Through experiential learning opportunities on-campus and off, St. Cloud State students are able to connect to their community, get real-world experience and land that first job after college.
Students like Ashli Gerdes and Ian Luhm aren’t waiting until after college. They’re shining examples of how a St. Cloud State education pays off in the “real world” before they even graduate.
Both connect to their communities as communicators on radio and television. But they’re not alone. Students from many disciplines seek opportunities to learn and grow outside the classroom with similar results.
Read these success stories, but know that they’re unfinished. They’ve only just begun.
It was a locked door that led to Ashli Gerdes’ radio career. “I didn’t ever expect to do radio,” said the mass communications senior. But a locked door at the University Chronicle in 2009 had the then-first-year student wandering into the studios of KVSC 88.1 FM, where she met production director Ryan Connelly ’10. Three weeks later, she was on the air.
“I absolutely fell in love with it,” she said.
“She covers community event-type stories, stories we wouldn’t have been able to cover in the past.”
News director at Townsquare Media
Gerdes has since written columns for the Chronicle, anchored newscasts and been web director for UTVS, was program director for KVSC and interned at KMXK Mix 94.9 in St. Cloud. Those experiences led to her current job, one that really connects her to the community. She’s the night host (7 p.m.- midnight, Monday-Friday) for Rev 96.7 in St. Cloud. She’s also an online content specialist, anchor and reporter for 1240 WJON. Both stations (as well as KMXK) are owned by Townsquare Media. She does all of this while attending classes at St. Cloud State.
Jim Maurice, news director at Townsquare Media, sees Gerdes as an asset. “She covers community event-type stories, stories we wouldn’t have been able to cover in the past,” he said. Gerdes enjoys telling those stories, she said. “Radio helps people get their messages out. We make people aware of what’s going on in the community,” she said.
She hopes she can help others find their passion a little less accidentally than she found hers. “I help people find their passion in a way, by making them aware. Kind of the same way I found mine.”
Ian Luhm – Meteorology
It is a passion for weather that brought Ian Luhm to St. Cloud State. It was watching broadcasters on Duluth TV when he was growing up that led to that passion.
The meteorology major and mass communications minor landed a job shadow opportunity at WDIO-TV in Duluth during summer 2011. That job shadowing foot in the door paid off. “Then I got a call.” Ian said. The call was WDIO Chief Meteorologist Justin Liles ’02. They wanted him to fill in on Christmas Eve. He’s already come a long way since that first on-air experience in his hometown.
“My entire body froze for about three seconds,” he said, despite a crash training course and about two weeks to mentally prepare. He credits his time at UTVS for helping him be ready. “I never would have gotten the job had it not been for UTVS. … I got the basics of being on camera. Without that, people can get shell-shocked.”
UTVS may have helped him prepare for his on-air performance, but it was another passion that helped Ian deal with some of the off-camera challenges of being on TV.
A former hockey player, Luhm officiates youth hockey games in Duluth. There are days when he’ll officiate hockey games in the morning and early afternoon, then present the weather on the 6 and 10 p.m. news. “I received critique emails from viewers, and my officiating taught me not to take it personally,” he said, explaining that parents sometimes have less-than-stellar things to say to referees.
“Ian has been a great asset to our staff,” Liles said. He lauded Luhm for helping at community events and noted that as a Duluth native, Luhm knows the Duluth area’s weather intangibles “very well.” Luhm fills in on weekends and has earned real on-air experience, according to Liles. That hands-on experience, his community work and his education at St. Cloud State will have him well on his way when he graduates this spring.
Being on TV in his hometown and allowing him to further connect to his community is a dream come true for Ian Luhm. Friends and former teachers are often excited to see him on TV. “That’s the neatest part,” he said.