Gardner-Webb’s Department of Communication, Art, and Design Holds 2nd Annual Professional Takeover Day

By Marianne Luedeman

Photos by Marianne Luedeman

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Gardner-Webb University’s Department of Communication, Art, and Design recently held its second annual professional takeover day, where industry professionals from all across the media gave lectures and held panels for students.

The event was organized by Dr. Kortni Alston Lemon, chair of the Department of Communication, Art, and Design, and aimed to “help students build their human and social capital,” according to Lemon.

Dr. Kortni Alston Lemon. Photo courtesy of Gardner-Webb University.

The professional takeover gives students a chance to “learn from industry professionals about the latest communication, art, and design trends and cultivate their network,” said Lemon. The ultimate goal is to give Gardner-Webb students a competitive advantage. 

Notably, this year’s professional takeover was significantly upsized from last year’s inaugural event, featuring a wider variety of speakers, guests, and covered career fields.

“The Second Annual CAD Professional Takeover Day has gotten bigger and even better with the support of staff, faculty, and students. We have more guest speakers in Boiling Springs, Charlotte, and as far away as Washington, D.C.,” said Dr. Lemon.

Throughout the day, a total of 11 speakers were featured and 12 panels were held, each focusing on a different aspect of media in the professional world and what it means to be a communications professional.

The first panel featured veteran WSOC reporter and president of the National Association of Black Journalists Ken Lemon, award-winning Gaston Gazette journalist Kara Fohner and two-time Emmy-winning producer Reginald Walker Jr. The speakers provided students with an overview of what a journalist’s life is like, and they also shared personal stories about their experiences in the field.

The second panel, occurring simultaneously with the first, featured two-time Emmy-winning journalist and social media director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums Alexis Mitchell and veteran WBTV journalist Dedrick Russel. The panelists focused their discussion on the creation of digital content, best storytelling practices, and best practices in design.

The next session, featuring Shelby Star editor and Gaston Gazette news team leader Diane Turbyfill and Fohner once again, provided Gardner-Webb’s news team, GWU-Today, with an open panel to discuss community journalism and how to build relationships with covered communities. 

Student journalist Albani Williams found the experience to be especially insightful. “I personally enjoyed the CAD takeover day, I learned a lot about how to portray others in the media and proper storytelling,” said Williams.

The following session featured Mitchell, Russel, and Gardner-Webb Director of Diversity and Inclusion Lawrence Brinson. The participants held a special session focusing on diversity in media and how it relates to better meeting the digital demands of television stations, non-profits, and universities.

An additional panel, occurring simultaneously with the last, featured entrepreneur and former athlete Coach Cheryl Littlejohn and Walker once again. Ken Lemon also participated in the panel as the speakers shared best practices in motivational speaking and life after exiting professional athletics. 

Another discussion, which also occurred concurrently with the others, featured Gardner-Webb’s Associate Vice President for Communications and Marketing Noel Manning. This session covered best practices in producing documentaries and what the life of a professional film critic is like. 

The final guest in this time slot was Thomas Manning, a 2022 GWU Alumnus and Marketing Director for the Cleveland County Arts Council. This panel focused on the arts as a profession and how to best position one’s career as an artist. 

The next set of panels featured Littlejohn and Brinson discussing diversity and public speaking, and an additional panel featured Ken Lemon discussing the shooting of stories for broadcast media. 

The day concluded with a panel featuring Ken Lemon and Walker discussing editing in storytelling, a discussion with Mitchell and Gardner-Webb Director of Professional Development Micah Martin about career strategies, and a forum with Noel and Thomas Manning educating on artist positioning and brand management. 

Student Jailyn Tineo shared that her experience taught her about what it takes to enter the industry. “It was cool hearing about how to effectively prepare for the industry; between reaching out to mentors, to the best times to apply for work opportunities and internships for your specific field,” said Tineo. 

Taylor Payne, a student at Gardner-Webb and intern for University Communications, said that “I found the speakers’ personal experiences very informative and educational in entering their different career fields.”

The Department of Communication, Art, and Design plans to continue their tradition of professional takeover days, with an additional takeover day being planned for the 2024-2025 school year. As with this year’s event, future takeover days are expected to continually expand in scale as more industry experts are brought to Gardner-Webb’s campus.

For questions about the Department of Communication, Art, and Design or about the takeover day, Dr. Lemon can be reached at [email protected]