by Malinda Miller (Engl'92; MJour'98)
When Emma Kelly (StratComm'18) packed two suitcases and a box last January and took a flight to Washington, D.C., she expected to be there for only three months.
“I was told I would need a good coat and an umbrella for the spring, and I did,” she says with a laugh. “I didn’t know I was in the first stages of moving across the country.”
Kelly was headed to an internship at SevenTwenty Strategies, an integrated public relations and public affairs agency, through the CU in DC Media Track.
“It was so integrative to what I studied as a strategic communication major,” Kelly says. “I sat in on client meetings, looked over pitches and worked closely with the CEO.”
Kelly, who entered CU Boulder with college credit from the International Baccalaureate program at Dakota Ridge High School in Littleton, was on a tight schedule to graduate and wanted the experience of studying away for a semester. “With CU in DC, you get your study abroad experience, credit for courses and an internship all at the same time,” she says.
For the one-semester program, the CU in DC Media Track works with the Washington Media Institute (WMI) to match students with internships and arrange for classes, guest lectures, networking opportunities and field trips. “D.C. has more internship opportunities available in news and public affairs than any other city,” says Amos Gelb, director of WMI. “We talk with students to help focus their goals and set them up with internships that are the best match.”
That partnership makes a difference, says Ryan Shucard, vice president of media relations at SevenTwenty Strategies, who oversees the intern program for the agency.
“It’s overwhelming for a student to move to an unfamiliar city for an internship,” Shucard adds. “But almost like shepherding, they set up a community and programs to help students succeed and discern what they’re learning here.”
Kelly says her interest in advertising and public relations stems from wanting to solve problems, and her past research class helped her apply that on the job.
“With advertising and PR, connecting with people is all about emotion and finding those little insights so that you can get your point across,” she says. “That’s why I love the research aspect so much.”
By April, Kelly knew that after her graduation in May, she’d be returning to D.C.
“I had a lunch meeting with several of my supervisors at SevenTwenty Strategies and they asked, ‘Where do you see yourself going?’ I told them I was very interested in the account directing side.”
Soon after, she was offered a job as a junior account director at the agency and started the new position over the summer.
The intense schedule and the work of the firm—which specializes in helping nonprofit and corporate clients connect the dots in areas ranging from online advocacy and communications to political action committee work and media—is a good match for her ambitions.
“I wake up and know that something I’ll be taking on that day will have an impact on someone,” Kelly says. “There’s no other way that I could picture my life right now, and this is exactly where I think I should be.”