On the Job with J-School Graduates

On the Job blog features the new careers and advice from recent graduates of the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications. If you would like to be featured, please email jschool@ku.edu.

Jacob Polacheck

Business of Law Reporter for Law.com's Daily Report

Jacob PolacheckDegree and graduation year and degree: Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Mass Communications, News and Informations Emphasis, 2021

Biography: For the past six years, I’ve focused my attention on covering elite high school and college basketball, while telling some very compelling stories in large part due to my guidance at the University of Kansas. Since graduating, I’ve been given the opportunity to branch out and explore a field I haven’t explored before, the business of law. While I will still be doing sports reporting on the side, my full-time job entails covering law firm movement in the Atlanta, Georgia, area, interviewing firm partners, trend leaders and other notable shareholders. My passion has always been to tell the human story, and this opportunity gives me that chance. 

Job Title: Business of Law Reporter for Law.com’s Daily Report in Atlanta, Georgia. 

How did you get your current job? After graduating, one of my fraternity brothers with Zeta Beta Tau introduced me to his uncle, Jonathan Ringel, who spent the last two decades with the Daily Report. He introduced me to the opening for an Atlanta-based Business of Law Reporter and despite my experience being primarily in sports, I jumped on the opportunity to learn a new field. 

Explain what you do in your job and what do you like best about it: I’m working for ALM, a great media company with numerous opportunities. In my job, I am reporting on law firm movement in the Atlanta and Georgia area, talking with lawyers, partners and firm leaders to report on the movement in the area. I’ve already met so many great and welcoming people, and I’m blessed to be surrounded by a group of hard-working individuals with the desire to tell great stories. 

How did the J-School prepare you for the workforce? The J-School challenged me to work on projects outside of my comfort zone. Coming into college, I was dead set on covering basketball and basketball only. However, after working with some great and motivating professors, I gained experience in broadcast, print, law reporting, sports reporting, business reporting and an array of other opportunities. The J-School prepared me well to adapt to situations in which I may not have the most expertise.

What career advice do you have for journalism students? Have fun and work hard. Enjoy the times when you’re not working as they will give you experiences that can help you tell great stories. But when you are working, give it everything you have. Make sure you’re the first one up and the last one to leave. Outwork the person next to you while keeping a fun, positive attitude doing it. Also, read the Daily Report and ZagsBlog. College is a time to make mistakes, so try everything and don’t be afraid to fail. 

Radwan Dayib

Communications strategist for Burns & McDonnell

Degree and graduation year: Bachelor's of Science in Journalism and Mass Communications, 2016

Radwan DayibBiography: As a Somali-American refugee, I’ve had a unique upbringing that brought me to KU and now to my home in Kansas City. I was born in India after my family fled Somalia’s civil war in the early 1990s and eventually received sponsorship to immigrate to the United States, where we settled in Chicago’s northside (go Cubs!) in 2000. My journey to the J-School and the University of Kansas in general was one that I couldn’t have imagined growing up. As a kid, I took English Language Learner classes, which helped me develop a love for writing. After moving to Emporia, Kansas, to start my freshman year of high school, I got involved with my high school’s student newspaper and started to think of career paths where I could use my passion for writing to open doors for a bright future. I was a transfer to KU and started in the J-School during my junior year. I was fortunate enough to make plenty of connections with classmates and professors alike, and I used the tools the J-School equipped me with to launch my career. Now, I work in Corporate Communications at Burns & McDonnell, a top engineering, architecture and construction firm with headquarters in Kansas City. 

Job title: Communications Strategist

How did you get your current job? Referrals are your best friend in the working world! The old cliché of “it’s who you know, not what you know” might not always be accurate, but a great referral can elevate you in the recruiting pecking order. A friend of a friend floated my name out to my current manager and soon after, I interviewed for the Communications Strategist position at Burns & McDonnell in February of 2020. As we all know, things in the world took a turn soon after and the company implemented a hiring freeze for the better part of a few months while COVID caused uncertainty. Almost a full year later, the company reached back out to let me know they were still interested in me and had a new opening that I was a perfect fit for. Though it took a while to get there, as they say, the rest is now history.  

Explain what you do in your job and what do you like best about it? Corporate Communications is a rapidly growing field and oftentimes, no two days are the exact same. Working for an engineering, architecture and construction firm, my responsibilities are to work with a few of our key departments to communicate updates to our nearly 8,000 employees. For example, I work primarily with our Safety & Health team to share and disseminate information related to construction safety, workplace health concerns, and general practices to avoid injury in a physically demanding field. Employees rely on this messaging for the latest workplace guidelines, especially in an ever-changing industry with several regulations from governing bodies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). I’ve had the chance to work in corporate communications for the past four years and the great part about this career path, and more specifically my role, is that you truly get to shape a company’s culture with your words. The items I help communicate are posted to a corporate intranet where employees can read and interact with my work. And it’s not all about regulatory communications and doing things by the book. Helping shape company culture means relating to our employees beyond just work, so that means infusing humor, pop-culture references and gifs into the content I produce daily.

How did the J-School prepare you for the workforce? The J-School curriculum truly is a holistic experience. On top of shaping me into a better writer (and familiarizing me with the ins and outs of AP Style, which I use daily now), the J-School set the foundation for my current career path. Principles taught in courses such as Research Methods helped me to understand the level of preparation and knowledge needed prior to even putting pen to paper. My Campaigns course gave me an accelerated view into the world of project management, communications strategy and the importance of identifying your audience and making sure your message reaches them effectively. From Strat Comm 1 to Ethics, the J-School and its professors/faculty teach with an intention to make you as ready as possible for any of the potential avenues you decide to take.

What career advice do you have for journalism students? Have the courage to try things you’re not good at right now. The world is becoming increasingly more digital, so even a basic understanding of the Adobe Suite will take you a lot further than you can imagine. Growing up, we’re often told we need to pick one thing, learn the ins and outs, and stick to it. The truth is, when you enter the working world, you’ll be asked to do a lot more than the one or two things you’re great at. Companies will often hire the person who is a good writer and has some experience with video creation or Photoshop/InDesign over the person who is solely a writer, even if they’re really good at it. Don’t be scared to be “OK” at a few different things right now. The more you do something, the better you’ll be at it. The key is to just start!

Sydney Umeri

Social Media Programming Fellow for SB Nation

Sydney Umeri

Degree and graduation year: Master of Science in Digital Content Strategy and a Certificate in Business. I graduated in 2017.

Bio: I'm originally from Atlanta, Georgia, and attended KU for my master's in journalism. Initially, I thought I would go into sports broadcasting, but after a broadcast internship at CNN in 2017, I realized that a career in front of the camera wasn't what I wanted, at least not then. Having learned everything that I did in the J-School about digital content and the strategy necessary to succeed in that field, I went the marketing route. I learned a lot during my time in that field. Marketing, specifically on the social and digital side, allowed me to get the necessary reps needed to build a portfolio and a resume that would later position me to get the job I have today. Ultimately, my career has not been a straight line. If it were, I would be doing sports broadcasting. Fortunately, I have had experiences along the way that have prepared me for even better opportunities to work for a company I enjoy while using the skills I learned from my degree.

Job title: Social Media Programming Fellow for SB Nation (I also do social media management on the side for several small businesses.)

How did you get your current job? I searched the Vox Media job board to find my current job. Ultimately, it was just good timing. I searched during the three-week window they were accepting fellowship applications for their first-ever fellowship program. I have always loved Vox Media journalism, and at the time, I was looking for a way to get my foot in the door.

What do you do in your job and what do you like best about it? I wear many hats at my job, from helping my team run our various national social media accounts to living programming (which means I watch live sporting events and program social media content around those events). I also write about various sporting events and topics. What I love most about my job is that I get a chance to do a bit of everything. I love writing, and I can jump in and write a post on a current sports event and then switch to running our company's social pages and promoting various blogs from across our network. Things are never dull. To add, I love how flexible my job is. Some days I work 9a-5p, other days I work 5p-1a. It all depends on what's going on. Often I cover live sporting events at night, and to think I get paid to watch sports is truly a dream come true.

How did the J-School prepare you for the workforce? The J-School gave me a solid foundation and knowledge of preparing content calendars, using social media to grow brand followings, and running successful accounts. Ultimately, that's a lot of what I do today, and I'm so glad to know that I get a chance to use what I learned from my degree daily. Social media management and coming up with an effective content strategy isn't as simple as people make it out to be. The J-School gave me a solid foundation in this, and I'm so thankful.

What career advice do you have for journalism students? If you feel that you're not qualified for the job you want or that it doesn't exist, start working on it anyway. For example, if you want to tell stories about women in sports, but your dream company isn't hiring you to do it just yet, begin telling those stories in your free time. Find the people, conduct the interviews, post the videos, and put the stories you're doing out for others to see. This not only helps you build a portfolio, but it makes it way more likely for companies to give you an opportunity even if you don't have the necessary work experience with a major brand. By doing it yourself, you're showing them that you're driven and capable. All in all, don't wait for the opportunity to come to you. Create, and when the opportunity finally presents itself, you will be more than ready.

Learn more about the J-School's online master's degree in digital content strategy

Malik Jackson

Malik Jackson

Multimedia journalist at WBIR Channel 10, Knoxville, Tennessee

Graduation year: May 2020

Malik JacksonI was born in Kansas City and raised in the KC suburbs. I’ve wanted to work in TV news since I was 12 – I would set the ironing board up in my living room pretending that I was anchoring the news. From there, I went to KU where I spent my time figuring out how I can be the best form of me while doing things differently than everybody else.

At KU I was able -- with the help of my good friend Keely McCormick -- to start our own morning show (with the guidance of Media Crossroads Director Cal Butcher) that lived on for two years and won several awards while it ran. At the same time, I worked alongside a great group of student journalists at KUJH under the leadership of instructor Chad Curtis and Professor Max Utsler. That’s where we transformed what KU broadcasting could do to where it is today, not only outpacing schools in our state but schools nationally. My senior year the show I anchored -- with the amazing producing skills of colleague Bryanna Crouch -- won second place in the national Hearst Journalism Awards competition for Best Student Newscast. Individually, I was able to place 11th nationally in the Hearst competition for reporting, the highest out of any one in the state of Kansas. After that, I took a different route by not taking TV News 2 and instead dipping my toe into Statehouse Reporting (with the great leadership of Professor Patricia Gaston) where instead of only writing articles, which was the standard practice of the class, I was a able to do short video explainers of different coverage related to the Kansas State Legislature, adding a new element to what Statehouse Reporting could be.

After graduation, I was hired at WBIR Channel 10 in Knoxville, Tennessee. I am a general assignment reporter covering everything you could think of -- from COVID to bridge collapses, massive winter storms, killings that left four teenagers dead and so much more. I got the job through lots of hard work, but most importantly setting myself apart. When you look at my resume and my reel – you won’t find one that looks like it. There are tons of young, promising journalists who are looking for the same job opportunities as you are, and you have to have something that sets you apart. News directors will see that and will give you a chance. Lastly, I would add you have to be passionate about coming into this field and willing to stick it out even on the bad days because there will be bad days. But no amount of bad days can still your passion!

In my job, I get the chance to go out into the community and share their stories. I get to give a voice to the voiceless -- that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about you, it’s about the people who make up your community. So I use the platform I’m blessed to have to tell a story.

The J-School equipped me with the tools to be myself, which matters the most. A lot of places want you to conform to how they do things. But the KU J-School allows you to explore who you are as a journalist and hone the skills that it takes to be successful in this field.

There is so much advice to be given, but for me the best advice I can give is to be you! At the end of the day no matter how many people support you or are rooting for you, you’re the one guiding the journey. Be yourself and you will flourish. Never turn down feedback -- it’s one of things that will push you to grow and elevate yourself and your work. Rock Chalk!

Kate Mays

Kate Mays

Associate producer at Kast Media

Graduation year: 2019

Biography: My name is Kate Mays. I grew up in Lenexa, Kansas, and currently live in Los Angeles, California. I graduated with a B.S.J. in News and Information and a B.A. in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Strategic Communication students might know my mom, Nancy Mays, who teaches Campaigns and other classes.

How did you get your current job? After graduating, I decided Los Angeles was the best place to pursue my dream of working in podcasting. I took the plunge and moved here with no job prospects. For the next year, I worked freelance taking any job in audio I could get. I spent hundreds of hours transcribing interviews, assisted in editing and producing, and most importantly made connections. After gaining enough experience, I was able to land my dream job as associate producer at Kast Media working on The Opportunist podcast (available wherever you listen to podcasts).

What you do in your job and what do you like best about it? As associate producer, I have many different responsibilities and every day is different. I track down potential interviewees, find the best audio clips, help direct voiceover sessions, edit scripts, and lots and lots of research. The Opportunist is a true crime narrative podcast that tells long-form stories of regular people being opportunistic. My favorite part of working on it is the investigative reporting. I love going through archived documents, putting together the pieces of people’s lives, and finding information that wasn’t meant to be found.

How did the J-School prepare you for the workforce? I attribute my research skills to the J-School. I learned about finding reputable sources. A big part of my job is pre-interviewing potential guests, which is something I wouldn’t be able to do without the J-School.

What career advice do you have for journalism students? Network! Networking is one of my least favorite things in the world, but it helped get me to where I am today. Alumni love to help recent grads, especially transplants. Don’t compare yourself to people you graduated with. It can be so discouraging to see your peers landing great jobs right after graduation. Accept that that doesn’t happen to everyone and that’s OK! You’ll get your dream job eventually. In the meantime, say yes to every opportunity, even if it doesn’t line up exactly with your long-term plan.

Savanna SmithSavanna Smith

Audience growth journalist & breaking news editor, The Kansas City Star

Graduation year: December 2019.

How did you get the job? I first interned at The Star during the 2018-19 school year. Shortly before I graduated, I was offered a full-time position. There wasn’t an intensive application process. I built relationships during my internships that put me in position to join the team in early 2020.

What are your roles and responsibilities? I am part of a team that curates The Star’s digital presence. That includes everything from The Star’s homepage and alerts, to social media, special project presentation and community engagement. I also produce a podcast.  Additionally, I am part of the breaking news editing team. I bring my audience understanding and digital skills to our daily coverage. In this capacity, I assign and edit breaking news stories, work on special projects and strategize how we’ll reach our readers.

Explain what audience editors/journalists do and why that role is so important for a news organization. I truly believe good audience editors are some of the most forward-thinking people in any newsroom. We’re the problem solvers and vital to keeping what we do relevant. Our team, which we call Audience Growth, focuses its efforts on communicating with our readers and building audience loyalty. There isn’t a “one size fits all” description of what an audience editor or producer does. Even on our team, which spans six newspapers in McClatchy’s Central Region, each member has different strengths and responsibilities. A few examples of what we do on a daily basis:

  • Curate the sites’ homepages.
  • Strategize news alerts using a variety of digital tools
  • Make sure stories are optimized for search engines (SEO)
  • Write fair, attention-grabbing headlines that drive traffic to our sites
  • Work with front-line editors on story angles and visual presentation
  • Curate regional and national news to our sites
  • Manage our social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook)
  • Curate a number of newsletters on various topics (politics, business, covid-19 news, diversity, etc)

One thing we are always asked to think about: How do we get readers to come to us? Then, how do we get them to stay (subscribe)? The main idea is to offer our audience something they can’t find anywhere else. Strong, audience-minded accountability journalism drives what we do. But it’s also our job to make sure we are meeting our readers where they are.

How much of your role involves research, data or analysis? I wouldn’t say it involves much research, though it is important to keep up on the latest digital trends. As for data and analysis, we are constantly monitoring website traffic and making decisions accordingly.  It’s important to have a solid understanding of data journalism, especially in the time of COVID when we are analyzing trends on a daily basis.

How is your work reflected in the finished product of The Star? The audience growth team’s impact is seen in just about everything at the end of the day. It is reflected on our homepage, on our social channels and in the print product. Our job is to think about our digital reach — digital being our ever-changing reality in the news business. We truly have to understand our audience and I believe that’s reflected each time we reach the communities we are trying to serve.

What advice would you have for journalism students and what they need to learn or work on if they would like a job like yours? Be adaptable and really take in everything you learn — you never know when it might come in handy.  I have heard it said in this industry before that you “need to be specialized” to be an asset. This is far from true. Not to say specialized journalists aren’t needed, they definitely are! But as fast as this industry is changing, we also need journalists who can adapt quickly and bring new ideas to the table. I was able to get my foot in the door as a multimedia journalist (video, audio and audience), learning news skills that have proven valuable, and was soon given the chance to do a dream job as an editor on our breaking news team. Show up, work hard and think big. That’ll get you places.

Logan Hassig

Logan Hassig

Senior Commerce Strategist, VMLY&R

Graduation year: 2016

Brief bio: Logan was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas. Her parents both attended the University of Kansas, where her father took the path of entrepreneurship and mother a flight attendant for Delta Airlines. With that, in addition to investing in her education, Logan spent a lot of her upbringing on an airplane. She has lived in Brooklyn, New York, for over four years now, working at the global brand and customer experience agency, VMLY&R. VMLY&R is part of WPP, the biggest marketing and communications firm in the world.

How did you get your current job? It all started amid my pursuit of the AAFKC scholarship in which the interview happened to take place at the original VML Headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. Though intending to just land the scholarship, that interview opened doors to the rest of my career to this day. I kicked off the interview with a silly story about me ironically having been in the agency before as a young girl for a foot modeling gig in Vault (the agency’s production department); I mentioned remembering my admiration of the working environment and overall energy in the space.

During the interview, I also spoke a lot about my experience within the J-School, as well as my upcoming endeavor to work abroad in Dublin, Ireland, at a local media company. It was happenstance that VML’s Global CEO, Jon Cook, was sitting at the opposite end of the table and generously reached out to me post-interview asking that I’d keep VML in mind for future work opportunities. I capitalized on that meaningful connection and was persistent with staying in touch; I was eventually offered a fall internship in Kansas City, as I was attending my final year of college.

Having always desired to be a city dweller, this ultimately led me to an inter-company transfer to New York, where I started as a key support member on what was then a small retail and commerce team within the agency. The department has seen exponential growth since then, to what is now WPP’s global creative commerce agency, VMLY&R COMMERCE. I have now progressed as a senior commerce strategist, where I focus on both identifying commerce-driven growth opportunities and building existing client relationships within the agency.  

What do you like best about your job? I feel that as the agency has grown and evolved, my role has evolved with it, which has been exciting to see take shape. The company culture at VMLY&R is unparalleled; from its people to its entrepreneurial opportunities to the industry-breaking work collective teams produce. I am truly never bored, as every day is different. Not least, I’ve had the opportunity to work across a myriad of verticals and for some of the world’s largest brands. At the moment, my key client focus is New Balance, which is an extraordinary match for my personality, and a company I admire.  

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? I was the KU Ad Club president during my junior year of college, which was hugely advantageous in terms of gaining proper experience to make my way into the real world. Through this, my professional skills improved, and importantly, I made key connections within the industry and New York at whole. Challenging – yet not required – courses like Presentation Skills: Stand and Deliver, Honors courses, etc., were also central to my professional development.   

What advice would you give to journalism students? Put yourself out there! Getting involved and staying connected are fundamental in college in order to not only work out what you want to do, but also meet the right people to help you get there. People are your biggest asset. Also, do not feel as if you need cookie-cutter experience when you are interviewing for a particular role or opportunity – skills can be learned; embrace who you are and use that to your advantage. Be a sponge; always stay curious and keep learning!  

Angel TranAngel Tran

Creative Content Specialist, PAR Electrical Contractors Inc.

Graduation year: May 2019

Brief bio: I was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas after my parents immigrated from Vietnam. My love of reading and writing as a child has led me down my current career path. I initially attended Wichita State University before transferring to the University of Kansas to finish my degree. It was one of the best decisions of my life. In May 2019, I graduated from KU with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and a minor in Communication Studies. At KU, I was involved in several organizations such as The Odyssey Online, CHALK Magazine, KU Statehouse Wire Service, KJHK 90.7 FM, Rock Chalk Video, and Journalism Student Ambassador Program. I was previously a student assistant in the J-School’s Communications Office. Currently, I am a Creative Content Specialist at PAR Electrical Contractors Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri.

How did you get your current job? Upon graduation, I moved to Kansas City and applied online for several jobs in the area. I was patient and deliberate in my job search as I wanted the right fit. I randomly came across PAR on Indeed and decided to take a shot in the dark. I had no prior knowledge of PAR or the electrical construction industry. But of all my interviews, PAR had the greatest impact on me. It felt like I clicked with the company and I could see myself fitting in. I’ll never forget my excitement when PAR offered me the job. I immediately knew I had to accept. 

What do you like best about your job? There are so many components to my job that it keeps me busy and constantly learning. Every day is different, and I never know what to expect. There are always opportunities for growth and training, which I appreciate. I can tell that PAR cares about their employees. Each person plays a significant role and usually wears multiple hats. On the Commercial Support team, I balance a wide range of responsibilities, from assisting with project bids and proposals within our regional divisions to overall marketing communications. As a Creative Content Specialist, I get the best of both worlds: business and creativity.
Most of all, I like the connections and relationships at PAR. My coworkers have always treated me with respect and valued my thoughts. When I was a newcomer, they were especially patient and supportive, and taught me everything about the job. I have been pushed out of my comfort zone many times, but I know my team is always there to back me up! (Plus, they never fail to make me smile.) 

How did the J-School prepared you for the workforce? The J-School puts its students on the path to success and provides the resources to ensure students stay on that path, despite any obstacles. Honestly, the J-School has done more for me than I could’ve ever imagined. In the classroom, I was taught useful skills, treated like a professional, and given hands-on real world experience. As a journalism student, I was also given opportunities that were once in a lifetime. I’ve formed bonds with J-School professors and mentors that I still stay in touch with to this day.
With my job now, all these past experiences prepared me to communicate effectively, multitask, meet deadlines, be accountable for my work, create content across various mediums, form genuine relationships, and more. The J-School also taught me how to be proficient in writing, editing, technology, design, and research, which has been especially useful. Even though I’m learning new things at PAR, a lot of my journalism knowledge transferred over.
Overall, the J-School prepared me to be a well-rounded, skill-equipped professional who has realized her full potential. I would not be where I am today without the J-School and everyone there, and I am forever grateful. I’m always proud to tell people I’m a KU journalism alum!  

What advice would you give to journalism students? Whenever an opportunity presents itself, take it. Always be curious; always learn; and always try to be better. It’s not about how good you are, but rather it’s about how good you want to be. Go to the workshops and events that the J-School offers, take advantage of the tools and resources, and don’t be afraid to talk to your professors. Some of the best lessons I learned were during one-on-one conversations with my professors.   
Think. Plan. Execute. Those three simple steps are the blueprint to achieve any goal. When you feel overwhelmed, remember this: “Don’t think about what can happen in a month. Don’t think about what can happen in a year. Just focus on the 24 hours in front of you and do what you can to get closer to where you want to be.”
You will face fear and uncertainty, but that just means you’re growing into something greater by challenging yourself. Remind yourself what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Whatever it is, pour your heart and soul into your work. What you put into things is what you get out of them. But the most important thing is to take care of your physical and mental health. Listen to your body and take breaks as needed. Give yourself time to enjoy the things you love. It’s all about having balance.
And finally, the three principles of the J-School are skills, passion, and integrity. Stay true to them and you will be successful. 

Caroline Appleby

Cloud Generation Specialist, Pax8 

Graduation year: 2019

Biography: My name is Caroline Appleby and I am from Minnesota, but I chose to come to KU and it was the best decision of my life. I just graduated from the J-School with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and a concentration in News and Information. I followed my dream of moving to Denver, Colorado and landed a job in the Denver Tech Center.

What do you do in your job? My current job is at Pax8 in Greenwood Village Colorado in the Denver Tech Center and I am a Cloud Generation Specialist. I work for a cloud solution distributor that works with over 30 different vendors and we target small to mid-size businesses and help them get into the cloud space. I am working on the sales team making relationships with many of those potential partners.

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? My ability to communicate and not be afraid to put myself out there was a huge thing for me starting a new job. Being a news focus, you are forced to step outside of your comfort zone to become better and that helped me jump into a new job. I also made life long relationships with professors that helped me throughout the job search process. I think a big thing the J-School focused on was that no matter what you do, do it with all your heart and I found that when you find that passion and fire, it makes it a whole lot easier to do that. I am thankful for the amazing education the J-School gave me. Although I changed my path and went a more business side, my journalism roots helped me get where I am today.

What advice would you give to journalism students? Get involved as soon as you can in both the J-School and campus organizations. This made a huge difference in being a well-rounded candidate and it highlighted some of my skills. Also, don't be afraid to talk with professors. They know the field and want to see you succeed. They’re willing to help in any way they can. Wear your Jayhawk pride proud–you never know when someone you are interviewing with is also a Jayhawk. (It happened to me with my Pax8 interview!) Rock Chalk and forever a J-School Jayhawk! 

Hallie Holton

Account Executive, Hillsboro Hops

Graduation year: 2017

Biography: My name is Hallie and I am a 2017 J-School graduate. I grew up in Sammamish, Washington and now live in Portland, Oregon. I chose KU because I fell in love with Lawrence and for my love of college basketball. My love of sports is what eventually led me to my career today. Outside of work, I enjoy trying new restaurants, hiking and going to concerts.

How did you get your current job? I’m an account executive for the Hillsboro Hops baseball team, a Single-A Short Season affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. I grew up around baseball and always wanted to work in it in some capacity, but I wasn’t able to land anything in the industry after graduation. After working for a year at Pennington & Company in Lawrence, Kansas, I took a job with a collegiate summer league team in Rochester, New York. My experience there as an assistant general manager is what led me to pursue jobs in Minor League Baseball. I researched teams in areas that I could see myself moving to and contacted general managers. I had one strong ally in the Northwest League who was an advocate for me and helped connect me with different teams!

What do you like best about your job? As a Single-A Short Season team, the best part about working at this level is the opportunity to have your hands in every aspect of the organization. Our front office staff is only about 15 employees, and so while my main and first focus as an account executive is ticket sales, I have other responsibilities as well. As an account executive, I am responsible for prospecting and landing new business clients for group outings, hospitality events or ticket packages. In addition to sales, I work in the ticketing office—organizing will call tickets for each game day—and help plan promotion nights during the season. Day-to-day, I do mostly out-bound sales. I work with clients via email, by appointment or over the phone. What I like most about my job is the variety of tasks that are included in my role. Selling is my priority, but unlike larger sports organizations, my role isn’t nearly as specialized—I have the freedom to do work outside of sales.

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? The J-School prepared me for the workforce by providing me with a variety of courses within the Strategic Communications track. I feel like I know basic elements of design, research and data gathering tactics, to the structure and roles of an account management team. Being able to apply my knowledge in a variety of areas shows the versatility of the Strategic Communications emphasis.

What advice would you give to journalism students? No opportunity is a wasted opportunity. Take initiative, get involved and work hard.

Vanessa Gonzales 

Associate Account Executive, The Marketing Store

Graduation year: 2018

Biography: Vanessa Gonzales is a new Chicago resident, working at The Marketing Store’s retail experience team for McDonald’s. Her previous advertising experience included account internships with Sullivan Higdon & Sink and Bernstein-Rein.

How did you get your current job? I worked enough internships and class projects to give me the right kind of experience matched with lots of networking and internet-stalking (reaching out to strangers on LinkedIn). In addition, my exposure to McDonald's during my internship at Bernstein-Rein was a unique advantage in my interview.

What do you like best about your job? I work on the retail experience team for McDonald's as an Associate Account Executive. I manage and build relationships with our clients, while leading creative teams to execute the right kind of messaging along the customer journey at McDonald’s. One day might include a tasting and photo shoot for a new menu item, and another day might be preparing for a client presentation.

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? Working on group projects so heavily during my four years really prepared me for the tight timelines and the hustle and bustle of my career. In addition, building a strong foundation in writing and research was crucial as I continue to develop as a thinker and communicator when problem solving each day.

What advice would you give to journalism students? Never settle and keep pushing for new opportunities or ways to capitalize on current ones. Take advantage of office hours and asking for feedback. When networking or going to office hours, come prepared and have a goal in mind. And most importantly, be clear in what you want when talking to people who can help get you to where you want. I think it's great to have certain mentors where you tell them you have no idea what you're doing (thanks, Dr. Chen!) and key people in your network where you are clearer with your goals.

Vicky Díaz-Camacho 

Community Reporter, Kansas City PBS

Graduation year: 2016

Biography: Vicky is a journalist born in Los Angeles and raised in El Paso, Texas, who is now based in Kansas City. She's dedicated to telling stories about culture, art and music. That interest sprouted from a fascination in listening to her grandfather's stories, specifically of fitting in, struggle and victory, and from poverty to the American dream. Her work has been featured in local, national and international news and arts publications such as NPR, KCUR, KNEON Magazine and Houzz. She focuses on cultural dialogue and its impact on art, design, music and policy. She is a trained copy editor and multimedia reporter. Her work has been used in multiple platforms and includes radio features, data blitzes, newscasts, breaking news online and in print. She's the community reporter at Kansas City's PBS magazine, Flatland. There she leads curiousKC, a community-powered reporting effort that invites Kansas Citians to ask questions and investigate with the journalist. Before that, she was the data journalist/research director at the Kansas City Business Journal, where she wrangled data to produce informative business coverage on topics ranging from minority homeownership to Kansas City barbecue.

How did you get your current job? Patience and persistence. I had applied several times for other positions at Kansas City PBS that didn't align with my skills. Then I saw the opening for a community reporter and knew it was a potential fit. I'd already worked a few jobs in the journalism field that fit like oversized shoes and one that fit perfectly – that one was in public media. I'm grateful to the Kansas City PBS editor who met with me before the official interview. He believed in my work and helped make the case that I should be their community reporter. 

What do you like best about your job? In a nutshell, I connect with people, listen to them and report on issues they care about. I manage a publicly led question-and-answer effort Kansas City PBS calls curiousKC. I do lots of public engagement, active listening and keep my finger on the pulse of current events and local conversations. I'm on a quest to find what people – all voices – care about. I do meaningful local journalism. This job fits the public media mission I hold so dear, which is to create, communicate and curate content that "educates, inspires and entertains." 

My particular role flips journalism on its head and lets the audience and readers weigh in or fill in the blank. In effect, we work with the public to gain a better understanding of what they wonder or worry about. Some days I dig through government records or library archives, other days I'm interviewing research experts and booking interviews. My job is fueled by and made possible by the creative minds here in the newsroom. We get to make sense of information a number of different ways: data visualizations, videos, radio segments, historical timelines and the traditional article. At the end of the day, I get to produce informative pieces for the public knowledge, providing a service that not only engages but also edifies.

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? I give credit to the professors who believed in me and challenged me. There's a colloquial word in Spanish that explains the kind of person I am: trucha. Looslely translated, that means "vigilant." But I can also be shy, so being in a new town at a new school in 2013 was difficult. All I needed was that spark. Shout out to Lisa McLendon, copy editing professor extraordinaire, who showed how I could channel my meticulous nature into a profession. A huge thanks to Pam Fine, who made me feel heard and valued and who pushed back and challenged me to do better work. My advisers (miss you Kevin and Kelli!) were also crucial to my development. When I doubted, they encouraged. They made sure to help me find support, even financial support through scholarships. And my first job when I moved to Lawrence was for the J-School career center, so I have to give it credit there because seeing the list of opportunities gave me hope.

What advice would you give to journalism students? Journalism takes heart and you have it. Yes, you will feel drained, and at times, second guess what you're doing. You are not alone. Also, I must add a plug for self-care; it is so important. Take a mental health day after a long news cycle because what we do can be emotionally difficult. Take pride in the work you do – whether it is music journalism or breaking news. You're making a difference and shedding light on something perhaps others may not have. When you feel like you're drowned out or tired, recall the moments when you made a difference through your work. Think about 1 a.m. pizza or doughnuts in the newsroom, laugh-crying at how long production takes surrounded by dedicated, like-minded people. It wouldn't be the same without them, right? Your voice is unique because of your personal story and passion – and this is what makes this profession so special. Make new friends – people unlike you, people with different backgrounds – and take the time to simply listen. Ask for help. When you practice that in life, you'll do better at your job. Finally, remember to support fellow journalists along the way because we maximize our impact when we work together. Pa'lante, mi gente.

Nathan Mize

Owner, Drone Lawrence & Social Media Coordinator, Southwind 

Graduation year: 2018

Biography: I’m a fourth-generation Jayhawk from the great town of Atchison, Kansas. I’m extremely grateful that I knew I wanted to attend the University of Kansas at such a young age because it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Growing up, I loved to write. I remember writing short stories in elementary and middle school, and feeling like it was the start of my creative journey, even though I didn't exactly know what that meant yet. Throughout high school, I was always enthralled with the world of social media and crafting my online presence. The first opportunity I had to work in the field of social media was running the accounts of my high school, Maur Hill-Mount Academy. While my only responsibilities were to update our followers on scores from sporting events, I knew that I wanted to be surrounded by social media in a professional setting during or after college. My junior year of college, I was hired as the social media editor for the University Daily Kansan, which was an experience I’ll forever be grateful for. It was at the UDK where I came up with the idea for Drone Lawrence, which originally started out as a creative outlet for my main passions of flying drones and editing. I never expected it to turn into a business, but luckily, I still love droning and see it as a hobby. I have multiple clients in the Lawrence area, and I’m continuing to grow the Drone Lawrence name. Thanks to this, I was able to land a social media coordinator position at Southwind in Lenexa, Kansas, in which I’ve been at since January.

How did you get your current job? As far as Drone Lawrence goes, I created the business so it wasn’t too hard to get the job. But I got my job at Southwind through my online presence and past creative work. If I never created Drone Lawrence, I don’t think I would be in the position I am today at Southwind.

What do you like best about your job? My work at Drone Lawrence mainly consists of meeting with clients, understanding their vision and then capturing the best possible shots for them. The editing process is the most fun for me, where I can take the aerial footage and make it stand out on social media. My work at Southwind consists of managing seven different 1-800-Got-Junk franchises social media accounts, as well as You Move Me Kansas City. What I love most about both of my jobs is the creative freedom I have. While there are certain guidelines that might need to be followed per request by the client, I always feel that I work best when I can create something in my own style. I am lucky to have found a job so early in life where I feel like my work is important.

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? The J-School prepared me in ways that I didn’t even know until after I graduated. While the school curriculum itself is important for valuable skills in the workforce, the J-School gives you all the tools you need to go out there and do it yourself. The capstone campaigns class is a great example of this, as it combines everything you’ve learned the previous four years and throws you into a real-life situation with a real-life client. The J-School and college, in general, can provide you with many different tools in order to succeed in the workforce, but what really matters is how you use those tools and build upon them.

What advice would you give to journalism students? It’s OK to not have everything figured out going into senior year and even right when you graduate. Everyone's path is different. Don’t settle for a job that you can easily get if you’re not doing the work you love. Keep building your portfolio and people will notice!

Taylor Austin

Public Relations Coordinator, State Fair of Texas

Graduation year: 2017

Biography: I was born in Topeka, Kansas, but moved to Bentonville, Arkansas, when I was 13 years old. I loved Arkansas but decided to branch out and attend the University of Kansas to major in journalism on the strategic communication track and minor in business. As the first Austin to attend college and only knowing a handful of people in my class, I quickly got involved in my sorority, Panhellenic, Student Senate, and as many organizations as I could find time for. My internship senior year with Kansas Athletics was the most instrumental in developing me for my professional career. Working in athletics taught me how to thrive under pressure, be professional and produce a quality product. My superiors challenged me daily and really set me up for success. I definitely thought I’d continue to work in sports, but when I had the opportunity to join the team at the State Fair of Texas, it was a no-brainer. From being a nonprofit, to the entertainment and sports components of my job, it is more than I could have ever dreamed of for my first job.  

How did you get your current job? I applied for an internship with the State Fair of Texas, beginning the summer after I graduated. I interviewed via Skype and immediately fell in love with the public relations team. They called me back that day and offered me the internship! As one of seven public relations interns and six media relations coordinators, we were notified shortly after starting that there would be a full-time position opening at the end of the fair season, and we were welcome to apply. I threw my name in the hat, worked hard and learned as much as I could – I was determined to be a front-runner for the job. Come closing weekend of the fair, I was officially offered a job as a public relations coordinator.

What do you like best about your job? The State Fair of Texas is a 24-day exhibition in the heart of Dallas. As one of the biggest fairs in the country and a nonprofit, our mission is to celebrate all things Texan by promoting agriculture education, and community involvement. As a public relations coordinator, I wear a variety of different hats, depending on the season. While we’re constantly writing and editing, we’re also looking for ways to best tell the story of the State Fair of Texas. Year-round, I also manage the Big Tex Scholarship Program – a program that has awarded more than $11.3 million since 1992.

In addition, I have the opportunity to work with local, statewide, national and even international media leading up to and during the State Fair. In my two years with the fair, I’ve worked with Food Network, Travel Channel, ESPN GameDay and other big productions. My favorite part of my job is knowing I’m contributing to an organization that does so much to better the community and help families and friends create memories to last a lifetime. I feel so fortunate knowing I work somewhere that is so deeply rooted in Texas history and tradition. Every day at the fair is a fun day!

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? The J-School prepared me in too many ways to share. At times, coursework in the J-School was challenging and rigorous, but it taught me how to prioritize effectively, think creatively and be a problem solver. The professors were nothing short of amazing. I appreciated how diverse each professor’s background was – it allowed me to learn from the best of the best in a variety of expertises. In addition, it taught me how to interact with different personalities and leadership styles. Oh, and how could I forget, I’m forever indebted to the J-School for hammering AP Style home because I live and breathe by that guide each day at my job.

What advice would you give to journalism students? Take every opportunity you can to learn and grow in your professional career. Throughout college, I had multiple internships and jobs that taught me a variety of skills. I was able to learn what I liked and didn’t like, in addition to what I was really good at. Along the way, I met some of the most incredible people. Working in journalism is all about working with people. Take time to build relationships with your peers, professors, bosses, customers and clients. Remember that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Finally, don’t be afraid to take an internship or something that may not be your “dream job” right after college. You never know where an opportunity may lead you or what other doors it may open for your future. 

Nick Couzin

Weekend Sports Anchor/Reporter, KVRR News 

Graduation year: 2018

Biography: I came to KU via Chicago, knowing it was the right place for me. I was able to get involved with sports production jobs as soon as I stepped on campus like working the football and basketball games. That evolved into something way bigger and I eventually was able to create a brand alongside other fellow alums called "The Playmakers" and cover a variety of sports.

Favorite memory from the J-School? This is really hard to choose from because there is so many. If I had to pick one, I'd go with covering the Final Four my last semester in the J-School. For me, it was the biggest reward I could receive for all the work I put in over my time as a Jayhawk and getting to where I want to be. Getting to be around other sportscasters who I looked up to and had the chance to talk and network with, I was on cloud nine.

How did you get your current job? It didn't come easy. I spent four months sending out my reel to over a hundred different openings before I accepted my position as Weekend Sports Anchor/Reporter at KVRR News in Fargo, North Dakota. Looking back, it was my experiences as a Jayhawk that got me here. Professors like Cal Butcher, Max Utsler and Jerry Crawford afforded me opportunities to work with FOX Sports, interview prospects at Royals Training Camo, start my own sports show, anchor sports on KUJH and so many other opportunities I can name. Every opportunity I've had led to my full-time job with MidcoSN in Lawrence my senior year covering KU and high school sports. From there, I was afforded my shot and took it from there.

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? Through all the opportunities the J-School allowed me to do. Being thrown into the fire so to say. It was the best way for me to learn; putting myself in the environment I wanted to be in and figure out how I could work effectively with in that. Interviewing coaches, co-hosting soccer and hockey broadcasts, covering NCAA Tournament games for volleyball and basketball–all of them helped me to be more comfortable in the current position I am now, covering two division one programs in North Dakota and at North Dakota State along with many other high schools in the area.

What advice would you give to journalism students? Take advantage of the opportunities. It sounds easy, but if I was not presented with the experiences I had, I would have no idea what I was doing. You can only learn so much in the classroom. It's what you're able to take out of the classroom and put into a real world experience. That's when you know you've learned something.

Meredith Emshoff 

Content Strategist, KAOH Media

Graduation year: 2018

Biography: I am a 2018 J-School graduate working and living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as a content strategist for KAOH Media, a public relations firm. I started at KU as a news and information journalism student but switched to strategic communications after falling in love with Carol Holstead’s JOUR 300 class and graphic design. In my time at KU, I served as an orientation assistant for the University and was very involved with KJHK, our student-run radio station, where I had some of my greatest learning experiences. I spent my senior year working as the station’s social media director. 

How did you get your current job? I had a lot of great real-world experience upon graduation like internships, involvement in student organizations, leadership positions and part-time jobs that helped me build connections and become more “marketable.” I found my current job posting on an online job site and after a few rounds of interviews, I was hired. 

What do you like best about your job? On a day-to-day basis, I am busy creating, designing and deploying content for multiple brands. I work up editorial calendars for our clients, place and target ads on social, track the metrics and work on the ad budget. Most of our clients are renewable energy developers around the Midwest. I’ve always been super passionate about the environment and sustainability efforts, so the best part about my job is being excited about the work I’m doing. 

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? During my senior year, I took full advantage of the J-School tech workshops. In those workshops, I learned about so many helpful apps and tricks that I still use in the real world and have passed on to colleagues. I also have to mention Strategic Campaigns capstone class —without campaigns I honestly don’t think I would have gotten my current job. My campaigns group forced me to be our team’s creative director and during that semester, I learned so much and was able to create an awesome portfolio that impressed my current employer. 

What advice would you give to journalism students? Get involved outside of the classroom. A lot of my greatest learning moments happened when I put what I learned in class to action. There are opportunities on and off campus to learn and grow, and they will help set you up for success. 


Elizabeth Boeder

Corporate Partnership Sales and Research Coordinator, Chicago White Sox 

Graduation year: 2018

Biography: I grew up in Savage, Minnesota, and came to KU on a complete whim. I absolutely found my home in Lawrence. While at KU, I majored in journalism/strategic communication track with a minor in business. I was involved in Greek life, Jayhawks Dream, and the Journalism Student Leadership Board. My favorite KU experiences include basketball games, my study abroad experience, and Strategic Campaigns. Early on in high school, I knew I wanted to be involved in sports business in some capacity. I saw an opportunity through strategic communications to follow that dream. Throughout college I had various internships at marketing agencies and nonprofit organizations helping plan events and learning the ropes of the industry. In my senior year of college, I got a taste of my dream job through an internship with the Kansas City Royals. A yearlong internship with the Royals prepared me for my current role with the Chicago White Sox.

How did you get your current job? In college, I interned for a nonprofit organization planning a half-marathon. Throughout this internship, I was able to gain event planning experience as well as sponsorship experience through securing local sponsors for the race. My experience, along with amazing connections, helped me secure my internship with the Kansas City Royals. My internship with the Royals was what ultimately shaped my professional experience to get my current position in Chicago. A huge goal I had after my internship in Kansas City was to play up the skills I learned there and use connections to stay in professional sports. I was fortunate to have amazing connections from previous positions and the J-School to achieve that goal.  

What do you like best about your job? I love that my job is different every day. Sponsorship in sports is kind of like the team’s own advertising agency. My department is broken into two divisions: sales and activation. The sales team pitches the deals to companies, which can include signage, naming rights, community programs, experiences, tickets, etc., and once the contract is signed, the activation team makes sure that everything actually happens. I am fortunate to work with both sides of the department in my role. I utilize key research platforms such as Nielsen services to develop the best sales pitch possible, taking into account a company’s own marketing strategy and how it aligns with the White Sox. I also help the activation team work with the clients to deliver the most effective strategic partnership possible.

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? The J-School prepared me in many different ways. I utilize skills I learned in my classes every single day. The two most helpful classes that I took in college for my current position were Research Methods and Strategic Campaigns. The networking sessions over homecoming weekend also really helped me learn how to network and build connections with alumni. 

What advice would you give to journalism students? Make connections with your classmates, your professors, and other J-School staff. They are there to help you! There are many opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten in life without making connections with the right people. Find what you’re passionate about and talk to people about it. You never know if someone shares your passion or can connect you to someone in your dream industry. Enjoy every single second because it goes by fast. Good luck!

Emma Hogg 

News Reporter, KMOV St. Louis 

Graduation year: 2016

Biography: I am originally from Evanston, Illinois, but moved to Overland Park at a young age and loved growing up in the Kansas City area. I was born into a household that watched the news religiously every night, and I caught the journalism bug at a young age. Some of my fondest memories are sitting with my dad as a young kid, trying to understand what anchors and reporters were talking about on the 5 o’clock news. I knew someday I wanted to become one of them. After graduating high school at Notre Dame de Sion, I knew the University of Kansas was the obvious choice to fuel my career aspirations in journalism. I learned invaluable skills throughout my four years, and complemented the curriculum during the summer with internships at KMBC-Channel 9 in Kansas City and The Today Show in New York. After graduating in 2016, I packed up my belongings and moved to Davenport, Iowa, for my first reporting gig in the Quad Cities. I spent two years covering Iowa and Illinois before accepting an opportunity closer to home and one I couldn’t pass up at KMOV in St. Louis. In the last year, I’ve had the privilege of covering Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, the duck boat tragedy in Branson, Missouri, and interviewing former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. In news, every day brings a new challenge, but I feel extremely blessed to be living my dream.

How did you get your current job? For me, persistence was key to landing my job in St. Louis. I expressed my interest in the position, knowledge of the Missouri area, and passion for journalism early on in the process. After sending my demo reel and resume, I followed up bi-weekly with the station to keep my interest in working there top of mind. Thankfully, they asked me to visit for an interview, and it worked out from there.

What is your favorite J-School memory? I have many favorite memories from being in the J-School—I will never forget the hard work and dedication my peers and I put into making a successful KUJH newscast each week. I learned how a newsroom operates and what it would take to succeed in the real world. Multiple times throughout the semester I would visit Max Utsler in his Cardinals-decked office to ask for feedback on my stories. His critiques helped me grow as a journalist—I know that I can call him now, too, for advice.

What advice would you give to journalism students? My advice for current journalism students would be to work hard and keep an end goal in mind. Whether it’s nailing a live shot, getting a great story or overcoming an obstacle in the field—all of those moments add up and will make you stronger in your career. In college, finding a job and pursuing your dream can seem overwhelming (I remember I was!) but if it is something you are truly passionate about, you won’t let it out of your sight.

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the outstanding J-School at KU. Each year, we built upon curriculum that prepared me for a career in this industry. I was able to take what we learned in the classroom and apply it toward ‘real-world’ experiences such as KUJH and internships during the summers. Still to this day, I’ll be working and remember advice given to me sitting in class at the Dole Center or Stauffer-Flint Hall. The professors I had in the J-School wanted to see me succeed and went out of their way to help me to do so.

Ryan Brinker

Public Information Officer, Kansas Department of Commerce

Graduation year: 2017

Biography: I grew up in Topeka, Kansas, where I was raised by my terrific parents, Susan and Mike Brinker, along with my sister, Abby. I graduated from KU with degrees in journalism and political science. Growing up, even when I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I always knew for sure that I wanted to tell stories. In high school, I became interested in writing. I was convinced I would be an author. However, a friend suggested I look into journalism as a major in college because it had a more concrete career destination. Right from J101, I was hooked.

How did you get your current job? In my last semester, I took a part-time job at WIBW-TV in Topeka as a technical media producer. Since I had spent most of my time at KU studying the video-production aspects of journalism, this seemed like the perfect job, so I accepted a full-time position after graduation. After a year, a friend pointed me to an opening at the Kansas Department of Commerce. The job caught my eye, specifically because the department was looking for someone to do in-house video production in addition to daily writing requirements. I knew the position would be tough to get so soon out of college, but I took a chance and was lucky enough to get the job. I couldn’t be happier with it.

What is your favorite J-School memory? There are so many to choose from. I suppose if I had to pick one experience, it would be my time in Tien Tsung-Lee’s Campaigns class. Tien had high expectations (I’m sure he still does), but in the absolute best way. I was lucky enough to have the greatest team anyone could ever ask for. Every moment of that class is a cherished memory for me. Tien was instrumental in helping me get the job I have now, I owe him quite a lot (as I’ve told him).

What advice would you give to journalism students? Please, please, please get involved. The classes taught in the J-School are terrific, but if you only go to class and do nothing else, you’re missing out on so much that the J-School has to offer. I learned way more in my time at KUJH-TV and my time doing A/V at the Dole Institute of Politics than any class could ever have taught me. Even more than that, there are opportunities everywhere! There are so many stories to tell. I used to go to businesses or charities and ask if they wanted me to write an article or shoot a video for them to share online. They never said no. It’s terrific practice, and people are always appreciative when you offer to tell about their experiences. Plus, you can keep these stories/videos as examples to show future employers. Bottom line: go to class and do your work, but after class, get out there and find some stories to tell!

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? I use the skills I learned in J-School every day on the job. Lessons learned on ad campaigns, video production, interviewing, writing for print, writing for broadcast, everything. The J-School absolutely prepared me for a job in professional communications.

Ashley Hocking

Communications Specialist, University of Kansas School of Law

Graduation year: 2018

Biography: I grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, so I have been a fan of the Jayhawks since I was born. I graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in global and international studies. Throughout college, I had a variety of different journalistic experiences. I interned at a creative branding agency in London, England for a summer, worked at the University Daily Kansan newspaper as a copy chief and photographer, interned and took pictures for the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper, produced the student-run television show Greek TV and worked behind the scenes at KUJH-TV for a semester. 

How did you get your current job? The Journalism School’s career and outreach coordinator, Steve Rottinghaus, tweeted about a job opening at KU Law. I applied for the job while I was on a plane headed to Iceland for a two-week vacation. The day after I got back from my trip, I did an interview and was hired.

What do you like best about your job? I love that I get to do different things at my job every day. No two days are ever the same. I get the opportunity to use a variety of skills, such as writing, designing, copy editing, taking pictures and video, developing strategic communications plans, managing social media channels and making website updates.

How did the J-School prepare you for the workforce? I took classes about writing, reporting, visual storytelling, copy editing, photojournalism, broadcast journalism, graphic design, video production, digital media and international strategic communications. The topics I learned about in my classes are directly relevant to what I do at my job. Lisa McLendon and Gerri Berendzen’s co-taught class, Digital Media Topics, was one of the most influential classes I took during my time in the J-School. I would highly recommend taking this course!

What career advice do you have for journalism students? Try to figure out what you are passionate about early on. You can take classes and pursue internships in that field, which will be helpful post-graduation when you are searching for your first full-time job. Employers are looking for candidates with relevant experience, so make sure you have some under your belt! If you are able to, study abroad! In every job interview I’ve ever done, the potential employer has asked me about my experience doing a study abroad internship in London, England. Studying abroad is a great way to gain life experiences, diversify your resume and stand out from other candidates.


Tiffany Littler 

Morning News Producer, KSNT News

Graduation year: 2018

Biography: I was born and raised in Dodge City, Kansas, and lived there until 2006. Then I moved a few miles east to the tiny town of Ford. Since Ford is too small to have a school, I went to Bucklin, where I graduated high school in 2012 with a class of 15 people. I had taken a few tours of KU and knew that's where I wanted to go. My senior year of high school, I got offered a dance and cheer scholarship at Dodge City Community College, so I decided to go a year there and get some gen eds out of the way. I ended up staying another year and got my associate of general studies degree. That final year was when I decided I wanted to be in journalism. In 2014, I finally made my way to KU, and the rest is history.

How did you get your current job? I started as an intern January 2017. When my internship was up, I told my news director I was interested in working for KSNT in Topeka, Kansas. Later that summer, I was offered the position of part-time breaking news producer. I updated the website, went to breaking news scenes, and provided VOSOTs to the evening and weekend newscasts. In March, I moved to full time. In June, I moved to the position of morning news producer.

What is your favorite J-School memory? All of the opportunities I've gotten. I've worked with Fox Sports, Time Warner Sports (now Spectrum). I was a reporter a couple times for the Bill Self Fantasy Camp. I've gotten to anchor both sports and news for KUJH, as well as write for the Kansan. I also worked at KJHK for a semester. The opportunities the J-School gave me were endless.

What advice would you give to journalism students? Don't slack off and think you can still pass. I had a low GPA and was actually out of the J-School for a short time. While I couldn't take any journalism classes until I brought my GPA up, I was still heavily involved. Another piece of advice is to try everything and be as involved as you can. The most important advice, however...have fun! Don't stress yourself out. You're only this young once, and you go to the greatest university out there. Enjoy it.

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? I was given so many opportunities at KU and worked side by side with professionals. I got a lot of "real world" experience while still in school. Most professors genuinely care about you and want to help/see you succeed. The spring 2018 visiting professor, Dr. Janice Collins, helped me look over my contract at KSNT before I signed it. She explained things I didn't understand and encouraged me to be confident when negotiating parts of the contract.


Anna Pankiewicz 

Account Executive, Octagon 

Graduation year: 2017

Biography: I'm from St. Joseph, Missouri, but I was raised a Jayhawk. When it came to choosing a college, the University of Kansas was my first choice. Being from Missouri, I received some grief for this, but it was easily the best decision I could have made. At KU, I was involved at the St. Lawrence Center and with SUA. I also interned with the School of Business, Kansas Athletics, the Kansas City Sports Commission and FC Kansas City. I loved having the opportunity to apply the skills I was learning in the classroom to practical experiences, and I loved working with and learning from so many great people. 

How did you get your current job? Throughout college, I held a variety of marketing/communications internships, and a few were within the sports industry. Octagon is a sports and entertainment agency, so my different experiences helped me to build a skillset that was a good match for this position. Steve Rottinghaus at the Career Center and Dan McCarthy, my advisor, were also great resources throughout my job search.

What is your favorite J-School memory? My favorite J-School memory would have to be Campaigns. It was really rewarding to have a chance to use everything that we had learned in all of our classes over the years and see it come together into an impressive final product. I met new people and learned a lot about working as a team. It was a truly great feeling to present our ideas to the client and showcase what we had accomplished.

What advice would you give to journalism students? My advice to current students would be to try to figure out what you're passionate about and find ways to learn more about it or gain experience within that. I love sports, so interning within that industry taught me more about it and prepared me to pursue a career in this after college.

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? The variety within our coursework was great. There are elements of different classes that I use daily in my job. I think the J-School does a great job in helping us to be well-rounded individuals that can contribute in many ways to an organization. ​



Jayla Scruggs 

Interactive Marketing Specialist, Capitol Federal Bank

Graduation year: 2018

Biography: I am originally from Wichita, Kansas, and I came to KU with the intention of being an accounting major. Then after a few course accounting courses, I started looking into the J-School. After JOUR 101, I was sold. I knew the J-School would be a great fit for me. In May 2018, I graduated from the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and my emphasis was in strategic communication. During my last semester, I was offered a position at Capitol Federal Bank as an interactive marketing specialist. In January, I will begin working on my master's degree in mass communications.

How did you get your current job? In January of 2018, I started at Capitol Federal as a marketing intern, then in February, I was offered a full-time position once I graduated. 

What is your favorite J-School memory? Hands down my favorite J-School memory would be the summer class I took with Kerry Benson. She was a firecracker from start to finish of the course. She also pushed her students to reach their full potential. Another J-School memory would be studying aboard. I did the Creativity and Culture in Rome last summer, and it was a life-changing experience.  

What advice would you give to journalism students? Utilize all the resources at your fingertips. Sign up for those Adobe sessions with Heather Lawrenz and anything else that is offered. Having those skills puts you ahead of those who don't have those skills.

How has the J-School prepared you for the workforce? A few of the most impactful courses I took in the J-School were J304: Media Writing and J560: Message Development. They helped me improve my writing skills and also how to produce creative, well-established content.  ​


Become a Jayhawk - Apply Today