A second home (with a lot more purple)

I’m leaving Louisiana State University in less than two weeks.

I remember the first time campus came into view. I rode with a friend from high school and saw Alex Box Stadium as we neared Nicholson. I had to do a double take because the college baseball stadiums I had seen prior to this one paled in comparison. Then I saw the cathedral of college football, Death Valley.

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I wasn’t a Tiger fan prior to deciding to attend LSU. In fact, I was far from it. I knew nothing about the University or Baton Rouge. I had no idea what the Chinese Bandits or Golden Girls were. Tigerland sounded like a theme park. I remember asking, “There’s a real tiger on campus?” to my tour guide during Spring Invitational.

As I walked across campus and noticed the beauty — and the character — of the place that would soon be my home away from home, I felt something that will never fade. I felt proud. I wasn’t even a student yet, and I felt invested in the success of this place. Noon came as we walked around campus with those purple drawstring bags, and I heard the Alma Mater for the first time. As cheesy as it sounds, that’s when I felt like I was home.

STRIPES acclimated me to the world of being a true Tiger. Saturdays in Death Valley taught me how to be part of a movement; I’ve laughed, cried, cussed, and celebrated in those stands. I witnessed the LSU Miracle Over Tennessee. I watched us beat Bama. I was a student when our team was arguably the best it’s ever been with a 13-0 record. I was there.

I was a student when the (almost) flag burning occurred, when we made the Anderson Cooper RidicuList for incidents I don’t want to bring up again, and when students (recently) decided studying without clothing was more conducive to memorization efforts. I was also here when the Finals Week videos gained serious notoriety and Alabama students reported the Championship Bounce as “inappropriate” on YouTube.

I have taken too many tests in the basement of Himes Hall to count. I have listened to countless lectures in Hodges, Coates and Allen Hall among several others. I’ll always have nightmares about falling up the stairs of Cox Auditorium on the first day of classes.

I have had the opportunity to join several student organizations to find my confidence and stake my claim in the flagship university of Louisiana. There have been moments when I felt so overwhelmed, I wanted to call it quits. What I’ve noticed more than anything is that the people I’ve met have been the motivating factor in my decision to stay for four years. Some I’ve fallen out of touch with, but each person impacted me and ultimately encouraged me to start and finish as a Tiger.

I have worked for incredible employers who have taught me more than I could ever put into words. They have also taken me in as their own. Thanks for that Aimee Frierson, Josh Garland, Jay Ducote, Kristen Morrison, Matt Dardenne and Joe Martin.

I’ve seen #LSU18 trending lately — I was also at LSU when Twitter wasn’t a popular social media platform…does that make me old?

Thanks JCW Productions for this gem.

Thanks JCW Productions for this gem.

Here’s my advice to #LSU18, #LSU17, #LSU16 and even #LSU15: Make it count. You won’t be here forever. And go visit Mike more; he seems to love the company.

Bleed purple and gold because you can and Love Purple, Live Gold because you should.

Geaux Tigers and Forever LSU.

 

Phone calls and campaign books

This weekend has been one I’ll never forget. But let me provide some history first.

Two months ago, I had no idea where I would be starting May 17, the day following my graduation from the Manship School of Mass Communication. I weighed my options for full-time positions in Baton Rouge and on the Gulf Coast.

In the midst of job searching and networking events, I was trying not to become overwhelmed with the Bateman Competition. January through March now seem like an absolute whirlwind to me, and thinking about what our team of five women was able to accomplish at a university comprised of almost 30,000 makes me exhausted.

Delirium at its finest.

Delirium at its finest.

The news was officially released on Friday, March 21, that I am the inaugural Ruth Edelman/PRSSA National Award winner. Humbled is an understatement. This woman inspired anyone she came into contact with. She uplifted those around her, and she made them feel as though they were each critical to the vision of the company.

I applied on a whim. I read through the application once or twice in early December 2013. I counted myself out (almost entirely). There’s something odd and self-reflective about filling out applications. A fine line exists between boasting and identifying your talents within a maximum word count. I discredited my capabilities after a few first glances. Then, after a moment of clarity on a long run, I decided to just apply. The worst Edelman PR could say was no.

On Saturday, January 25, I began compiling a portfolio along with my application materials. I became disheartened again; I needed some reassurance. Jensen, my adviser for PRSSA at LSU and the Bateman Team, was quick to respond to my text asking for advice. After a phone call, I knew it wasn’t far-fetched for me to apply…or win.

I asked Jensen and a former women’s history professor for letters of recommendation. Both had letters ready to be picked up by Monday, January 27. The application was due to PRSSA National headquarters in New York by Friday, January 31.

On my way to the gym, I decided to send my completed application. The rest of the week was looking stacked, and I was concerned about the limited time frame. As I walked into UPS, the cashier asked if I was sending a package. My application was the last item picked up by the truck that evening — with five minutes to spare before closing time.

The winter months in Baton Rouge have been pretty dreary this year. On Tuesday, January 28, most roads were closed due to safety hazards. My application would not have made it to New York by Friday had I not dropped it off the night before.

I’m humbled to represent such an amazing woman and company. It kind of seems like fate, after all.

Aside from finding out where the next chapter of my life will be location-wise (Chicago), the 2014 LSU Bateman Team sent our campaign book to print yesterday. Ninety pages stacked with information about our campaign and its results — which are impressive, I might add — will be on its way to PRSSA National in New York this week. We have spent hours researching, planning, executing and evaluating throughout the last five months. There have been moments where I have felt totally inadequate, but I find those are the optimal opportunities for personal growth.

I’m exhausted, but I’m grateful.

Oh, and I’m happy.

From a senior perspective

Take it all in. 

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 9.07.38 PMThree months. Three months until I walk across the stage with several of my peers and shake the hands of the deans as I receive my diploma. Four long years of hard work, frustration (at times) and singing “Callin’ Baton Rouge” are about to end in one swift walk.

There are going to be amazing days when you feel as though all of your efforts are being noticed by those around you. The organization you stay up at night for to complete the work no one else was willing to do will recognize you as the “Unsung Hero.” The paper or presentation or midterm you prepared for well in advance will be subtly applauded by your professor because he/she knows the lightbulb finally lit.

Then there will be the days when no one notices the extra hours you sacrificed or the anxiety you endured while waiting for an exam to be administered. But it’s part of the big picture, so take it all in.

I have cheered in Death Valley until I’ve cried. I have witnessed proud traditions that other institutions couldn’t fathom. I have been asked to challenge myself in the classroom, through leadership positions, during internships and jobs. This University has given me more opportunities than I ever expected.

My advice to a freshman, sophomore or junior is to, yet again, take it all in. Work hard even when no one is watching. Challenge yourself more than the person sitting next to you. Accept opportunities that come your way, but don’t allow yourself to become nominal. Know that accolades do not accompany each pursuit, and be humble when they do.

Learn from your professors and learn from your mistakes. Ask questions because you’re inquisitive, and don’t allow the majority to silence your point of view. Question what you’ve always known to be true. Add to the marketplace of ideas. Stray away from your comfort levels.

More than anything, know that you didn’t achieve success alone. And realize that most seniors would love to be in your position again, if only for a day.