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Communications students gain insight at Homecoming wisdom session

Fourteen School of Communications alumni offered advice to current students about finding a job, succeeding on a professional level, and how their Elon experiences enhanced their careers.  

The School of Communications’ “Elon 2.0: Success After Elon” wisdom session brought together alumni and students on Oct. 16 to discuss life after graduation. Pictured (from left) are Rajat Agarwal ’16, Adrienne Winston ’06, Matt Belanger ’05 and Phillipe Charles ’06.

​During the taping of the School of Communications’ “Elon 2.0: Success After Elon” wisdom session, Brian Binder ’15 explained to the audience that he had every intention of relocating to Los Angeles after graduation. His plan, the Cleveland native noted, was a post-Commencement trip home with the expectation he’d begin his career in California shortly thereafter.

Five months later, the filmmaker/freelance videographer can’t see himself leaving Ohio, having landed consistent work as a production assistant on several films. Thanks to attractive tax credits in the state, Cleveland’s film industry is bustling, Binder explained.

“I keep getting hired and as long as that keeps happening, I don’t see a reason to move,” he said. “I’m right where I want to be; I have work.”

Binder’s career twist was one of several personal anecdotes shared during “Elon 2.0: Success After Elon,” illustrating how life can unexpectedly change after graduation. He was one of 14 School of Communications alumni who returned to campus on Oct. 16, 2015, offering current students career and life advice during the hour-long wisdom session, part of Elon University’s Homecoming Weekend. Photos of the session are available on the school's Flickr page.

The alumni dished out advice, anecdotes and stories from their own professional success, providing students a glimpse of what their respective futures might hold. Binder delivered the event’s biggest celebrity namedrop, mentioning that one of his upcoming projects has actor Nicholas Cage attached.

As part of Elon University’s Homecoming Weekend, the School of Communications hosted an hour-long wisdom session with 14 alumni.

Work-life balance

The wisdom session, filmed as a talk show in McEwen’s Studio B, was broken into five segments, with participants discussing journalism, strategic communications, web and media, film and cinema, and life after Elon.

One of the most discussed talking points during the on-air conversation, led by Elon Local News senior reporters Meredith Stutz ‘16 and Rajat Agarwal ’16, was how to find and maintain a positive work-life balance, a common challenge faced by alumni.

“I think as journalists, if we are really honest with ourselves, we are really never off the job. We are always working,” said Matt Belanger ’05.

The weekend anchor and reporter at WSB-TV in Atlanta admitted that early in his career he failed to have a balance between work and life. To avoid becoming too immersed in his job today, Belanger noted that he conducts a monthly check to evaluate this time spent on the job and off.

A producer at FOX 50 WRAZ, Phillipe Charles ’06 suggested that students try to combine work and life when possible, building friendships in the office. “(I try to) make friends with the people I work with, having that work-life balance while at work,” he said.

Charles added that it’s also helpful to keep one’s priorities in perspective. “Know what you want to accomplish in work and what you want to accomplish in your life,” he said.

Career preparation

Several alumni emphasized the importance of internships, as well as involvement in student media, for providing valuable career preparation.

Today, Adrienne Winston ’06 is a night assignment editor at WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C., but television wasn’t where she envisioned herself, at least initially.

A print journalism major, Winston said she was hesitant to take a television internship as a student. “I was very motivated by writing and I wasn’t sure I wanted to change directions, but I ended up loving it,” said she of her internship at a television morning show. Nearly 10 years in the business, Winston can’t picture working anywhere else.

To find what interested her, Lindsay Porter ’05, an internal communications leader at Bridgestone Americas, recalled she immersed herself in student media and had a different internship seemingly every semester.

“It was a really good way for me to weed out some of the things I wasn’t good at,” she said. “The great thing about an internship is there is a start and a stop day, so if you don’t like it, you can walk away.”

Belanger echoed Porter’s sentiments that students can even take away positives from a negative internship experience.

“I think sometimes those (unrewarding internships) are the most valuable internships because if you realize that this is something you don’t want to do for the rest of your life, that’s a win right there,” he said.

Meredith Stutz ’16 (left) speaks with the event's strategic communications panel, which included Lindsay Porter ’05, Alexa Terry Wilde ’10 and Jennifer Hildebrand ’04. 

Professional presence

As he started to brand him as a professional, Joe DiRienzo ’14 realized his Twitter account needed a makeover.

The Twitter handle he had as an undergraduate, @PF_Flyers14, didn’t fit the image he wanted to portray as the director of video for USA Baseball. As a result, he ditched the athletic shoe — and “The Sandlot” movie — reference for something more suitable, @Joe_DiRienzo.

A buttoned-up appearance and online presence is a good professional start, but Alesandra Abramoski ’11 asked that students look inward as well. The account supervisor at Three Ships charged the audience to ask themselves hard questions while on the job, such as, “How am I adding value?”

“The more you are taking initiative, bringing new ideas to the table  … the more you will grow,” she said.

To achieve your career goals, Winston also explained that success often comes down to making adjustments. How does one adapt in the workplace, particularly to the management styles of their supervisors?

“You are going to have a lot of different bosses, different styles. You are going to have to learn how to adjust and accommodate and do your best under different forms of pressure,” she said.
​ 

“Elon 2.0: Success After Elon” participants

Alesandra Abramoski ’11
Account Supervisor, Three Ships

Natalie Beach ’15
​Branded Entertainment Production Assistant, TLC, Discovery Communications

Matt Belanger ’05
Weekend anchor and reporter, WSB-TV Channel 2

Brian Binder ’15
Filmmaker

Phillipe Charles  ‘06
FOX 50 WRAZ, Producer/Social Media Coordinator

Joe DiRienzo ’14
Director, Video Production; USA Baseball

Al Drago ’15
Photographer, Roll Call

Jennifer Hildebrand ’04
Publicist, Connecticut Sun of the Women’s National Basketball Association and New England Black Wolves of the National Lacrosse League

Mathea Jacobs ’04
KZTV Manager, Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital

Lindsay Porter ’05
Internal Communications Leader, Bridgestone Americas

Scott Richardson ’13 G’14
Video Producer, Centrifuge Media, Inc.

Alex Trice ’12
Pace, Web Video Writer

Alexa Terry Wilde ’10
Brand Manager, Handmade Charlotte

Adrienne Winston ’06
Night Assignment Editor, WJLA-TV

Tommy Kopetskie,
Staff
10/19/2015 4:10 PM