Field Experience Class Offers Opportunity to Build Connections in Big Cities

Many students fantasize about starting fresh in a big city after graduation, perhaps this is especially true for a few Midwesterners. However, some students’ impressions of city life might be solely based on word of mouth and what they see on TV.

A special Field Experience course at the College of Communication Arts and Sciences offers an opportunity for students to travel to New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles to learn the "ins and outs" of various media organizations, network with professionals – including Spartan alumni – and get a taste of life in the city.

The Los Angeles Study Away primarily caters to students pursuing career paths in Advertising, Public Relations or Production. A group of over 20 students interested in entering the entertainment industry traveled to Los Angeles for a week with the program at the beginning of May. On the list of companies they visited was Princess Cruises, The Walt Disney Company, Deutsch, mOcean, Miramax, Universal McCann, Fox Studios and more. At each company, students were given the chance to speak with men and women at the top of their fields and ask them questions as well as tour the facilities.

"I had a ton of great experiences on the LA trip, but some of my favorites were going on office tours within agencies. It really gave you a good perspective of each company culture, how things function, and a broad perspective of life in an agency,” said senior Emmy Virkus who traveled to Los Angeles with the group. “When I visited specific agencies, some I liked more than others simply because of the people and the environment, which made me want to have that same experience once I start working."

Julie Hagopian, an Academic and Career Advisor, coordinated the program with alumni and companies that wanted to offer unique opportunities to students.

"Every visit (in Los Angeles) was made possible because we had an alumni working at the organization or because an alum made an introduction,” said Hagopian. “Our students learned a lot about the many opportunities within the industry, but one of the biggest takeaway that students gain are the connections and realizing that Spartans truly do help Spartans."

Andrew Corner is the instructor for the Field Experience classes. He has led three trips to both New York City and Chicago, and this most recent Los Angeles venture was his second time taking students to the West Coast with the program.

In preparation for each trip, Corner said students are required to attend three sessions on campus during which they learn more about the industry and gather research about the companies they will be visiting.

Corner explained that there are several goals that each trip aims to achieve for students, using Los Angeles as an example, "Number one is to give students a way to really find out what it’s like. It’s one thing to think you want to work in the entertainment industry because you like Disney movies. It’s another thing to get out there and see what it’s really like to live there and hear from people who have made that transition."

He added that building relationships with people who live and work in the area is another primary goal.

Senior Christopher Cleary also traveled to Los Angeles in May and discovered that many of the people that they met started their careers as interns and worked toward the success that they have achieved today.

"It taught me that getting a foot in the door just by being in California is the first thing I need to do," Cleary said. "Then just do what all Spartans do best, work well!"

Cheyenne Yost, a Communication and Public Relations graduate from the class of 2015, moved to Los Angeles after graduation with help from a connection she made during her Study Away trip last year. She was hired at a marketing/distribution company by MSU alum Libby DuBay.

"The connections and experiences I established here (in Los Angeles) greatly influenced my decision to move out. I made some great friends on the trip that are also living out here now and I like to think of us as a Spartan family," said Yost. "The alumni we met, encouraged us to reach our goals and work hard to achieve them. Libby has become someone that I look up to and someone that I can lean on if I need to. Like I said, we're all a Spartan family out here! Having that support and encouragement from other Spartans showed me that anything is possible."

While Yost is no longer working for the same company, she is still confident that Los Angeles is a fit for her, "I may not have my dream job yet, but I am in the best place I can be," she said.