KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo communications students were “blown away” by the job possibilities in Chicago.
During two days in the Windy City, 40 of them explored their options, meeting with professionals in advertising, public relations, sports operations, radio performance and production, and theater.
It was an eye-opening experience for Sarah Shutt.
“It really opened my mind to the possibilities of careers available in Chicago, or other big cities,” she said. “I’ve only ever gone to Chicago for fun. Going on a trip that shows you what you can do as a job there is a lot different. It helped me think about what I want to do, and motivated me to start looking for internships that apply to my major.”
That’s exactly what Erin Doss, assistant professor of communication arts, hoped for when planning the trip, which is part of IU Kokomo’s KEY program. The Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) launched in 2016 to provide students chances to connect with people and participate in real-world experiences.
“We don’t want our students to get to senior year and panic because they don’t know what they want to do after graduation,” Doss said. “We want them thinking about what the career options are now, so they can take the right steps to get where they want to be.”
After arriving in Chicago, students, faculty, and staff attended a networking lunch with three IU communications alumni, including Alexis Nash, who graduated from the Kokomo campus in 2015, and is now a content marketer for TMP Worldwide.
“It was amazing for them to meet with someone who was where they were just a few years ago, and now is working in her dream job,” said Doss, adding that several students gave résumés to people they met, or took business cards to contact them about future internships or job opportunities.
“We require an internship experience, and by meeting with people working in the communications field, our students gained an idea of the steps they need to take to reach those opportunities for themselves,” Doss said.
Students also met with employees at Ketchum Chicago, an international public relations firm and took in some culture at The Taming of the Shrew at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. They toured Wrigley Field and met with an IU graduate who works in the operations office, and talked with on-air personalities and production managers at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio.
As a potential future sports broadcaster or journalist, freshman Corbin Fields especially enjoyed meeting people at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. The part of the trip that impacted him the most, however, was getting to know people in his major — especially more experienced students.
“I didn’t know very many people in my major yet,” he said. “I met people who are doing what I want to end up doing, and see what they are doing in and out of school. As a freshman, I’m trying to just figure out what I want to do with my life, and they were looking for jobs, looking for internships, trying to build those connections. I feel like I learned a lot just from watching them.”
Building a supportive community is a key part of the experience, said Doss, who led the trip with Joann Kaiser, lecturer in communication arts.
“We want IU Kokomo to be a place where students want to stay and finish their degrees,” she said. “I feel like I know students a lot better now. I can already tell in class that there is a better sense of camaraderie than we had before. They realized their professors are just people, and that we will talk to them and help them.”
The trip was funded by the KEY program, along with an applied learning grant. The KEY program offers authentic learning experiences for students, starting with a supportive freshman learning community, and including travel, internships, connecting with people who work in their field, researching with faculty, and more.
“The fact we have a university and administrators who want to support our students in this kind of experience, is something rarer than people realize, and I’m thankful for it,” Doss said.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.