By Melissa Barclay, senior communication specialist in the Office of University Relations
Whether it’s a trip to Puerto Rico, New York City or Los Angeles, a unique program in Marquette’s Diederich College of Communication gives students the opportunity to connect with alumni and industry professionals in their fields.
Laura Niezgoda, a junior communication studies and criminology and law studies major, was on the most recent Diederich Experience trip to L.A. She and seven fellow upper division students led by faculty chaperones got the chance to explore the field of communication outside of Milwaukee, as they watched a taping of Access Daily, toured the sound stages at Deluxe Media, met privately with alumni and more.
“I think the coolest part for me was being able to be an alumni panel moderator, where I personally met and gained insight from talented and insightful professionals about the current state of the entertainment industry,” Niezgoda says.
Although this wasn’t her first trip to the west coast, it was an experience that will help her plan for her future.
“By being able to spend time and meet alumni in the city that I hope to live in one day, I was able to gauge a better understanding of where I would like to find myself,” she adds.
Senior public relations and theatre major Sam Gutierrez says this trip helped solidify his goals to pursue an entertainment career.
“Being surrounded by those who didn’t take a linear path to L.A. made me confident that I can get out there too,” he says.
The Diederich Experience began in 2017, and there’s always plenty of interest in the trip. However, it’s not always a shoo-in for students who apply. This last trip had 32 applicants and only eight openings.
“Once we select the students for the year, we then put together an itinerary to match their interests with the expertise of the alumni who are available,” says Kris Holodak, associate professor of digital media and preforming arts and chaperone during the four-day trip. “It’s always a mix of tours and alumni meetings.”
In the past, students participating in the Diederich Experience have ventured to Puerto Rico and New York City. For several reasons, Los Angeles was a natural fit.
“We go to L.A. because there is an active alumni base who are asking how they could support students interested in moving out there,” Holodak says. “Also, there’s a lot of jobs in the entertainment field that are attractive to students in the College of Communication.”
But one thing is for sure: every trip is memorable.
“The weather was not good in L.A., and we had a lot of fog and rain. At one point we were crossing over the hills and the students didn’t realize it because you couldn’t see it. But once we crested the top, it was sunny, and the valley was spread out before us with the mountains in the distance. From the back I heard, ‘Oh wow, I’ve never seen a mountain in real life before.’ I felt really privileged to be able to be part of that experience,” Holodak says.
Gutierrez has advice for students thinking about taking this trip in the future.
“Seize the opportunity and ask lots of questions,” he says.
Although this was the last trip scheduled for the academic year, planning is underway for the 2023-24 Diederich Experience to destinations including Puerto Rico and Los Angeles.