When I came to MSU, I was a Business-preference student with high ambition but little direction. I was in Writing as Inquiry (WRA 101) during my first semester here, when my professor, Margaret Morris, showed us the Professional and Public Writing (P2W) video — you know the one — and I changed my major. Oh, the power of digital storytelling.
I’ve always been a storyteller. Growing up, I would never stop talking — I would constantly tell my family and friends stories about my favorite movies, something that happened at school or my brother’s rock band. And when I watched that video in WRA 101, I knew that P2W would be my ticket to combine my desire for a practical major and my craving for creativity.
“I’ve found success with the College of Arts & Letters (CAL) and as a Professional and Public Writing major, which I always dreamed of, and that’s thanks to the skills I’ve gained, the experiences I’ve had, and the people I’ve met.”
I’ve found success with the College of Arts & Letters (CAL) and as a Professional and Public Writing major, which I always dreamed of, and that’s thanks to the skills I’ve gained, the experiences I’ve had, and the people I’ve met.
The College and P2W program have given me the opportunity to explore my storytelling abilities outside of the written word. I’ve taken courses where I learned technical skills like sound recording and editing, video editing, and basic graphic design. Many of the materials that I produced in these classes (like my logo and short film I made) are still integrated into my portfolio today.
Other courses expanded my developmental and copy-editing abilities, and with it, improved my writing ability as I had to practically study the AP Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style. These skill sets led to my leadership position as Copy Editing Director for VIM.
I’ve been involved in a variety of different clubs, nonprofits, and departments on Michigan State’s campus and off of it. They include the College of Arts & Letters’ Content Studio, VIM, Snares to Wares, ing Magazine (now The Current), MSU Telecasters, and Piper & Gold Public Relations. But it wasn’t always this way, in fact, I didn’t join any clubs or student organizations my freshman year at all. I can trace my paths to these different experiences back to one single article I wrote as a freelancer for the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures (WRAC).
I was a sophomore with only one Professional and Public Writing course under my belt, and I had recently been turned down by the College of Arts & Letters’ Mar/Com team that summer. If it weren’t for that single article that I wrote about Casey McArdle, Director of P2W and Experience Architecture (XA), I don’t think the College of Arts & Letters would’ve hired me a semester later.
“The Content Studio — and the College itself overall — provided me with mentors, experience, opportunities, and the freedom to go beyond those four very bright green walls and try something new every day.”
When I came back to the College and reapplied for the Writing and Social Media Internship position, they happily welcomed me and my newfound experience, as that process I went through to write the WRAC article is almost identical to the process I used — what feels like — hundreds of times with the College.
The Content Studio — and the College itself overall — provided me with mentors, experience, opportunities, and the freedom to go beyond those four very bright green walls and try something new every day. In my two years there, I wrote about 50 articles, trained four new interns, and ran College-wide social media campaigns with little-to-no supervision.
That leads me to Piper & Gold Public Relations. I expressed to my mentors at the College that I was looking for agency experience, and they gave me Kate Snyder’s — the Principal Strategist and Owner — card. As it turns out, Kate is a CAL alum who loves the P2W program and the skills P2W students offer. And with one phone and one in-person interview, I was thrust into agency life as a Student PR Strategist.
As I’ve spent more time there, my bosses provided me with opportunities to take on bigger projects, work closely with clients, and even interview candidates for our other student positions. I look forward to my next step at Piper & Gold; I’ll be a full-time Content Strategist starting this month. In this position, I’ll have more responsibility and time to make a positive impact on our clients and their communities.
One of the most valuable things that I’ve received from the College of Arts & Letters was support and connections — faculty, peers, and alumni alike — that have led to new opportunities. I don’t believe I would have as strong of a skill set and a wide range of experiences that I do without these connections. And I know this support will not cease even though I’m no longer at MSU, and I look forward to being that connection and possible mentor to CAL students.
“One of the most valuable things that I’ve received from the College of Arts & Letters was support and connections — faculty, peers, and alumni alike — that have led to new opportunities.”
As I look back at my time with the College — as a student, employee, and now recent alumna — I feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude for the courses, faculty members — a special shout out to Jon Ritz, Casey Miles, Ben Lauren, Margaret Morris, Kate Birdsall, Kathryn Houghton, and Casey McArdle— friends, and mentors that I’ve made here.
Although the Class of 2020’s final year was cut short, I look back with pride and happiness, and I hope everybody else does, too. To the Class of 2020: the world needs us and the resilience we embody as College of Arts & Letters and Michigan State University alumni now more than ever — so let’s make a difference. Go Green!
Written by Caroline Johnson
All graduation photos by Olivia York