25/25/40 Years of Excellence

J&PR, TGC Hit Quarter Century; The Orion Rocks 40

By Kelsey Belshaw

25/25/40. Silver/Silver/Ruby.

Three anniversaries of epic proportions are ahead for J&PR in 2015. Both the program and Tehama Group Communications will be celebrating 25th anniversaries, while The Orion marks its 40th.

Planning is underway for a gala 25/25/40 celebration, which is tentatively scheduled for October, 2015. The under-construction event will recognize the ongoing support of J&PR alum, students, faculty and staff.

The celebration ideally will highlight the success of J&PR and superior work and effort students have put into The Orion and TGC, said Debra Johnson, professional-in-residence and adviser for TGC, who is coordinating the 25/25/40 planning team.

The weekend-long celebration of excellence will feature activities that bring together alumni and current students. Hands-on learning workshops, a dinner or luncheon, and informal social events may be held to allow all—current students, alumni, faculty, staff—to network and catch up..

“My hope is that we’ll have hands-on workshops led by alumni so students can practice skills used by news and PR professionals every day,” Johnson said. “We also want to mix in time for play so friends who haven’t seen each other in a while have time to reconnect.“


The 25/25/40 weekend will include induction of new members to the J&PR News and Public Relations Halls of Fame, which recognize former advisers, students and friends of The Orion, TGC and J&PR as a whole.

In addition to the department-sponsored celebration, both TGC and The Orion will be hosting special anniversary events of their own.

Honoring new and past Hall of Fame inductees is definitely something to look forward to, said Mark Plenke, professional-in-residence and adviser to The Orion.

“It’s exciting to know that successful members of the program will be in attendance,” Plenke said. “I’m looking forward to meeting unfamiliar faces and discussing experiences through our time in the department.”

25 / The Department

While journalism as a department has only been around 25 years, journalism classes have been offered by Chico State since the late 1950s.

The university formalized its commitment to the program in 1967, when the Department of Mass Communication was formed within the Center for Information and Communication Studies. Seventeen years later, the center became the School of Communication—and academic home to 960 majors.

In the 1989-1990 academic year, the idea of creating a Department of Journalism was approved and featured with two options: News-editorial and public relations. One academic year later, journalism was a stand-alone program.

MacLab Overview

With the public relations side long dominating the number of majors, the university approved the department’s request to become the Department of Journalism and Public Relations in 2011. The move was made to elevate the visibility of the department’s outstanding PR option, which today comprises about 65 percent of J&PR students.

Course offerings in the program have grown from traditional print-related skills, to extensive online and social media engagement, increased emphasis on photo and video, and experience with media startups.

But the core skills of information gathering, interviewing, writing, editing and presentation strategies are still the heart of the program, said J&PR Chair Susan Wiesinger. Students also are steeped in a culture of free speech, ethics, appreciation for diversity, professionalism and the wonders of learning in public.

“When our students do something great, everyone sees it,” Wiesinger said. “When our students make missteps, they see that, too. It’s part of what makes our students so attractive to employers—they know how to innovate and lead.”

Dave and Student

Since 2013 J&PR has been heavily involved in the university’s General Education program, which has increased headcount in classes to more than 1,000 students per semester. The program now offers multiple sections of a foundational first-year writing course, two sections of a digital media literacy course and large sections of pop culture and gender and media courses.

The visibility provided by J&PR GE courses help faculty to reach non-majors, which ultimately helps grow J&PR, Wiesinger said.

25 / Tehama Group Communications

In the spring of 1990, a group of students in a public relations management class proposed the idea of a student-managed public relations agency to Dr. Katherine Milo. That fall, at the same time journalism became a department of its own, the students’ plan was implemented and Tehama Group Communications was launched.

Today TGC is one choice for the capstone of the department’s PR option. About 23 students are competitively selected each semester to work with paying clients and a not-for-profit organization in the North State.


Portfolio work that comes out of the TGC experience includes a range of print and dynamic online content, as well as skills built from hands-on branding, event planning, campaign strategy, client management and more.

Student jobs include account executives, assistant account executives, online communications development, social media management, writing, editing photography, videography and graphic design. In short, whatever meets a client’s needs.

40 / The Orion

Chico State’s independent student newspaper was founded in 1975 and has continued to give students the opportunity to improve their writing, news gathering, leadership and editing skills while experiencing what it’s like to work in a newsroom.


The Orion has the distinction of being one of the “award-winningest” student newspapers in the nation, with 12 Pacemaker awards—the top college newspaper award presented each year by the Associated Collegiate Press—to its credit. The most recent Pacemaker was won in fall 2014, further solidifying The O’s induction into the ACP Hall of Fame in 2005.

The Orion also has won so many state, regional and national awards that it’s challenging to keep count. Another recent achievement was a first-place win for General Excellence from the California College Media Association in March 2014.

Student job titles at The O today are much as they always have been, including editors, writers, copy editors, photographers, videographers, graphic designers and advertising sales folk.


In addition to the print edition, which has contracted in the past five years, The Orion has a daily digital edition and video broadcast online, along with extensive social media engagement.

Can’t wait until spring 2015 to learn more about the 25/25/40 celebration? Want to participate?

Tehama Group Communications
Department of Journalism & Public Relations
California State University, Chico
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