Keeler kicks off Communication alumni lunches
Surrounded by 11 communications students of varying concentrations, Jacob Keeler talked about his years as a student at Elizabethtown College and how they prepared him for the career he would eventually pursue. Keeler, who graduated in 2009, has taken on many roles since his time at the College and spent his Wednesday, Sept. 2, lunch break talking about them. Keeler is one of 10 E-town alumni who, this semester, will return to campus in a pilot program designed to share career experiences with current students in the hopes of helping them navigate the post-graduation world.
Keeler hopes the luncheon gave students the opportunity to ask questions regarding the degree they are pursuing and how to put it to use. He said he would have appreciated this opportunity when he was at E-town, knowing that talking to someone in a similar situation was encouraging and advantageous. In addition to the benefits for the communications students, Keeler recognized what it meant for him to return to E-town.
“It was fun to get back to campus and see how well the Communications Department is doing and the type of students it has,” Keeler said.
Though the alum had planned to discuss certain points, he said he was pleased by the questions the students asked and the conversation they sparked. Some of the main messages he hoped to impart included going outside one’s comfort zone and creating opportunities. He stressed the importance of trying a variety of activities while in college to learn about skills and interests.
After graduating with a degree in communications and a minor in psychology, Keeler spent three years working as an admissions counselor and associate director of Alumni Relations at E-town. Though working for the College was not his original plan, he recognized that his skill sets and connections made it a natural transition.
“I thought it was really interesting to see what he did in his day to day job and how he proceeded from graduate,” sophomore communications major Andrew Smith said.
In 2012, he began his current position, working for Nxtbook Media in Lancaster. He started as a project director for the company, but has since been promoted to director of agency services. He described his job as the head of the marketing team, for which he manages his staff and pitches new clients.
“He made me realize that I won’t go right into my dream job but, if I work hard enough, I’ll get the job I love,” senior communications major Cory Caudell said.
Gillis called these initial lunches a pilot of the program and hopes to see it continue. For the first year, Gillis invited alumni based on a two criteria: proximity and variety. It was important to the professor that the department offered lunch discussions with professionals in all areas of communications, from reporters to press secretaries. She said if the program is well-received, she intends to reach out to alumni from farther away and those in more diverse professions.
“In communications we do serve… our employer, our public. We are serving our students by providing them with the opportunity,” Dr. Tamara Gillis, Communications department chair, said.
Some of the goals for the program include providing networking opportunities and realistic views of their futures. Capped at 18 students, these luncheons were intentionally kept small so students had the opportunity to take part in open discussions. Knowing that academic schedules include little free time, Gillis decided that lunches would be the best option.
“Students are so booked,” Gillis said. “But we know one thing you have to do is eat lunch.”
According to Gillis, the response from students is seemingly positive. Students who attended expressed a desire to attend multiple discussions, in hopes of connecting with alumni and learning about possible careers.
Keeler wanted to be able to open doors for the students and hoped that his story was helpful. During his lunch discussion he stressed several ideas but said the most important advice he can give is do not be afraid to fail, because it is often the crux of success.
“A lot of times you can rule things out by just being scared to take it on,” Keeler said. “Progress and advancement come from not letting that weigh you down, having faith that it will work out and you will know how to do it when it comes.”