Ohio State University Communications - Q&A with Amanda Etchison

Amanda Etchison smiles to the camera

Amanda Etchison is a junior at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, where she is pursuing a double major in journalism and Chinese within the university’s Honors Program. She is expected to graduate in Spring 2017.

What has your experience in communications been like at Ohio State University?

Ohio State has provided me with valuable opportunities through which to grow as a communicator. The school offers a wide array of courses that blend interesting themes with the fundamental lessons necessary for any career in communication. From “Visual Communication Design” to the student newspaper’s laboratory course, “The Lantern Practicum,” Ohio State allows students to explore their passions and succeeds in creating an experience unique to each individual. An understanding of the changing nature of the field of communication is at the core of the school’s academic mission, a trait that ensures graduates of the school are able to strike a balance between the tried and true methods of effective communication while adapting to an increasingly digital environment. The coursework is diverse; however, it is truly the extracurricular options available at a school of Ohio State’s size that really make this program special. Students can get involved in the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) or write for the university’s award-winning student-run newspaper, The Lantern, from their very first day on campus. Finally, with more than 18,000 alumni and a myriad of local and national connections to companies and organizations, the communication values learned in the classroom are applied to professional life through internships, which students are highly encouraged to take.

Were there other schools you were considering, and if so, why did you choose this one?

Having grown up in a city only 20 minutes from Ohio State’s campus, the fear of being too close to home always clouded a true appreciation for the university until the college search process began in earnest during my junior year of high school. At that time, I had known Chinese was a definite major that I wished to pursue; however, I had not yet decided if I wanted to devote myself to journalism or business marketing and advertising. With this in mind, I attended a special pre-orientation program at Ohio State aimed at potential candidates interested in applying to the university’s Honors and Scholars program. While on campus for this event, I met with professors in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, as well as the faculty adviser of The Lantern. We discussed the opportunities that were available for students interested in experiencing the world of journalism in an actual newsroom, and how any student could get involved with the paper, no matter his or her major or year in school. The program was not as large as those at other schools I was considering at the time (I ended up applying to about seven colleges, chosen for their Chinese and journalism programs), but the hands-on nature of The Lantern was appealing. In the end, the impressive honors program, as well as the financial benefit of attending an in-state university of Ohio State’s academic caliber, convinced me to officially enroll as a member of OSU’s Class of 2017.

What influenced you to pursue a major/career in communications?

It’s hard to pinpoint when I first began to write and tell stories. I started spelling words in the bathtub with foam letters when I was two, and wrote a picture book that my parents indulgently sent out to publishers when I was 10 (unfortunately, it was not accepted). Throughout my entire life, I have loved books and reading, and would often page through an encyclopedia in lieu of watching the latest episode of “Sponge Bob” or playing a video game on my Nintendo DS. In middle school, I joined the morning announcement team and thought I was very cool when I anchored the broadcast twice a week as an eighth grader. I traded the microphone for a voice recorder in high school when I started to contribute to our school’s monthly news magazine, eventually rising up the ranks to serve as the Online Editor my junior year and Editor in Chief my senior year. Eventually, as I laid out Adobe InDesign pages and interviewed owners of local food trucks, I realized that journalism was something I really wanted to do. For people like me—those who are too antsy to sit around and do the same thing day after day—journalism is the ideal career. Every day, you become a mini expert on something new. You talk to people who give you a glimpse into their lives, and share their stories with others who might not have ever known that this specific corner of the world even existed. You make the world seem simultaneously small and large and get to communicate with others through an expressive medium of words, images and sounds. All in all, a career in journalism isn’t the career for everyone, but for me, it was a perfect fit.

Have you participated in any internships? If so, how many, how were they, and did you find the schools resources to be helpful in helping you find this opportunity?

For the past three summers, I have worked as a Seasonal Event Assistant for Sponsor and VIP Relations within the City of Dublin in Dublin, Ohio. Events Administration is an office within the Department of Parks and Recreation and is responsible for planning, managing and publicizing city events such as parades, concerts and the Dublin Irish Festival, which is one of the largest Irish festivals in the world. In this position, I have been introduced to the behind-the-scenes action that occurs in preparation for large-scale public events. I work with members of the events team who negotiate sponsorships and partnerships with local companies and organizations. I also track and fulfill packages for sponsors and VIPs, and assist in the crafting, editing and distribution of news releases. During the Dublin Irish Festival, which occurs during the first weekend of August, I have contributed to the festival’s social media presence by updating and posting to the festival’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, as well as the festival’s Facebook page.

I began this internship during my senior year of high school through a unique program offered only at Ohio State. I applied and was accepted into the John Glenn College of Public Affairs’ High School Internship Program, which offered me the opportunity to take an introductory public affairs course on OSU’s campus for credit. In addition to the three-credit-hour class, I completed an internship, chosen by the college to best suit my individual interests. After my required 100 hours had been fulfilled, I realized that I enjoyed the excitement surrounding event planning, and stayed on the events staff for the next three summers.

This upcoming semester, I am also starting my first year as Editor in Chief of Ohio State’s student-run newspaper, The Lantern. I originally became involved in this organization by signing up at the annual involvement fair as a freshman. After writing several stories for the paper’s Arts & Entertainment section, I interviewed and was hired for the position of Campus Editor during the second semester of my sophomore year. In this leadership role, I was responsible for writing stories about news affecting OSU’s campus and the Columbus area, as well as editing stories submitted by student reporters. After a semester as Campus Editor, I interviewed again and was hired as Editor in Chief as an incoming junior.

What are your future career plans and aspirations?

My interests are still quite varied, ranging from science writing to corporate event planning, so as of now, all aspects of the communication field fascinate me. I hope to learn and grow as I serve my term as Editor in Chief at The Lantern, and fully intend to use this opportunity to further delve into my specific journalistic niche. I hope to graduate from Ohio State in Spring 2017 and am considering applying for Northwestern University’s Integrated Marketing Communications Master’s Program. After that, I can see myself doing a multitude of things. (It’s so hard to choose!) I am looking into internship programs in marketing and event planning at companies like Disney, as well as public relations positions with sports organizations like Major League Soccer. On the other hand, I am also interested in pursuing a more traditional path in the realm of journalism by searching for editorial or reporting jobs at science magazines, travel publications or the feature/city desk at a newspaper or blog site. For now, though, I am just trying to continue The Lantern’s successful history of being named the best college newspaper in Ohio.

What has been the most challenging aspect of studying communications, and was this something you had originally anticipated?

When I first realized that I wanted to pursue a course of study within Ohio State’s School of Communication, I think I greatly underestimated the versatility of the field. “Communications” is a broad term that can encompass careers that I don’t even know exist at this moment. One of the most challenging aspects—one that I did not expect to encounter when I first walked through the doors of the Journalism Building—is the pressure some students often feel when it comes to determining specializations on which to focus their attention and craft their skills. As I’ve become more and more involved in organizations like The Lantern, I have been relieved to find that this process has become much easier. There is still a lot of experimenting left to do, but it is comforting to know that the flexibility is there to really make a career in communication one that is entirely my own.

What advice would you give someone else trying to break into this field?

As cliché as it might sound, I would definitely say communication is a field that emphasizes the importance of extracurricular involvement. Since the basic concept of communication is, in my opinion, an inherent skill many of us already possess to a certain degree, the theories and concepts covered in the classroom are rarely ever enough to make a student an effective communicator. Rather, those skills are developed by getting out and exploring. Had I never approached The Lantern table at the involvement fair, or picked up that first story assignment, or had the courage to interview for an editorial position, I would not be where I am today. All it takes is having the courage to speak up and try something new and you will be amazed by how much of a difference these experiences will make in the long run.

Is there anything you wish you had known about this area of study ahead of time before choosing this career path?

I wish I had known that communication careers are not all the same. My boss at the City of Dublin Events Administration received her degree in journalism and now has a job that involves aspects of business and public relations, all wrapped up into a position within local government. Several of my (now-graduated) co-workers at The Lantern have since embarked on a variety of paths that have led to public relations roles for professional sports teams, editorial positions at business journals and copy editing jobs at newspapers across the country. The degree you decide to pursue is molded to complement your talents and interests. With this in mind, one can have more confidence when deciding to take the obscure mythology class in lieu of Sociology 101, or when applying for off-the-beaten-path internships and jobs. In conclusion, I wish I knew earlier that it is okay to take the steps that feel right for me, even if everyone else seems to favor a different path. As I reach this mid-point of my undergraduate career, it becomes clear that that is really what college should be about.

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