How ElonComm supported me …
To recognize the School of Communications’ 21st year educating and producing truthful, ethical and responsible leaders, communicators and storytellers, a few of our students and alumni took a moment to reflect on their time “under the oaks.” (Click the image to read their stories.)
“Elon prides itself on supporting innovative, progressive student projects and I was grateful that it chose to finance my senior BFA thesis,” says Zachary Bocian ’17, recalling the monetary support the School of Communications provided for his undergraduate film, “Facemask.”
The film chronicled the story of a closeted transgender female named Tyler grappling with coming out as her true self while pursuing her passion of football. And Bocian was meticulous in his research and preparation for the project to ensure its authenticity and accuracy. “It was inspiring knowing my alma mater would be remembered as having supported a large film project centered around empathizing with some of the most vulnerable in our country.”
Today, Bocian is studying at Rutgers Law School, yet his ElonComm experience stays with him, noting the encouragement he received from faculty, staff and others. “Whether it was a last-minute, car-load of film equipment, Julie Prouty made it happen,” he says. “Or a late-night script revision session, Professor (Youssef) Osman was available for a phone call. Even when it came to using the grand Turner Theatre for the first time for a private screening, the dean was on board. Looking back, I am most grateful for the true mentors and friends Elon gave me – people, even today, I call when I need some direction or a bit of inspiration.”
From the moment he set foot on Elon’s campus to his career now – he serves as the major operations events coordinator at the NFL – Colton Cadarette ’19 has been a go-getter. With Communications Fellow, Live Oak account executive, Student Union Board concerts director, and SGA class president as talking points on his undergraduate resume, it is no secret Cadarette took advantage of the opportunities that came his way. So, it comes as no surprise that the strategic communications major was the recipient of multiple merit-based and regular scholarships from the School of Communications. The most instrumental, he said, was a stipend to travel to Park City’s world-renowned Sundance Film Festival his junior year.
Knowing full well that a career in event production was in his future, Cadarette spent his Sundance experience taking notes on the agencies and entertainment companies that brought the festival to life. While in Utah, Cadarette also networked with alumni and developed a better understanding of entertainment production, which “opened the door” for his professional path. But, perhaps, the most influential gift Cadarette received from ElonComm wasn’t fiscal at all –perhaps, it was the confidence to pursue his career.
“I knew I wanted to go to college and pursue a higher education degree and, ultimately, a career in either sports or entertainment or communications. But I wasn’t completely confident in my skills in that sense and didn’t know fully how to do that,” Cadarette said. “The School of Communications placed confidence in me.”
– Julia Oakes ’22
Like many first-year students, Janay Tyson was unsure of where her professional career would take her. But when introduced to public relations in her COM100 class, Tyson was hooked. A few semesters later, the strategic communications major was headed west to participate in the Elon in LA program with a stipend from the School of Communications. “It gave me that extra boost that really helped me and my parents solidify the decision to let me go,” Tyson said. Her time in L.A. was spent working alongside industry professionals at fashion PR house Maison Privée, networking and forming connections she’s kept to this day. Now, Tyson works as an assistant account executive at Publicis New York.
Despite her initial uncertainty about her career, Tyson never doubted one interest: her passion for inclusion and diversity. The African and African-American studies minor held a leadership position in the historically Black sorority Delta Sigma Theta, worked as a student coordinator for the C.R.E.D.E., served as a diversity ambassador for the Office of Admissions, and volunteered as a School of Communications internship ambassador. The latter position, Tyson recalls, allowed her “to share resources with other students who, in a lot of cases, looked like me or identified as a minority or student of color and wouldn’t necessarily know these resources were available to them. It all ties back to my passion for inclusion and diversity, and making sure that everyone has access to resources and, really, just finding ways to build community.”
Since graduating, Tyson says support from the School of Communications has followed her everywhere she goes. “I wouldn’t be in the position I am today without the School of Communications. I definitely wouldn’t have the same connections, the same opportunities.”
– Julie Oakes ’22
“With its small class sizes, I was never a number at Elon,” recalls Jeremy Recoon ’16, director of group sales for the Charlotte Checkers, the top minor-league affiliate of the NHL’s Florida Panthers. “Elon’s close-knit environment allowed me to build strong relationships with my professors and fellow students, especially in the Sport Management Department.”
Recoon credits his four years at Elon, and the department’s requirements to complete internships, for preparing him with the “solid foundation” to succeed post-graduation. “Elon and the sport management faculty stressed the importance of obtaining real-world work experience,” he said. “Through internships, volunteering and networking, I was prepared to enter the sports business world.”
As an undergraduate, the Buffalo, New York, native completed an internship with the city’s Triple-A baseball affiliate before landing another internship with Generation Z Marketing in New York City the following year – the latter was supported by the Sport Management Endowed Scholarship. “The award helped defray the costs of my academic credit fees and books, as well as my housing expenses,” he said.
Nearly five years removed from his graduation, Recoon’s experience on campus has stayed with him. Looking back, he relishes the opportunities he received in the Sport Management Society (formerly the Premier Sport & Event Society) and to network with industry professionals.
“I was given several opportunities to contribute and I felt as if my contributions were valued,” he said. “My professors were highly motivating, constantly challenging me to succeed in and outside of the classroom. I was also able to build relationships with accomplished alumni and have remained close with them and my professors, even using them as resources to this day.”
It must be noted, though, that Recoon said the “biggest benefit” of his Elon experience was meeting his fiancée, Amy. That American Hockey League Calder Cup Championship ring (pictured) won’t be the only jewelry Recoon will soon own.
As an Elon undergraduate, Lillian Engel ’19 was named a finalist for the 2018 American Cinema Editors’ Student Editing Competition, distinguishing herself in a contest featuring participants from film schools across the nation. The nomination came with an invitation to attend the ACE Eddie Awards and rub elbows with some of Hollywood’s best editors in film and television. The downside, Engel said, was that she found out about the nomination just a week before the event and transportation, including airfare to Los Angeles, was expensive.
That’s when Engel learned of the School of Communications’ Undergraduate Professional and Creative Project grant. At the recommendation of faculty and staff, Engel applied and received $1,000 from the grant committee to help reimburse her travel expenses. “It allowed me to buy my mom and myself last-minute plane tickets and covered a handful of Uber rides to the various ACE events,” she recalled. “I was able to meet some of the leading professionals in my industry and make connections that ultimately led to my first job after school.”
Today, the post production assistant with 20th Century Fox Productions said she is “incredibly appreciative” of the school’s support. This included producing a 35-second film for the 2017 Coca-Cola and Regal Films program, which provided Engel and Azzurra Catucci ’18 $15,000 to make the commercial.
“I was constantly encouraged to pursue opportunities in my field that excited me and pushed me technically and creatively,” Engel said. “Their support of my ACE Eddie nomination allowed me to take a huge leap forward in my young career. I will always be grateful for it.”
When Anna Cosentino ’19 was compiling research for her Great Ideas: Issues and Research class during her senior year, she had no idea how relevant her research would become, even just over a year later. The media analytics major, who now works as a marketing measurement analyst at YouTube, was always interested in data. In fact, she carried that interest into every possible research outlet she could – her Honors Fellow thesis research included. And so, when it came time to decide on a topic for her senior seminar, she leveraged that passion and coupled it with hot-button current events at the time, like the #BoycottNike campaign.
“I was really familiar on how to use those API’s and that type of data anyway, so it was a mix of I had the skills to answer this type of question, and then it was very top-of-mind and current events at the time,” Cosentino said.
Cosentino decided to research the effectiveness of the #BoycottNike campaign, “one of the first campaigns that was really vocal about racial injustice,” Cosentino said. Little did she know, the movement was only the beginning of conversations on racial injustice for years to come.
“It kind of showed that Nike took a risk standing out on social issues and it paid off,” Cosentino said. “For this past summer, when a lot of companies have taken more of a stand, I think it kind of was a precedent for them to be able to see that it could be successful, and they can take a social stand and still have a successful business.”
When it came time to choose a topic for her senior research project, Cameron Jackson ’17 felt as though she was the only student without a sense of direction. After what felt like forever searching for more “traditional” topics, like evaluating a corporate communications case study, she considered her own interests and what she likes to do in her free time: her hair.
“I was actually doing Elon in New York,” Jackson said. “I was struggling to do my hair because, as a Black woman, I was struggling to find salons and keep up with it while I was in New York.”
At the time, Jackson also noticed a movement happening, as many Black women were refusing the traditional hair-straightening practice and opting to let their natural hair textures grow out. And so, she turned to YouTube – not only to research “how other people use this platform to learn about that experience and undergo a natural hair journey,” she said, but also because it gave her the assurance that she would be accepted for deviating from tradition.
“It’s a lot more than just deciding to make this hairstyle change,” Jackson said. “It’s a big cultural thing. You’re worried about being accepted. Will you be accepted by your family? By your employers? So really all that unfolded in my personal life.”
Jackson cites co-researcher and research mentor Vanessa Bravo, professor and chair of the strategic communications department, as a key player in her exploration of the topic. In fact, when it came time to present the research at the AEJMC conference in Toronto, Bravo stepped in when Jackson was unavailable and shared their findings
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