the department’s Creative Advertising Competition, which was designed by Dr. Jae Park, associate professor of advertising. Each entrant had to select a favorite brand and create an original and unique advertisement. Tomasello selected NIKE.

The award, which included a certificate and a monetary prize, was handed out during the department’s annual Media Week luncheon.

Dr. Paula Horvath retires after 25 years of teaching

By Bobbi Doggett
Associate Instructor of Public Relations, Department of Communication

Dr. Paula Horvath headshot
 When asked what she’ll miss most, Dr. Paula Horvath said, “The students – they are the fuel that ignites my passion for teaching. And my colleagues at UNF. They are an amazingly dedicated group of individuals who have been my professional family for decades.”

Retirement is a celebration and a time to give a fond farewell to a co-worker. But Dr. Paula Horvath (previously Neimeyer) is more than just a co-worker at UNF. She has been a teacher, mentor, counselor, and, more importantly, a trusted friend to hundreds of students, faculty, and administrators over the years.

During her 25 years with UNF, Horvath has seen many changes to both the university and the department. “When I started, my office was in Building 11, which doesn’t even exist anymore,” said Horvath, reflecting on her UNF career. “At that time we were the Department of Communications and Visual Arts before we split into two separate departments.”

Over her time here, the Department of Communication has been housed in three different office buildings. She worked under five department chairmen, and four university presidents. Plus she’s seen the university grow in both its number of students and the number of buildings on campus. “It’s amazing when you see the changes that have occurred here,” Horvath said.

Before coming to UNF, Horvath studied botany at Ohio State University. She later did post-graduate work at OSU in journalism. “My first job in journalism was as a sports writer for the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette in Ohio,” Horvath said. “I was later promoted to sports editor and then copy editor.”

Horvath moved to Florida and worked for two papers then owned by The New York Times, including The Gainesville Sun. While in Gainesville, she got a dual master’s degree in anthropology and mass communication from the University of Florida. She later went on to get her doctorate in mass communication.

“I was teaching several adjunct classes at UF, and discovered that I loved the interaction with students and passing on my passion for writing,” Horvath said.

Once she came to UNF, the department began to flourish. She was instrumental in creating many of the mass communication and journalism classes offered today, as well as being influential in the curriculum design of the major itself.

“Certainly one of my favorite classes is Applied Journalism because I’ve had a chance to connect students with professionals in the community,” Horvath said. In fact, Horvath wasn’t just connecting people. She created the enormously successful Hope Fund in cooperation with The Florida Times-Union, which raised more than $3 million for needy individuals and families in the area. The project ran for 20 years.

Besides the successful Hope Fund, Horvath’s class served as the journalistic voice for One Spark, the Jacksonville crowd-funding festival, and even extended the coverage to Germany for One Spark Berlin when the festival was there for one year.

In addition to her teaching, Horvath wrote for The Florida Times-Union. “This perhaps was my most satisfying personal journalistic experience,” Horvath said. “I was able to write in a very personal way about things I cared about deeply.”

Horvath is proud to be the mother of two boys, now grown men who both graduated from UNF. She also was deeply involved in community projects ranging from building playgrounds for children to creating music events for rescuing animals. “I strongly believe that as community members we have an obligation to reach out and help the communities in which we live,” Horvath said.

Over the course of her 25 years, Horvath brought that sense of community and passion for telling stories to all of her classes. “What makes me excited is when I can see the light bulb go off as a student suddenly understands a concept or when I see a gradual cultural change within students as a result of a study-abroad trip,” Horvath said. “That’s the magic of teaching.”

Horvath will now spend her time at her small cottage in Canada when she’s not traveling. “My bucket list is quite full, yet I hope I never stop writing,” Horvath said. “Even after all these years, the experience of letting my thoughts congeal into words on a page is one of the most satisfying and exciting things I can imagine.”

Alumni profile: Sonja Mongar – writer, teacher, novelist

By Diane Matuschka
Instructor of Communication Studies, Department of Communication

Sonja Mongar headshot
Sonja Mongar talks to readers at a book signing in Fernandina Beach about her new novel, "Two Spoons of Bitter."


Anyone who studies communication learns the power of a story. Communication alum Sonja Mongar, class of 1994, can certainly agree that life, especially her life, is a story that bears telling. Author of the new fiction novel, "Two Spoons of Bitter, a Story of Love, Betrayal, and Redemption," Mongar uses her experiences of working with AIDS victims and a diary she kept years ago to write a compelling story of hope and healing.

As a UNF student in the 1990s, Mongar divided her time between print journalism, photography classes, and her job as student director of the Campus Alcohol, Drug, and AIDS Information Center (CADIC).

As a budding journalist, she wrote for several city magazines, such as Folio Weekly and the Jacksonville Business Journal, as well as campus publications. Fun Fact: Sonja took classes with communication professor Dr. Paula Horvath who retired in December after 25 years of teaching.

“My job at CADIC was the perfect place for a communication major,” Mongar said. The organization was designed to educate college students on high-risk behaviors, and the job required a whole range of writing and creative skills for press releases, grants, promotional materials and prevention campaigns.

Mongar also founded "90 Survival," a radio show and newspaper, as well as Third City Prevention Theater, which focused on students telling their stories about alcohol-related trauma. Her program earned UNF “Top Prevention Program” among all the Florida state colleges in 1994. Then-UNF President Adam Herbert recognized her contribution in his speech at her graduation.

After graduation it seemed a natural segue to do grant writing for an alcohol and drug center for people living with AIDS. “It was the height of the AIDS crisis in Jacksonville,” said Mongar, “and I had no idea what real-life horror and tragedy I would be faced with.” That wasn’t the only problem she says. Florida was No. 3 in the country for AIDS cases at that time. “The city was in a state of hysteria, and the agencies were plagued by fear, which resulted in discrimination and bias toward AIDS clients,” Mongar said. At this period of her life, Mongar began writing her diary.

Eventually overwhelmed, she resigned and returned to freelance writing and dabbled in radio with an entertainment show called "Where It’s At Jacksonville," which featured local talent. She also produced and marketed Latin Tempo. 

Digging up her diary, she submitted it as her portfolio to the master’s degree program in creative non-fiction writing at the University of Central Florida. In graduate school, she was surprised to discover an affinity for teaching. This led her to the University of Puerto Rico after graduation where she taught creative writing, journalism and composition for 13 years as a professor of English.

“It kept nagging at me that I wasn’t writing, so I enrolled in a low-residency MFA program in creative non-fiction at the University of New Orleans while I was still teaching.” But, she notes, it wasn’t until she retired as an associate professor that she was able to return to her writing full-time.

Mongar considers herself a “story worker” these days because she believes that the personal story is sacred, can build and heal communities as well as change lives.

When asked if she has any advice for someone just starting out in the writing business, Sonja said to “write with integrity and purpose. And travel! Live abroad!”

Today Mongar’s story includes teaching creative and professional writing part-time at Western Connecticut State University’s low-residency MFA program. She is also an indie publisher with Paradise Alley Publishing.

Public relations alum wins national awards from seaport industry

Alumnus Whitney Croxton and her team win award
Whitney Croxton (far right) and her JAXPORT communication team celebrate their awards.


Whitney Croxton, class of 2012, recently received national recognition from the American Association of Port Authorities for her work with JAXPORT. Coxton’s team was recognized for “exemplary communications projects and programs” for their videos and periodicals promoting the Jacksonville Port Authority.

Croxton said she appreciates the “gentle guidance” she received while a student in the Department of Communication. “I now enjoy a fulfilling career in communications with opportunities to grow and learn every day – and I have the privilege of working alongside fellow Ospreys,” she said.

Communication students study advertising in France

 Paris Study Abroad Students
 Students visit Paris with professor Dee Colvin (front, third from left) during their study-abroad trip.

During summer 2018, professor Dee Colvin and 11 UNF students stayed in two cites in France, Nantes and Paris, for a 17-day, faculty-led study abroad experience. In Nantes, students were enrolled in communication courses taught by faculty members of Audencia Business School, one of the most progressive business and communication training centers in France. The students’ coursework included Creativity, Innovation and Design, Branding and Advertising Strategies, and Global Social Media. They also enjoyed touring several landmarks of the city including Château des ducs de Bretagne Castle and Les Machines de l'île. The students also spent a day sightseeing in the nearby historic town of Saumur, which is surrounded by vineyards and a medieval castle.

After completion of their studies in Nantes, the group traveled to Paris, spending three days touring the city and historical and cultural sights, such as Musée d'Orsay, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower.

This was the third faculty-led study abroad trip to France the communication department has hosted since 2015. Professor Colvin plans to lead another group to London in summer 2019.

Faculty activity

Dr. Christa Arnold  and Dr. Margaret Stewart presented "Emerging Themes From the Physician's Perspective: Considering Health Communication from a Global and Networked Perspective" to the Florida Communication Association.


Dr. Christine Holland  presented a workshop on "Managing Your Time Effectively" to the Dalton Agency.


Dr. Margaret Stewart  and Dr. Christa Arnold presented "Interpersonal and Organizational Social Listening Purposes in a Global Mediated Society" to the Florida Communication Association.


Drs. Stephynie C. Perkins,  Brian Thornton and Tulika Varma had their book chapter, “Letters to the Editor in the Chicago Defender, 1929-1930: The Voice of a Voiceless People,” accepted in a forthcoming edited volume, Letters to the Editor: Comparative and Historical Perspectives (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2019).


Dr. Nataliya Roman and Dr. John Parmelee published a book chapter, "A 'Political Novice' vs. the 'Queen of War': How State-Sponsored Media Framed the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign," in Communication in the Age of Trump (Peter Lang, 2018). 


Get Involved

There are eight great ways to stay connected with the Department of Communication:

  1. Join the Department's Professional Advisory Board. The board helps us make sure we are getting students prepared for the current media environment. If you have risen to a position of leadership at a news organization, PR firm, advertising agency or other media outlet, please contact the department chair, John Parmelee. Even if you don't want to be on the board, feel free to email the chair with any advice on making the curriculum better.


  2. Join the Department's Alumni Association. This is a great chance to interact with fellow communication alumni and current students. To join, please contact the Department's Alumni Association, mention your interest in joining, and please include your name, contact information, year of graduation and track. Also, all communication alumni are invited to be a part of the conversation on Facebook. This is the "go to" spot for UNF communication alumni. The Facebook group includes information about alumni social events, recently posted communication jobs, tech tips, departmental news, and pictures/video from departmental events such as Media Week. In addition, communication faculty members have joined the group, so you can connect with your old professors. Here's how to join the alumni Facebook group: Search for UNF communication alumni and ask to join.


  3. Let faculty know how you're doing. Below is a link that lists faculty and their email addresses. Faculty love to hear what their former students are up to and are always happy to offer advice.


  4. Participate in the Internship + Job Fair. Every spring, representatives from companies such as WJXT, The Florida Times-Union, United Way and Mayo Clinic meet with communication students to discuss upcoming internships and jobs. If you are a leader at a company that is looking for interns to do advertising, public relations, journalism or production, please contact professor Bobbi Doggett to participate.


  5. Be a guest speaker or mentor to our students. Your expertise in advertising, public relations, journalism or production could be a real benefit to current students. We are always looking for guest speakers to come to communication classes. A good time to do this is during the fall semester when the Department hosts Media Week, an opportunity for media professionals to speak with students and faculty about the media landscape. Contact John Parmelee for more information. If you want to mentor our students, please fill out a profile on our mentoring website.


  6. Contribute to Alumni Notes. This is your chance to let faculty and fellow alumni know of any big career or personal changes in your life. Also, consider contributing a 300- to 500-word piece on which professors made the biggest impact on your career. Submissions will be published in the alumni newsletter. Contact John Parmelee to submit.


  7. Donate to the Department. Even a small gift can help us enhance our facilities, academics and recruiting of top-quality students and faculty. To contribute, please go to our website.


  8. Join us on Twitter and Facebook.