As the semester winds down and the weather warms up, seniors across campus are seen standing in line to pick up their graduation caps and gowns, finalizing post-graduation party plans, and saying some of their last goodbyes. Ashley Reed, Maidel De La Cruz, Jordan Kohn, and Kelsey Zinck are among those taking part in the joyous festivities and excitedly counting down the days until they can officially call themselves alumnae of The College of New Jersey. However, instead of shaking hands with future bosses and settling down into new offices, they are off to pursue master’s degrees in some of the top graduate programs in the field of health communication or public health.
Ashley Reed, a native of Long Branch, NJ, and a top Public/Mass Communication Studies major with an interdisciplinary concentration in Health Communication, applied to Emerson College, Rutgers University, and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications.
“My love of health communication really began as soon as I came on campus,” she said. “And once I took Professor Farbman’s public relations course, I was hooked.”
Reed’s interest in the field was further solidified by Dr. John Pollock’s research methods class, where she developed a research paper analyzing nationwide newspaper coverage of Planned Parenthood and whether or not the coverage was favorable. “It was then that I really began to narrow my interest in the field on women’s health. The research was fascinating, and the results were not what I expected. That really intrigued me.”
Reed gained valuable skills during her two internships at TerraCycle and with the NJ Council of County Colleges.
“I was able to have hands on experience writing press releases, planning events, and taking part in staff meetings and brainstorming sessions,” she commented. “It was a great opportunity to see if this was really what I wanted to do.”
It turns out, it is. Reed is still deciding where she will pursue her graduate degree in the fall, but she is leaning towards Emerson, in part because several of that program’s health communication classes are taken at Tufts University Medical School.
De La Cruz, who was born in Perth Amboy, NJ, entered The College of New Jersey through the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program. A bilingual student, de la Cruz knew upon her acceptance into the College that she wanted to major in Communication Studies with an interdisciplinary concentration in Health Communication and Public/Mass Communication. She has also completed a minor in marketing.
After taking Professor Danielle Catona’s (TCNJ ’08) course on communication and family health, De La Cruz’s interest in Health Communication solidified. “This is when I began to find how families communicate very interesting information, especially regarding how families cope with illness and how parents discuss health-related issues with their children, such as cancer or HIV/AIDS,” she commented.
De La Cruz continued to work in the community through an internship at HealthEd in Clark, NJ, and was offered a position at the Jewish Renaissance Medical Center in Perth Amboy, NJ. “I organized the center’s website, promoted events through email blasts and newsletters, planned ribbon cutting ceremonies, and wrote press releases. At the same time, I planned health fairs, events, and community classes related to healthcare.”
De La Cruz has accepted attendance at The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, the number one ranked public affairs graduate program in the US. She first heard about the Maxwell School from Dr. Pollock, who earned his own master’s from that school. She will pursue a joint MPA/MPH with a focus on public administration budgeting, policy, and government work, and anticipates completion of her degrees in two years while maintaining a Graduate Assistant position.
Jordan Kohn, a native of Randolph, NJ, transferred to The College of New Jersey from Susquehanna University during her sophomore year. After taking a creative writing course and a public relations course at the latter, Kohn knew she wanted to pursue a degree in Communication Studies with an interdisciplinary concentration in Public/Mass Communication.
“Dr. John Pollock has truly been a mentor to me during my time at TCNJ. If it wasn’t for him, I would not have opened my eyes to public health and health communication. He really guided me, and has helped me every step of the way.”
Dr. Pollock also assisted Kohn in editing her research project on international and cross-national coverage of child labor as depicted in newspapers worldwide, which she presented at the DC Health Conference in 2013. Kohn’s child labor research also prompted her selection as the only undergraduate in the world to present a paper at a November, 2013, conference of the International Communication Association in Shanghai. That paper will be published later this summer or fall in a special issue of the “Atlantic Journal of Communication” on “Illuminating Human Rights: How Demographics Drive Media Coverage”, guest-edited by Dr. Pollock
Kohn’s internship experiences have offered her unique opportunities to develop her interest and skills in public health and public relations. After taking Professor Farbman’s public relations class, she applied to an internship in the summer of 2013 through 5W Public Relations, where she compiled press kits, press releases, and research for articles. Kohn also completed a health communication internship through the Department of Communication Studies’ study abroad opportunity, organized and led by Dr. Pollock, in Durban, South Africa.
“During my study abroad experience, I applied all that I had learned in public health and health communication classes to a real life setting,” said Kohn. “My classmates and I reached out to students in the area through leading discussions on gender equality and safe sex practices through the DramAidE program.”
Kohn will pursue her Master of Science in Public Health within the Department of Health, Behavior, and Society at Johns Hopkins University. Her goal is to one day immerse herself in entertainment education in health campaigns as a platform to educate society on public health.
Kelsey Zinck, of Bristow, VA, transferred into The College of New Jersey’s Communication Studies program from
the University of Connecticut and pursued a track in Public/Mass Communication and the Health Communication interdisciplinary concentration.
“My interests are in global health and communication. I hope to be able to travel, perhaps through the World Health Organization,” she commented. Zinck was among the student leaders of the health communication internship in Durban, South Africa, in summer, 2013.
Zinck is a top student athlete at the College, and has participated on the lacrosse team. Her assistant coach, Ms. Gina Carey-Smith, has been a mentor to her throughout her journey at the College. “She helped me get my mind centered on academics first in order to pursue the highest level of achievement.”
Zinck is the senior author of the research paper “Nationwide Newspaper Coverage of Detainee Rights and Guantanamo Bay: A Community Structure Approach,” which she presented at the 2013 New Jersey Communication Association Annual Conference. Her senior co-authored paper, “Cross-National Newspaper Coverage of HIV/AIDS: A Community Structure Approach,” was presented at the April, 2014, University of Kentucky Conference on Health Communication, one of only two undergraduate papers nationwide that were accepted (both from students at the College). The paper, which was developed during Dr. John Pollock’s research methods class, was presented at the 2014 New Jersey Communication Association Annual Conference, and has been submitted it to the 2014 National Communication Association Conference. Both of Zinck’s papers on nationwide coverage of detainee rights and on cross-national coverage of HIV/AIDS will be published later this summer or fall in the special issue of the “Atlantic Journal of Communication” on “Illuminating Human Rights”.
Within the community, Zinck has worked at Women’s Space in Lawrenceville, NJ, which offers safety and counseling to female victims of sexual assault. She assisted in organizing donations for events, and created press releases to bring awareness to sexual assault and domestic violence initiatives.
Zinck anticipates acceptance into the MPH program at George Washington University, where she plans to begin this fall. Her advice to other students is, “Never limit yourself to what you think you can do—go above and beyond! Never waste an opportunity to pick a professor’s brain and to build special relationships with mentors. Go further than you thought you could!”