Alumni Tell Students to Take Advantage of Elon Experience in Panel Discussion

Students listening to the Alumni Panel

Four Communications alumni participated in a panel discussion Monday afternoon, reflecting on how their Elon experiences helped them gain a foothold in the media industry.

The panelists—Kim Hayes, a 2005 cinema major, Jason Dennis, a 1998 broadcast major, Allison Deiboldt, a 2002 corporate communications major, and Samiha Khanna, a 2003 journalism major— impressed upon the standing-room only crowd of assembled students the importance of becoming heavily involved in Elon student and media organizations and the significance of being able to work competently and comfortably across media platforms.

“Some of the things I did here through the Communications school really prepared me for my day-to-day responsibilities,” said Khanna, who works as a staff reporter out of the Raleigh News & Observer’s Durham bureau. “The important thing to remember is that you can try anything you want, and you really have nothing to lose. You have everything at your fingertips on this campus. You have incredible access at this school.”

Khanna and the other panelists all touted Elon’s emphasis on engaged learning and the many opportunities they were afforded outside the classroom, whether they were writing for The Pendulum or producing their own shows for ESTV.

“Take advantage of this now,” said Dennis, the anchor of the 10 p.m. news on WXTX in Columbus, Ga. “Elon is an amazing, amazing school. Don’t take for granted what you get here.”

They all discussed the value of internships, where students can gain invaluable experience in their field and beyond. Khanna, for example, did an internship at CNN early in her college career, despite her being a journalism major.

“It wasn’t going to be just about writing for newspapers,” said Khanna, who has worked for the News & Observer for four years. “I knew I had to have other skills. The longer I’ve been in this business, the more I’ve seen those lines are blurring between the different media. All the (skills) you gather here will be important in whatever field you go into.”

Deiboldt’s career has certainly combined traditional media (print, radio) with new media (Internet); although, she’s taken a circuitous route to her job.

Alumni PanelDeiboldt answered phones and worked at a gym before finally moving to New York, where she initially lived with her brother in Queens. She circulated her resume to a number of businesses and agencies, but it was an obscure connection she had that led her to her current position.

Deiboldt landed her job at Disney Media, where she has worked for four years in advertising sales and marketing for Disney’s radio, television, online and print products, because of the daughter of one of her father’s co-workers. The connection was unusual at the time, and she now lauds the virtues of honing networking skills.

“I agree … that it’s all about who you know,” Deiboldt said. “Sometimes it’s all about who they know.”

Dennis said networking is the No. 1 piece of advice he gives to students and prospective broadcasters.

“The most important thing I tell people is it’s who you know,” said Dennis, who was reporting for a broadcast news program one week after graduation. “You can be talented and look good, but it probably won’t take you very far. It’s all about who you know.”

Hayes, meanwhile, didn’t have too many connections when she graduated from Elon and moved to Las Vegas with her parents. Her initial plan was to live with her parents until she could find a job in Los Angeles.

She began sending a cover letter and resume to every production studio and company in Las Vegas, and three responded to her. She landed a job with Big Picture Studios, where she performs a myriad of tasks, including preparing call times, managing budgets, producing shoots and editing videos.

“Big Picture Studios is such a small, independent company that I was able to advance very quickly,” Hayes said. “Because I knew the software programs, I was able to get assignments quickly.”

And Hayes, like her three counterparts, still loves her job to this day, an asset they couldn’t stress enough to the students. Monetary gain is secondary, they said. Instead, graduates should take absolute care in finding a job that they will be passionate about.

“The best part of my job is that every day is different,” Khanna said. “The worst part of my job is that every day is different. But I’m excited to wake up every morning. I’m one of the few people in my life who is doing what they truly love. You shouldn't waste time doing something you’re not passionate about.”


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