Jasper Thomas III, a double major in cinema and television arts and theatre studies, was recently named the recipient of an unconventional internship offered by Golin, one of the world's largest public relations firms.
Following his graduation later this month, Elon senior Jasper Thomas III will embark on a six-week insight-seeking adventure, crisscrossing the country to explore communities and culture while gaining a better understanding of his own identity.
The cinema and television arts and theatre studies double major was recently named the winner of the ultra-competitive Golin Unternship, an initiative internship program offered by the global communications firm Golin. In its third year, the program provides one college graduate an opportunity to “walk in the shoes of others” and plan a “journey of their own creation.” At the conclusion of the internship, the recipient receives a full-time, paid position in the Golin office of his or her choice in the United States.
Golin published an official release on May 9 congratulating Thomas on his selection.
As part of his Unternship, Thomas will spend a month and a half traveling the country to explore the “intersectionality between communities.” Starting on June 1, his stops include Miami, New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland and Hawaii, as well as Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which straddles North Dakota and South Dakota.
He plans to delve into issues relating to identity and how individuals and communities define themselves. As a person of mutual-racial heritage, Thomas said the subject matter is of particular interest to him.
Along the way, he hopes to imbed himself at each respective stop to gain a better understanding of unrepresented groups, including blacks (New Orleans), Native Americans (Standing Rock) and members of the LGBTQIA community (San Francisco). He’ll even look at millennial culture (Portland) and Hawaii’s Hapa culture. Hapa is a Hawaiian term for a person of mixed ethnicity.
Due to family connections, Thomas noted the chance to volunteer and assist refugees in Miami has a personal appeal. “I really look forward to going there because my mom is an immigrant, and I will get a chance to see the world through her eyes when she was going through that process,” he said.
Throughout the trip, he will share his real-time insights with Golin and others via videos, blogs and social media.
“Each of the Unternship finalists had to pick something that was related to our own experiences and what we wanted to get out of the Unternship,” Thomas said. “For mine, I wanted to look at my own identity, and the different components of it. I dissected it and found the individual identities that ‘make up my whole.’ Then I wanted to explore them further.”
Thomas admitted the unconventional nature of the Unternship experience was what convinced him to apply with the global public relations firm. He credits Golin for developing individuals and future employees through real-life experiences. The cinema major – and travel enthusiast – suspects the uniqueness of the program increases its application pool.
“I would not have considered a position in public relations had it not been for the Unternship,” Thomas admitted. “But, following my time there, I can perfectly see myself at Golin and in that environment. I can see myself with that family. Before this opportunity came forward, I really had no plans of entering PR.”
As part of the program’s nationwide search, Thomas and two other finalists flew this spring to Chicago for interviews with a Golin leadership team. In a plot twist, the candidates were surprised with an afternoon exercise to test their improvisational skills. This is where Thomas set himself apart.
Equipped with $40 in cash, the Elon senior walked the city’s snow-covered streets, passing out flowers and notes to different people to create a chain-reaction of kindness. Thomas braved what a Golin executive called “probably the hardest snowstorm of the year.” Upon their return, candidates had just 30 minutes to prepare a memorable presentation.
“[Jasper had] a very original and sincerely thoughtful approach,” said Gary Rudnick, Golin’s CEO+ Operations in the May 9 release. “I think we are all pretty convinced his resourcefulness and inclination to connect with people on a deep level will serve Jasper well on his journey, and provide tremendous value to his future with Golin.”
Call it an advantage, but Thomas compared the impromptu challenge to CBS’ “The Amazing Race,” which happens to be one of his favorite television shows.
Following his cross-country excursion, Thomas doesn’t know where he’ll start his Golin career. Right now, the firm’s offices in Dallas and Los Angeles stand out.
“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this,” he said of the internship. “I don’t know where life is going to take me. But I want to take this opportunity with Golin – this opportunity to travel – and see where it takes me. I want to use this as a time to grow.”