When coming into the Mass Comm Week team, one thing that I felt was important when it came to reaching out to potential speakers was relatability. Before this year’s Mass Comm Week, most speakers I listened to at events, agency visits, mass communication organizations, etc. were white women. While I am able to relate to them on a gender level, I had never been able to resonate or receive very helpful information from them as someone who is intersectionally first-gen, working class and black.
I intentionally sought out speakers who I wanted to hear from, and who I thought could provide interesting and helpful information to students, all while being able to relate to students of color, students who have immigrant parents, and/or who were not as financially privileged as others. The importance of hearing journeys similar to ours and to see extremely successful professionals that look like us was always the primary factor in who I personally reached out to.
Storm Tyler and Omenaa Boakye’s panel was successful and helpful to students who were not even Mass Comm majors. My friend who is a fashion merchandising major and another who is a computer science graduate found it to be beneficial to hear from two black women (one who is a Texas State alum) who work in the fashion industry and freelance journalism. They offered advice that could be useful to multiple fields and were simply empowering to hear from.
Janelle Feliciano, who is the Associate Creative Director at Weber Shandwick, is not only an American working overseas in London, but the child of Filipino immigrants. Her perspective on what it’s like to pursue a creative job that her parents didn’t understand to be as financially fulfilling as being an engineer or doctor was something that I personally related to and that multiple attendees wanted more advice about. On top of the fact that she gave us an insightful mini-lecture on how to create a campaign, she validated and gave advice to second-generation immigrant students who face similar difficulties with their parents understanding and supporting their field of study, and offered advice on the affordable way for students to get a job and move overseas.
Charles Ellis, chairperson on the Global Diversity Council on Diversity and Inclusion at Condé Nast, may have been the most inspirational and relatable speaker I’ve had the opportunity to listen and speak with. He gave students helpful advice on how to navigate and work in New York City when you don’t have much financial help from your family, how to put yourself out there and market yourself, and the importance of understanding that what you have planned for your life might not look exactly like that, but possibly better than you imagine! Charles Ellis was an exemplary speaker because in between his personal stories and tips, he nourished ambition, positivity and confidence in students of color—so much so, that one attendee was moved to tears.
I feel like this year’s Mass Comm Week was the first time I listened to multiple speakers and didn’t feel like, “Well, this didn’t help me at all/I couldn’t relate to this.” I left Mass Comm Week feeling reassured and more confident in myself and my abilities. More importantly, I know other students left feeling the same way.