Public outreach firm employs all RSJ grads

Public outreach firm employs all RSJ grads

By Melanie Peck

All five employees at GoodStanding, a Reno-based public involvement and outreach firm, are graduates of the Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism and Center for Advanced Media Studies.

“While the leadership at the journalism school has been ever-changing, the product of the education at the school has always been a value to our business,” says Marlene Olsen, herself a 1974 Journalism graduate.

Three years ago, Olsen & Associates, founded in 1982, restructured to become GoodStanding. The move aligned the company with Olsen and her team’s passion: helping water and environmental organizations partner successfully with their communities. The firm’s clients are primarily involved in natural resources such as water and land, and GoodStanding focuses its services on public outreach, community involvement and education.

Reynolds School graduates are “always dependable,” Olsen says, noting she has hired so many Reynolds School interns and launched so many careers over the years, she can’t remember them all.

“That’s really how we grow our staff.”

Two of her current employees, Victor Leyba ’06, designer and copywriter, and Rebecca Wikler ’07, outreach specialist, were interns before Olsen hired them.

“It is always good to know employers like Marlene believe our graduates are well prepared,” said Bob Felten, an RSJ assistant professor focused on Strategic Communications. “Her agency’s frequent participation in the internship program also demonstrates how experience prior to graduation contributes to our students being ready to perform at a professional level.”

Olsen earned her undergraduate degree when Journalism was only a department. She says, her education was vital to her future success:

“The company would not exist without the degree I got from the University of Nevada, Reno. An undergraduate degree isn’t everything, but it definitely creates a foundation—a starting point to build the skills you need to expand upon.

“You can always depend upon a certain amount of skills when you hire an intern or someone who has graduated from the journalism school,” she notes, adding, “I love to see how the school has grown up since I graduated.”

Olsen also values continuing education for her employees at GoodStanding.

“Life is about learning,” she says. “In business, you learn by fire. There’s no right way to do something. I really challenge my employees to do the best they can. They make mistakes. We’re not going to punish anybody for making mistakes. But, they should learn from them. I encourage my employees to keep learning.”

She budgets for and provides the time for employees to keep sharpening their skills via continuing education.

“In fact, they almost better have a plan or a good excuse if, in a year’s time, they aren’t taking a class or going to a conference. You can get behind in this business very fast.”

Leyba, for example, is currently earning a master of fine arts degree in graphic design from the Academy of Arts University in San Francisco, which he accomplishes “mostly online,” he says.

Jerri Conrad ’01, public involvement and outreach director, has also earned an MBA from the University of Phoenix and is currently pursuing graduate work through Utah State University in  National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Frankie Vigil ’00, public involvement and outreach manager, recently earned a certificate in public process from the International Association for Public Participation. Vigil is also an accredited in public relations through the Public Relations Society of America.

And, Wikler, who serves as GoodStanding’s social media manager, regularly attends conferences and seminars to keep her up to speed in a fast-paced industry.

Olsen, a longtime member of various advisory groups to the Reynolds School, is keeping her eye on changes.

“We are all waiting to see what the redeveloped master’s program at the J-School is like,” Olsen says. “I think it’s time for me to jump into something challenging.”

You can find GoodStanding outreach on the web:




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