SXTXState students meet with SXSW Chief Programming Officer Hugh Forrest at SXSW Headquarters
SXTXState students meet with SXSW Chief Programming Officer Hugh Forrest at SXSW Headquarters in December.

Graduate students from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication will attend the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival March 9-17 during spring break., now in its 11th year and with its largest group with 10 participants, allows students to experience many concepts that are explored in other classes. Participants apply for the course and are competitively selected.

Students work on SXTXState website before SXSWThis year’s participants are: Steffanie Agnew, Nicole Avalos, Megan Boyle, Emily Burns, Annabel Fidler, Paloma Gray, Nicole Jones, Logan Self, Sean Smith and Alexandra White.

Led by Dr. Cindy Royal, director of the Media Innovation Lab, the project allows for students to communicate with big thinkers in media and technology. The project is assisted members of SJMC faculty Jon Zmikly, Dale Blasingame, Jordon Brown and Sara Shields.

“I’m excited to see what students learn this year at South By Southwest,” Royal said. “The group has been working very hard contacting participants and creating content. This experiential learning project has provided a strong foundation for the careers of many SJMC graduates over the years.”

Students are divided into four teams (Social Medial, Web Development, Multimedia Projects and Content) and work throughout the early-spring semester to prepare for the event. They meet with SXSW personnel in December and after the event in April, and their final project of the semester is to propose their own panel for SXSW the following year. Several past participants have had their panels selected in the competitive SXSW Panel Picker.

Sean Smith, who is a member of the Web Development team and helped design the logo and the project website, is excited to use the skills he has learned.

“It is great to apply the things I’ve learned in my graduate classes in a practical, real-world application,” Smith said. “It is also great to connect with the leading innovators in media ahead of SXSW, and I hope I get to meet many interesting people.”

Logan Self is interviewed by Megan BoyleThe project allows for the students to gain experience in web development, social media management, video and editorial content and data visualization. Content editor Annabel Fidler said that she enjoys the program because it has allowed her to work and grow in multiple areas.

“I am very happy with how much I have been able to learn and work on a professional level with my team,” Fidler said. “I look forward to finally attending the panels and getting into what we have all been working so hard to achieve.”

SXTXState students will also participate in the Texas State Innovation Lab and Reception at SXSW, where 16 student teams will demonstrate innovation projects. And for the second year, inspired by the SXTXState project and coordinated by Dale Blasingame and Jon Zmikly, a group of SJMC undergraduates will directly assist SXSW as interns on social media and event coverage.

Past students who participated in the SXTXState project have gone on to obtain key roles in digital media companies, such as The New York Times, HomeAway, Spredfast, Austin-American Statesman and more. The project’s goal is to reinforce student learning and provide them with significant professional opportunities. It is also a chance for students to advance their knowledge and gain access to professionals.

“After attending SXSW, student are brimming with enthusiasm,” Royal said. “It gives them ample discussion topics to use in interviews or networking settings and makes them a part of the SXSW community.”

Follow the project on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @sxtxstate.