by Morgan Jupina
For many Kent State students, college graduation is quickly approaching, and it’s time to meet the “real world.” Job searching, resume building and interview prepping are all a part of our final sprint as college students. But what if you’re still trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up? I had the opportunity to meet with someone who might be able to provide you with a unique perspective.
“A lot of what we deal with is foreign individuals who threaten the United States,” he explained.
Twenty-year public service veteran and passionate guest speaker at this year’s KSU Media Ethics Workshop, Joe Vealencis, sat down with me to discuss the ins and outs of a career in public service.
Vealencis, director of the Office of Strategic Communications at the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) – created in 2004 in an effort to stop terrorist action in the United States and abroad – ensures communications are coordinated in various tasks. Vealencis’ responsibilities range from facilitating visits to NCTC from senior officials of foreign organizations, to overseeing public affairs specialists who work on a wide variety of communication, design and publication assignments. Aside from being a man in a suit with a profoundly intimidating career, I learned that he landed his job by following his dream to help people.
Vealencis, who wanted to be a lawyer at a very young age, graduated with a degree in marine and environmental science from the United States Coast Guard Academy. After beginning his career as a Commanding Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, Vealencis eventually worked his way from Senior Legislative Liaison for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to his current position.
Law to environmental science to NCTC is quite a winding path, but Vealencis is a prime example of being able to accomplish anything you set your mind to. Vealencis expressed that “the mission at the center” of his job is the most gratifying part of his chosen career because he gets to help protect Americans. Obviously, he didn’t graduate college knowing how to counter terrorism, but he went after a job he was interested in.
“Public service has always been something that interested me and opportunities presented themselves,” said Vealencis. “I feel good about myself when I go home at night.”
Sometimes, when attacks such as the Boston Marathon Bombing occur, Vealencis’ job can become emotionally difficult.
“It would be hard to describe what a punch in the gut that was for the men and women of NCTC,” Vealencis remembered. “Some say we should have checked the brothers’ Facebook posts, Twitter and social media even after they were cleared through a robust investigation.”
He said he was taking a much-needed vacation in the Dominican Republic, but came back immediately when he had heard about the attack.
“I didn’t have to. I just came back. A lot of people did and that’s the kind of place we work,” he said. “We’re going to try to protect you. It’s our family too; it’s our friends too, and it’s our neighbors.”
It was evident that Vealencis was remarkably passionate about his career, which I believe to be a great model to follow.
Careers in public service can range from federal, state and local government agencies, as well as public and private organizations, and can bring great benefits. Vealencis told me that aside from excellent health benefits, public service allows people to be able to do great things, and it provides a sense of stability. He suggested that students interested in a similar career path develop skill sets in which they are humble, a good communicator in written and spoken word, and that they are able to drive consensus within a free and open conversation.
However, he said students also need to have patience in a public service job.
“The wheels of government do not turn quickly,” explained Vealencis. “We would rather do it right than do it quick, and those are naturally at odds with each other.”
Whether you desire to work in public service or not, Vealencis shows how taking risks for what you’re interested in can get you further in the long run. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t know what you want to be when you graduate. According to Vealencis’ story, you can be anything you set your mind to.
Vealencis encourages students to apply to any positions they are interested in even if it is not a first choice. Eventually, you will migrate to a career in public service you enjoy or to the job you’ve dreamed of.
“Don’t give up. Keep trying and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” he said.
Watch the video below for more from the Vealencis interview.
“KEEP YOUR EYES WIDE OPEN. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO PRESENT ITSELF FOR YOU.” – COMMANDER BROOK DEWALT
by Lyndsey Sager
In one of many helpful professional development sessions during the PRSSA National Conference in Philadelphia late last month, I had the opportunity to hear from Commander Brook DeWalt, a Navy public affairs officer with experience as the director of public affairs for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, along with many other positions.
DeWalt’s presentation was about public affairs and, more specifically, public communications, as he likes to call it. He believes public communications is an “all-encompassing” term for the broad field he works in.
When DeWalt first started college, he was a music major who thought he’d be a concert tubaist. Eventually, he switched his major to journalism, and after working in promotions for a movie theater, DeWalt joined the Navy reserves. As a reservist for public affairs, DeWalt worked on basic press releases and edited the “U.S. Navy” magazine. Eventually, he decided to make Navy public affairs his full-time career.
From there, DeWalt has had multiple opportunities to change career paths. At one point, he was a public affairs officer at sea in Japan. Later, he became the director of public affairs for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, the most highly-criticized military facility on the face of the planet.
What does it take to experience a successful career in public affairs?Below, DeWalt provides seven tips for students interested in public affairs, as well as public relations in general:
Also, Kent State has a great resource for learning even more about the field of public affairs. School of Journalism and Mass Communication lecturer Stephanie Smith served around 30 years with the United States government (25 of which with the CIA). To learn more about Smith’s experience, check back Nov. 15 to read her guest post.
If you attended our first meeting last week but aren’t quite convinced about joining the Kent Chapter of PRSSA, read these top 10 reasons to join the Public Relations Student Society of America.
10. You can make new friends.
By attending our Chapter meetings, you’re able to talk to and get to know other PRSSA members and officers. It’s a great place to meet driven, like-minded people!
9. You can take part in a national PR competition.
PRSSA Kent participates in theBateman Case Study Competition each year. Two teams of five dedicated PRSSA students compete against schools across the nation to create and implement a public relations campaign. All team members must be PRSSA members and invited by PR faculty to participate. Last year, the PRSSA Kent Bateman Blue Team placed second in the nation!
8. You can attend a national conference.
Meet members from Chapters across the country by attending the PRSSA National Conference. The conference is held in a different location every year. This year, students will travel to Philadelphia, PA, to network with professionals, attend informational sessions and more.
7. You’re eligible for more than $20,000 in scholarships and awards.
PRSSA itself offers $20,000 in scholarships. Other organizations also offer awards to students who participate in PRSSA.
6. You can be a leader.
Whether you’re a sophomore or a senior, everyone is welcome to apply for aleadership position during Spring semester. PRSSA officers learn to sharpen their leadership skills and put them to use throughout their term of office.
5. You can take what you learn in class and put it to work.
Join PRSSA committees to hone event planning and fundraising skills. Our chapter works with Kent State’s Ad Club to plan and execute a networking event called Communications Connection. You can also help plan the annual YouToo Social Media Conference and work with Akron PRSA professionals. Some of these committees are formed with the sole purpose of raising money for our Chapter to fund trips to PRSSA National Conference or for worldwide charities to fund cancer research.
4. You can boost your resume.
Some employers are specifically looking to hire PRSSA alumni. Show your involvement, experience and leadership skills by putting PRSSA activities on your resume.
3. You can receive mentorship from officers and advisers.
PRSSA Kent’s officers are dedicated to making your membership experience worthwhile. If you have questions about the organization, PR courses, internships and more, the PRSSA officers are ready and willing to answer them.
2. You can network with students interested in similar fields.
Your public relations classmates today will be professionals in the workforce in a few years. The connections you make with your peers in PRSSA could help you land your dream job in the future.
1. You can network with professionals.
PRSSA Kent not only invites professionals to our Chapter meetings to speak about their experiences in public relations, we also attend events hosted by our parent organization, the Public Relations Society of America, or PRSA. These events are designed specifically for PRSSA members and are held both in-person and online via Twitter. Additionally, we invite around 20 professionals to network specifically with Kent students in November at Communications Connection. The professionals you meet through PRSSA may be your key to a job after graduation.
For more information about membership, visit the PRSSA Kent website.