Awarded for my hard work in JOUR 440

Last week I was awarded for my hard work throughout the semester in my multimedia class. From this class, I learned many new skills that I will put forth in my future classes, internships, and careers.

My classmates voted on three categories– best blog, best data visualization, and best storify entry. I was excited to hear that I won two awards in class– one first-place prize for my data visualization and one third-place prize for an entry about WIU’s Dance Marathon on  Looks like hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Take a look at both entries and enjoy!

data vizualization award storify award

Starbucks Per State


As of 2014, there were 7,049 Starbucks stores in the United States. This Data Visualization shows the top ten states that have the largest percentage of Starbucks stores within.

To gather this data, I used information reported from Open Data by Socrata. I made the visualization by entering the percentages of Starbucks per state into a pie chart on If you click on the link to the visualization, you can see the number of Starbucks stores per state (of the top ten states). Once scrolled over, the percentage appears.  For example, California has 2,392 stores, which is approximately 34 percent of the total number of Starbucks stores in the United States. I thought these statistics were surprising. I knew that Americans consumed a lot of Starbucks but didn’t know that we had over 7,000 stores country-wide.

Kevin Mowbray from LEE Enterprises talks about the future of newsrooms

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mdr-INFO Newsroom” by gynti_46 is licensed by CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kevin Mowbray is the CEO and Vice President of Lee Enterprises in the Quad Cities. Mowbray is also an alumnus of Western Illinois University.  There were many interesting aspects of Mowbray’s presentation of modern news/ outlets, and Mowbray provided the audience with many stimulating statistics about the journalism business today.

According to Mowbray, Lee Enterprises is the leading provider of local news information and advertising. Lee Enterprise’s news reaches a large percentage of young readers—73 percent are ages 18-29. Although many people presume that a very small—if none at all—of people age 18-29 still read print newspapers, a shocking 41 percent of readers 18-29 still read print news. Print news may be declining, but it is not extinct, nor will it be within the near future.

Mowbray talked about today’s newsrooms and how they are changing because online news is becoming increasingly popular and people are beginning to use and prefer mobile news to print. He said that most news offices are made up of a smaller number of staff members. These members are expected to be more diverse in their skills—a photographer should also know video production. Since news is online, it is accessible 24 hours of the day, which means that there are people required to cycle stories around the clock versus working nine to five and publishing a paper once per day.

Mowbray suggested that current students prepare themselves for the changes being made in the news world. He said that students should gain experience working with all sorts of news platforms. Also, the key for future success is to be able to always adapt because journalism is going to continue to do just that and the journalists and news companies need to tailor their stories and mediums to please audiences.

If You Like Taking Selfies, then You’re in Luck

Rachel's WIU Alumni Association Blog

Have you heard of the #WIUGroupSelfie contest? If not, it’s a social media contest leading up to Purple & Gold Day on April 24th. The contest is an opportunity where WIU students, faculty, alumni, and friends can show their pride in WIU and spread the Leatherneck spirit online. To learn more about the #WIUGroupSelfie contest, I spoke with the creator of it, Mary Friday. She is a senior communication major who is interning in the University Relations office this semester.

Entering this contest is simple; participants just need to submit a photo relating to WIU and the theme for that week on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or submit your photo by email to using the hashtag #WIUGroupSelfie.  The contest started last Monday, March 23rd and will continue through Purple & Gold Day on Friday, April 24th. There’s a different photo theme each week; last week’s…

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Visualization of Butterfly Species in Costa Rica

Butterfly and Bee on Goldenrod by TexasEagle is licensed by CC BY-NC 2.0


This visualization shows 87 butterfly species that live in Costa Rica, a country in Central America. I retrieved this data from my Google Drive and made the visualization using Google Fusion Tables. The data shows what each specie looks like as a caterpillar and a fully-grown butterfly. The map shows where each specie is most prominent. When the viewer clicks on the different colored markers (colors based on the elevation variation of the species), a summary of the butterfly shows. The information includes the butterfly’s name, a picture of an adult and larvae version of the specie, its sex, its host plant species, its host plant family, the elevation that it lives at, and the latitude at which it lives at.

I chose to use this type of visualization because it is easy for a viewer to understand. It is interactive because a viewer is able to zoom in and out as well as click on each red marker to learn more about each individual specie of butterfly. Placing the markers on a map of Costa Rica allows the viewers to see where the butterflies live in proximity to their homes. People who are interested in nature and exploring new species and areas may be interested in this visualization and may want to travel to Central American in order to observe these species.

Effects of Eating Late at Night

Eating greasy food out of plastic” by Lars Ploughmann is licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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When classes at Western Illinois University are in session, senior, Christie Millay leaves her room in Grote Hall before 10 a.m. and does not return home for nearly 12 hours.

Millay experiences the typical college student’s busy schedule on a daily basis.

With meetings, classes, and hours spent in the library working on homework, Millay admits that she puts off eating regularly.

“When I am at Western during the school year, I can only eat at night—late night—because I have so many meetings,” said Millay.

There are three dining halls at Western Illinois University where students —with meal plans—can purchase food and drinks with a simple swipe.

The only problem is that the dining halls at WIU close fairly early on weekdays. Corbin/ Olson and Bayless/ Henninger Dining Centers close at 7 p.m., whereas Thompson Dining Center stays open an extra hour—until 8 p.m.

Most students’ schedules run later than 8 p.m. on weekdays—therefore, many students miss the opportunity to eat dinner in the dining centers.

By the time these busy students return to their resident halls, the only option for food is either what they have in their pantries (if anything), or what is available from the convenience stores on campus.

“I usually resort to eating a sandwich or chicken wings from the c-store—I usually eat at 11 p.m.,” said Millay

Students with busy schedules may be missing out on eating nutritious foods. An inconsistent eating schedule can really sabotage one’s health.

Amanda Divin Ph. D., an Assistant Professor in Western Illinois University’s Department of Health Sciences, said that eating close to bedtime can have negative effects on one’s well-being.

Divin said, “Eating late at night is not necessarily bad—eating too close to the time when one falls asleep is what can be harmful to the body.”

In other words, if a student typically eats dinner at 9 p.m., but then stays awake for two or three hours afterwards, the body will have enough time to digest, and therefore, will not suffer the consequences that one would with eating just one hour—or less—before bed.

In a similar notion, a person should still be conscious of what he/she consumes close to bedtime.

“One of the biggest issues that is seen with late-night eating is that people tend to overeat later in the day. When the body feels tired, a person loses will-power. The less will-power one has, the more likely he/she is to overeat. Late at night, people are likely to choose comfort foods which are higher in fat, calories, and sodium…” said Divin.

Another student, Kaylee McAllister said, “I don’t eat breakfast or lunch during the day. I typically have a few snacks throughout the day, and if I’m lucky, I’ll get to sit down for dinner.”

When McAllister does eat dinner, she says that it usually consists of PB&J sandwiches, pizza, or chicken (quick options from the c-stores).

“Not eating all day essentially puts one’s body in starvation mode, so people will be very rabinous when they finally sit down to eat,” said Divin.

McAllister often prioritizes other commitments over eating because she says she is too busy to think about eating.

“I stay up late working on projects or sending emails, so I rarely eat. If I happen to be in the union for a late-night meeting, I’ll get something from Burger King because it is the only place open on campus that serves food late,” said McAllister.

According to Divin, there are various negative side effects that are affiliated with eating too close to bedtime—heartburn, weight gain, nightmares, type 2 diabetes, and incongruent sleep patterns are likely.

“When a person eats a huge meal at one time, the body has to start sorting through the food and break it down into the blood stream to be used for energy. If a person is eating too close to falling asleep, the food will be converted to, and stored as fat (rather than having the food used for daily activity). The last I checked, not many people want to have more fat,” said Divin.

According to Divin, eating late at night can cause a person to stay awake longer during the night. This is called the insulin response.

When a body is low on energy, the person will be triggered to eat by a feeling of hunger.

If a person chooses to eat something high in sugar, the body will use insulin to clear the sugar out. People tend to feel tired after eating a large meal (or many carbohydrates/sugars) and fall asleep, because low-blood sugar makes a person sleepy.

After the body returns to a state of homeostasis—normalcy—a person may wake up feeling wide-awake, even if it is the middle of the night.

“As long as a student is moderating what he/she is eating when bedtime approaches, then eating late is not necessarily bad,” said Divin.

Millay admits to eating pasta four to five times per week because it is cheap to buy and easy to make in microwaves.

“Most of the food that I eat has to be ‘quick food’ because I don’t have time to plan a meal or cook. I look for grab-and-go options…or I just don’t eat, which is bad too,” said Millay.

Millay and McAllister say that they wish that they had more time to eat during regular meal times, but busy schedules prevent them from doing so.

Healthy food options are not always readily available for on-campus students on the go.

Meet Michelle Howe from WIU’s Career Development Center

Michelle is great! She is very helpful with preparing students for internships and careers. Go visit her for help with your LinkedIn profile or a mock interview!

Beyond the Bell Tower

Michelle Howe Michelle Howe (right), her husband Matt (a 2009 graduate of WIU’s School of Agriculture), and their Future Leatherneck daughter, Macie. Michelle is an assistant director in Western’s Career Development Center, which provides career services for WIU students and alumni.

Ever wish you had a go-to person to help you with career advice or to critique your résumé?

As one of the dedicated members of the Western Illinois University Career Development Center (CDC) staff, CDC Assistant Director Michelle Howe is one of these “go-to” individuals who students (as well as WIU Alumni) seek out for help when it comes to preparing for a job search and the employment-searching process itself.

Michelle, who is also a WIU alumna, graciously agreed to be featured for the second installment of the Council of Administrative Personnel (COAP) Employee Spotlight, a monthly feature (sponsored by the COAP organization) to showcase the varied jobs…

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