I began my journalism and communications career as a writer for the newspaper (The Current Sauce) at Northwestern State University (NSU). I worked my way up to editor-in-chief by the time I was a junior. Check out one of my old issues here! During this time, I also photographed athletics, school ceremonies and news events. Additionally, I worked part time for the Natchitoches (Nah-ka-tish) Times daily newspaper, covering police and sheriff’s department activities. During the end of my college studies, I interned with the Daily Town Talk as a photographer and writer. I covered press conferences and community activities; I also organized groups for photos, processed film (🦕), selected images, and scanned negatives for publication (🦕).
After completing my B.A. in journalism with a minor in political science, I went to work for DeVille, O’Neill & Associates, a full-service advertising agency in Alexandria, LA. While there, I was responsible for Photoshop image work, logo and graphic design, as well as press releases and public relations. I created promotional publications, brochures, business cards, letterhead, posters and postcards as well as interactive CDs (🦕) and CD business cards (🦕). I used my position to increase client business and publicity by coordinating strategic promotion plans through local newspapers, radio ads and television personalities. After two years with DeVille, O’Neill & Associates, I returned to the Town Talk to work in advertising.
During my second stint with the Town Talk, I worked as a writer and graphic designer, and was quickly promoted to niche products manager, then audience development editor. I presented and promoted publications to organizations and the general public through speaking engagements, radio station interviews, columns and advertisements. I created radio commercials related to products and events. Additionally, I promoted and produced Louisiana Family Expo, an event with more than 3,500 attendees, for two consecutive years.
While at the Town Talk, I helped produce a Taste of Home Cooking School event and the Bridal Extravaganza. I managed the Niche department salesperson, writing team and designers. As a member of the Operating Committee, I was responsible for reporting work initiatives and results to directors and the publisher. I attended meetings with the regional vice president, president and publishers. I frequently worked with other departments including news editorial, marketing, online, advertising and circulation. I trained salespeople, graphic artists, and writers.
I was quite busy at the Town Talk, being responsible for photography, writing, editing and design. I served on the press quality committee, obtained press quotes, selected printers and attended press checks. I was responsible for content and its validity. After earning the publisher’s trust, I developed, initiated and produced Signature Magazine. Additionally, I was responsible for a variety of sections including: About Home, Rapides Senior News (an example cover page can be seen here), Louisiana Family Magazine, Go Outdoors Louisiana, Women of Achievement, the Forest Hill Nursery Festival guide and several other special advertiser products.
From there, I moved into the role of communications coordinator at the Cleco Corporation in Pineville, LA. First, I served as the company webmaster. In this position, I managed the corporate website, the internal site targeted toward employees and implemented a targeted site to promote energy saving messages to our customers. I won a Cypress Award from the Public Relations Association of Louisiana for the Cleco Energy Smart marketing plan and website. I was also responsible for purchasing advertising throughout Louisiana, constructing messages to achieve company goals, and had a six figure advertising budget. I coordinated and produced radio and television commercials and set up interactive tours. I handled crisis communication through hurricanes, fatalities and legal issues. Finally, I trained other staff members on proper media relations and public speaking.
In 2012, I decided to continue my education at Louisiana State University. I wanted to explore the world of biology, and LSU offered several interesting courses and experiences that helped expand my skills as a science communicator. At LSU, I took dozens of courses in the sciences (agriculture, chemistry, marine biology, mathematics, microbiology, physics) and communications. I held a few part time jobs on campus, including at the circulation desk of Middleton Library, in the Foil sandfly lab and the Elderd disease ecology lab.
In Dr. Foil’s lab, I learned about science communication including writing effective methods sections for scientific manuscripts. This was my first chance to see science in action – as a lab technician – instead of from the sidelines as a reporter. I even did field work looking for blue-tongue virus in deer! In Dr. Elderd’s lab, I learned basic data analysis and results presentation skills (e.g., bar graphs).
Finally, I enrolled in a marine biology study abroad program in Alaska through LSU. During this program, I grew to understand the scientific method from hypothesis creation all the way through data collection and results interpretation and communication. I created a poster for my group research project and presented the results to the class (see the poster here).
Next, I took a full time job with the Center for Academic Success (CAS) at LSU. At CAS, I was the marketing, communications, and events coordinator. I served as the webmaster for two department sites and assisted with a third. I redeveloped the website through assessment of diverse stakeholder needs. I was the event manager of numerous functions for students, faculty, staff and higher education donors. I created digital marketing through social media, email, campus-wide television monitors and websites, as well as photography, print and digital strategic communications. I also assessed their efficiency using surveys. I wrote and edited press releases, designed brochures, and managed a team of graphic designers, videographers, writers and photographers. I taught department members and students to effectively use project management software, follow brand guidelines, use the Associated Press style and edit websites. This experience helped me understand how to work with and train students with diverse goals. Some wanted professional careers as graphic designers, while others were looking to get into journalism.
After my time at LSU, I accepted an offer at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in the Department of Chemistry as the senior communications specialist. In this role, I used the KJ method to redo the website, both internet and intranet portions. I also trained an undergraduate student, Kaity Moore, who would later be hired on to help move over the website. Along with Kaity, I trained several graduate and undergraduate students in both professional and scientific communication. My mentee, Dr. Stephanie Blaszczyk, even won an American Association for the Advancement of Science Mass Media fellowship. I am so proud of her! Additionally, I conduct professional head shots for the students, faculty, and staff of the department and manage donor relations, executive communication and crisis communication.