WRTC Alumni Panel Inspires Graduating Class

L to R: WRTC Alumni Catie Willet ('18), Stephen Roddewig ('17) and Ciara Benz Brennan ('17)

Social media management. User documentation. Public Relations. Web development. These are some of the more common professions WRTC students enter upon graduation. But how does one land such jobs? WRTC capstone students received some great advice from participants of an alumni panel this past week. Catie Willet (’18), Stephen Roddewig (’17) and Ciara Benz Brennan (’17) met with students enrolled in WRTC 496 to talk about the job hunt and to share what it has been like for them in the workplace since graduation.

One of the advantages WRTC students enjoy over candidates from other schools is that they graduate with experience because of the internship requirement. That worked to Willett’s advantage, as she was able to apply to positions that required a few years of experience. The job posting for the position she took upon graduation and still holds today had requested candidates with five years’ experience. Even though she was just graduating, she took a risk and applied anyway. “Employers want to know that you have the ability to learn on the job,” she explained. She was able to demonstrate that through her internship, her  coursework, and other activities such as her position as a tutor and media fellow in DigiComm and her involvement as founder of Girls Who Code, a club for middle schoolers that grew out of a project started in WRTC 486: Writing in the Community.

One recurring theme during the panel was that students should be flexible in the workplace. “WRTC students leave the program with so many transferrable workplace skills, once supervisors see what they can do, they often assign more responsibilities,” observed instructor Cynthia Martin, who has taught the capstone for five years. Roddewig, for example, was hired upon graduation as an associate in PR and marketing, which is what he thought he wanted to do as a career. But when a client asked him to design a webpage, he found he loved doing it, and the client was more than pleased with the outcome. Now, Roddewig regularly does web development for his company and its clients. 

Ciara Benz Brennan offered some great advice for students: “Market yourself as someone who can do lots of things, but have one specialty.”  For Brennan, that specialty is social media marketing. Brennan initially took a job after graduation with her internship provider, a non-profit organization with locations in Sudan and India. After working abroad for a year, however, she wanted to put down roots in a more permanent location. Harrisonburg topped her list, and she was able to return to JMU not as a student, but as a communications specialist for the College of Arts and Letters.

Students enrolled in the capstone found the stories of panelists to be both affirming and inspirational. “It is good to know I’m not behind in applying for jobs,” one student commented after alumni shared they did not begin their job searches until the semester of graduation. “It is also comforting to know companies need us,” noted another. Indeed, WRTC students have a lot going for them when it comes to workplace skills—of course they can write and edit, but they can also analyze and synthesize, tailor messages to specific audiences, and much, much more. They key, agreed all three panelists, is making sure that skill set is at the top of the résumé in bold. “Be prepared to talk about those skills and your coursework during interviews,” advised Roddewig. “Employers are really interested in what we do in WRTC,” added Willett.  

Back to Top

Published: Monday, October 14, 2019

Last Updated: Saturday, January 2, 2021

Related Articles