Briefly, describe your career path.
I was fortunate enough to get hired as a staff assistant to Senator Jay Rockefeller in June 2013, before I even graduated from WVU. I moved to D.C., finished the last of my classes online, and graduated in December. I continued to serve West Virginia in Senator Rockefeller's office as press assistant until he retired in 2015. Following the Senator's retirement, I transitioned to international development as a communications assistant (and eventual digital communications coordinator) at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), a democracy-building non-profit and core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy. While at CIPE, I was able to have my hands in a variety of different communications work, from traditional communications, to events, to outreach, and eventually found my niche in digital media. I have taken that niche interest and parlayed it into the think tank world where I am currently a digital media coordinator at the Brookings Institution.
Describe the work you do at the Brookings Institution.
I am a digital media coordinator, which means I curate and manage content for the main Brookings Institution digital media channels: social media, website, e-mail, etc. Essentially, I take the incredible wealth of knowledge being produced daily at Brookings and make it web-ready for people all over the world. I look for innovative ways to communicate complex ideas to different audiences. I also provide digital communications support to staff within the research programs.
What are you passionate about in your work?
What I really enjoy about my work is that I am able to help experts take complex thoughts and boil them down so that they are easily consumed. We currently live in an age where people want information quickly and simply. My job is to help achieve that. I enjoy learning about a lot of different topics and messaging those things I learn to other people who want to learn more but may not know where to start or may not have time for the long explanation.
Where is your career headed?
That is a big mystery! Hopefully, I'll get to continue to grow and learn at Brookings and soak in all of the expansive knowledge that's being thrown around daily. Eventually, I'd like to get my Master's degree and then become a foreign service officer for the Department of State. But if there is one thing I have learned in my career so far it's to not make hard plans and set my heart on them because otherwise I'm limiting myself and potentially throwing away some great opportunities.
How has your Eberly College experience helped shape your success?
I took a variety of different courses inside and outside of the Eberly College during my time at WVU. I ultimately settled on two majors and two minors (political science, international studies, philosophy, and English — respectively) that were all within the Eberly College and that gave me exposure to a lot of things that have helped me in my career. Having such an array of professors with different approaches, teaching styles, and knowledge bases prepared me for the melting pot of opinions and approaches that exist in D.C. I feel like Eberly gave me a very robust education that has translated well into my professional life. Not to mention, I still maintain contact with plenty of the students I met in Eberly College classes.
How are you a game changer? Or, how are you making a positive impact in the world?
One thing I always take with me, regardless of where I live, is that I am an Appalachian and a Mountaineer through and through. Growing up in West Virginia has shaped the person I am today in ways that I didn't know was possible. My experience as someone from rural, southern West Virginia informs my approach to interacting with others and working diligently to affect positive change — not only for the state that I love but for everyone. Being a West Virginian means helping others whenever I can. Both inside and outside of my professional life, I look for opportunities to volunteer. I volunteered with the Homeless Children's Playtime Project here in D.C. for a while and it was a really great and rewarding experience. I recently joined the Associate Board of the City Kids Wilderness Project and am looking forward to contributing to the great work the organization does. I hope that I've been able to make a positive impact through these organizations and that I can be a role model for others by proving that you don't have to come from a background of wealth or privilege to do something meaningful with your life.
What is the most interesting thing that’s happened to you since graduating?
Getting to serve as the last press assistant to Senator Rockefeller is probably my most interesting experience. As a staffer to a retiring member, I was able to help preserve his public service legacy — 50 years of service to the state of West Virginia! Getting to come back to WVU to staff him for the opening of his Senatorial Archive collection donation to the WVU Library — and introducing non-W.Va. coworkers to Tudor's Biscuit World — was really great and something I won't forget.
Your favorite WVU memory?
Hiking the huge, beautiful, green mountains in the Lake District with my best friend and some of my favorite professors during my summer study abroad in the U.K. through the WVU at Oxford program, and earlier that summer getting my first exposure to international relations as a WVU representative to The European International Model United Nations (TEIMUN) conference in Den Haag. Getting to share these international experiences with fellow Mountaineers couldn't have been better.
How do you support and participate in both the Department of Political Studies and International Studies Program?
I always make sure to send relevant internships and positions from my current workplace back to the departments and try to stay apprised of any new developments that are happening. As an Eberly alum, I was very humbled and pleased to get to be involved in the announcement of the John D. Rockefeller IV School of Policy and Politics during my time as a staffer to Senator Rockefeller.
What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing a career in communications?
It is okay, and often encouraged, to major in something other than communications/marketing/mass media/public relations if you want a career in communications. While those are all great majors and will certainly give you the skills you need to succeed in the field, having a solid knowledge base of the area you're trying to communicate is incredibly important. I wouldn't have been half as strong of a communications professional in the jobs I've had so far if I didn't already have a good understanding of and interest in the underlying subject matter that I was trying to disseminate. Courses like Comparative Politics, Health Care Ethics and even Introduction to Political Science have turned out to be immensely helpful so far in my career. Having the understanding of these subjects from my courses at WVU helps me do my job well.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer. No matter where you end up after leaving WVU, be sure to look for the alumni network in your area. I've had a lot of great experiences with the National Capitol Area Chapter of the alumni network and am thankful to be a part of it.
Also, I would be remiss if I didn't thank the Eberly College, my professors and WVU overall for giving me such a robust and excellent education and network. And lastly, I have to give a shout out to my family, friends and colleagues who have given me exceptional support and love and have helped me grow in ways I never imagined. My career would be nothing to write home about without that support and knowledge.