Black Hills State University graduate Karen Bialas earned more than a degree when she returned to college at the age of 49. The mentorship of two BHSU faculty members continues to help her stay on the cutting edge of mass communication.
Bialas is using her college degree daily as a visual information specialist and marketing representative for the 28th Force Support Squadron at the Ellsworth Air Force Base. It’s exactly the type of job Bialas strived for when she decided to return to college in her late 40s.
Bialas’ husband successfully went back to school in 2010 which inspired her to focus on her own career and pick up where she left off in 1994. After over a 20-year break, going back to college while raising a family was not an easy choice for her.
“Ironically, my husband left a 20-year career in graphic design, which I thought would be a great career for my creativity and curiosity. This was a game changer for me that would require me to take a leap of faith to leave the safety net of a long time career to become a full time student. I doubted myself a few times, but in the end I knew I had made the right choice,” explains Bialas.
She also participated as a paid research assistant in a BHSU faculty seed grant research project examining the impacts of fake news with BHSU professors Dr. Mary Caton-Rosser and Dr. Scott Clarke. Bialas recently returned to campus to join the faculty to present findings at the BHSU Research Symposium
. A poster “Fake News: A Study of User’s Opinions of Biased News” will remain on display in Meier Hall with the results from their research project.
Fake news has been a rising issue with the increased use of social media and biased news sources. Caton-Rosser and Clarke approached Bialas during her final semester at BHSU about being involved with their project because of her similar interests and past research.
At BHSU, faculty/student partnerships are common in work on creative projects and research studies.
Caton-Rosser says, “Professors are able to communicate better with and establish a professional relationship with our students because of BHSU’s intimate classroom size. In Karen’s case, I knew what she was interested in and I knew how dedicated she is, so we believed she was the perfect candidate to assist in our research.”
Bialas, Caton-Rosser, and Clarke conducted their research by asking a group of participants, both on and off campus, their opinions about news pieces they saw and read.
“I transcribed videos and written statements from the seven focus group sessions to compile this information. We had a pre-survey with quantitative and qualitative research questions. All of these findings I translated into spreadsheets, graphs and charts,” Bialas shares.
The team’s research shows that people recognized biased news, but may not specifically categorize it as fake news. According to Caton-Rosser, “politically liberal group members were more likely to express their views across topics than moderate or conservative group members.”
Clarke will present the results of the two-year project this summer in Washington D.C. at the National Association for Media Literacy Education Conference.
Bialas encourages being involved on campus, even as a non-traditional student. There are over 80 clubs and organizations
at BHSU varying from academics to politics, to recreational and spiritual. During her time at BHSU, Bialas took a wide range of classes to benefit her career in graphic design, worked on the Jacket Journal student newspaper and gained hands-on experience while completing her internship at Platinum Restaurants (Marco’s Pizza) in Rapid City and senior projects.
As marketing manager during her internship, Bialas feels she was prepared for the fast pace and diversity at her current position with Ellsworth.
“As students we have a chance to immerse ourselves in what interests us and change our mindset for growth,” says Bialas.
Bialas also advocates for diversifying one’s skills in college. She says having the ability to do a wide variety of things and multi-task is essential after graduation. The experiences she gained at BHSU have helped her grow as an individual and as a student who is now in the work force.
“I am not just a graphic designer, I also have to be a problem solver, creative thinker, proactively resolve concerns and think about ways to improve our process and outreach,” Bialas explains.
In her role as a visual information specialist at Ellsworth, Bialas uses her knowledge from her mass communication degree at BHSU and graphic design emphasis in branding, through event planning and support,
photography, communications, and more.
Bialas looks forward to a bright future in her chosen field.
Bialas continues, “I am currently cross training into other fields in our department and am excited to continue to learn and evolve as a part of the marketing team.”
About Mass Communication at BHSU
students explore visual-design, photographic image-making, written, broadcast and web-based multi-media processes using the most advanced computer-software, technologies and equipment in upgraded facilities at BHSU. Students enjoy a high level of career placement upon graduation due to the demand for knowledgeable and highly skilled professionals in the viable and growing mass communication job market. For more information visit www.BHSU.edu/MassCommunications
or contact Dr. Mary Caton-Rosser at 605-642-6422 or Mary.CatonRosser@BHSU.edu