Get a planner! I'm not kidding when I say this. In order to balance academics, internships, jobs, research, and additional activities, it is essential to have a way to keep everything balanced.
Chinwe Obi is captivated by the power of words and relationship building. As a double major in public relations and technical communication, Obi has been able to apply her knowledge in the classroom, research, internships, work, and service projects. Among her most rewarding experiences was an internship with the nonprofit Lubbock Arts Alliance, during which she raised funds and recruited volunteers for the group’s four-day arts festival. Obi’s interest in media messages led her to work on research projects with public relations Professor Autumn Shafer. Additionally, Obi has been involved in a number of extracurricular activities, some of her most visible roles being with President’s Select, which allows her to interact with prospective students, and the College of Media and Communication Dean’s Council, which enables her to advocate on behalf of her fellow students in the college. Looking to advance her education, Obi will enroll in a master’s program for technical communication and then she plans to pursue a Ph.D. She intends to develop a career in grant writing for nonprofit organizations and to share her experience with others in higher education.
Learn more about Student of Integrated Scholarship Chinwe Obi in this question-and-answer session.
What got you interested in your major?
I am a senior public relations and technical communication double major with a minor in mass communication. I have always had a fascination with the power behind words and the use of persuasion in media messages. My fickle mind and desire to excel in multiple avenues led to my varying interest in public relations and technical communication. After winning a marketing campaign competition for the National Association of Black Accountants, I initially wanted to pursue advertising, but found it more challenging and interesting how public relations uses the process of building mutually beneficial relationships to promote an organization's values and goals. Through a chance interview with Dr. Coy Callison, I was introduced to the world of technical communication, and I immediately knew that I wanted to combine these two avenues into one dream career path. The precision of technical writing and relationship building of public relations will be a vital asset for when I become a grant writer for nonprofit organizations.
What courses are you taking this semester?
I am taking Professional Issues in Technical Communication; Individual Study in Public Relations, where I will be conducting research with Dr. Shafer; Event Management in Public Relations; and Public Relations for Non-Profits. The public relations campaigns course I took last semester greatly focused on service learning. The client for the class was the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts (LHUCA). Their main goal was to foster the arts in the Lubbock community. As account manager, I led my team to creating the winning campaign for LHUCA. I am also continuing my internship with X-Fab, a foundry group for analog/mixed-signal semiconductor applications.
What is the most challenging course you've taken? How has it affected you?
The public relations capstone course, Public Relations Campaigns, was certainly the most challenging class I've taken. The work demand was unlike anything I had experienced before. Campaigns challenged me academically at all times, logistically as team leader, and interpersonally when figuring out how best to maximize the strengths of my teammates. My team (Lone Star PR) spent over 700 hours this past semester creating the "Cultivating Culture and Growing the Arts" campaign for LHUCA. The hard work and collective goal to create the best campaign for the client, as opposed to being driven by a grade, propelled our campaign to the forefront. Prior to enrolling in the course, I heard horror stories from past students and was quite nervous about taking the class, but with graduation a semester away, it was inevitable that I would need to take the course at some point. I was questioning if I truly wanted to pursue a career in public relations, but after sleepless nights, printing nightmares, and many cups of coffee due to Campaigns, I found a new love for the profession. By nature I'm a quiet person, but as account manager I was forced to come out of my shell and lead four individuals and myself to success. I learned that I have great ideas that need to be shared, and most importantly, no matter which profession I choose, I want to work with nonprofit organizations.
Have you completed internships or had other work experience applicable to your field of study?
I have been fortunate to have two internships and a job that directly applies to one of my degrees. When applying for internships I knew that I wanted to find ones that covered my desires to work for a nonprofit organization and one to produce technical documents. My first internship was with the Lubbock Arts Alliance, a nonprofit that supports local artists and organizations through service and programming. Working at the Lubbock Arts Alliance was a new and exciting experience, especially during the weekend of the arts festival. My main duties included maintaining donor relations, gathering donations for the arts festival, and recruiting volunteers to staff the four-day event. Asking for donations is one of the hardest things a person could ever do. No's weren't as frequent as the lack of response from some companies. Letters, phone calls, and personal visits couldn't get some companies to donate a penny. All my work prior to mid-April was in preparation for the arts festival. During the four-day festival, I spent more time coordinating volunteers and hospitality than I did on anything that had to do with school. Despite the stress and lack of sleep, the weekend was a success. My second internship at X-Fab was geared toward my technical communication degree. I created a system to transform paper manuals to searchable documents. This internship taught me how to be precise with my proofreading and editing methods. One small error could cause the malfunction of a 303 Moisture Monitor or incorrect calibration of a Beckman Trace Analyzer. Finally I was the science/technical writer for the engineering department for three months, before I had to give it up because of the demand of Campaigns. I was given the opportunity to interview professors and undergraduate student researchers and create feature stories about their research. These experiences, although quite diverse, are helping me decide what career path I want pursue. I've developed several skills and had great experiences that I wouldn't trade for anything.
What service projects (volunteering, community service, etc.) have you been involved in?
Aside from serving Texas Tech, it is essential for me to give back to the Lubbock community. Each Thursday for three hours I mentor East Lubbock students who participate in the Bridge of Lubbock Program. I assist them with understanding homework assignments, answer college questions, and provide a role model for them to look up to. On selected Fridays of the month, I also mentor students at Dunbar Junior High through the Mentor Tech Service Organization. Due to my schedule this semester, I was forced to leave my students and find another method for giving back to the community.
Have you participated in research?
I have been fortunate enough to partake in undergraduate research. I worked with Dr. Autumn Shafer in the College of Media and Communication. The basic premise of the research was centered on the hit MTV series "16 and Pregnant." (I know, pretty awesome.) Approximately one half of the 6.4 million pregnancies in 2001 were unplanned. These numbers don't seem to account for the statistical data, which reports nearly 70 percent of younger teens (ages 12-14) said that high school-age teens should not engage in sexual activities. The media has been a large factor in what many people refer to as the "glamorization of teen pregnancy." MTV's show "16 and Pregnant" gives accounts of what "real pregnancy is like." We examined specific characteristics that helped determine the correlation between different characters and how they influenced teens. With assistance from "16 and Pregnant," we evaluated four episodes and determined where variation in factors such as character emotions, maturity level, and parenting capacity play a role in an audience's perception of a character. Through defined characteristics present in the codebook, it enabled for a more unified set of results and ease of coding on the code form. These results showed that specific characters had the ability to deter teens from the idea having a child or, in turn, glamorize the process. Due to how much I learned and how much fun I had with Dr. Shafer, I decided enroll in independent study so I can work with her on another research project.
What advice would you give to other students who would like to be a Student of Integrated Scholarship? Students of Integrated Scholarship balance academics with additional activities, such as research, internships, service learning, and study abroad.
Get a planner! I'm not kidding when I say this. In order to balance academics, internships, jobs, research, and additional activities, it is essential to have a way to keep everything balanced. I've found myself in many instances where I've been too overwhelmed and stressed with all my activities. Without my trusty planner there is no way I would have been as successful as I am in college. Also, students need to use all the resources around them, whether it is professors, mentors, or other students. No student should ever be too proud to ask for help and should always be open to all forms of advice. The most important advice is to get involved. Solely focusing on grades makes a good college student, but participation in extracurricular activates, internships, and research makes you a spectacular and well-rounded college student. I don't know about other students, but I'd rather be spectacular than good.
What are your plans after graduation?
After completing my undergraduate degrees, I will attend graduate school for technical communication. Once I acquire my master's, it's on to earning a PhD. I will pursue a career as a professional grant writer. I want to concentrate on nonprofit organizations, especially those looking to provide help to abused children, women, and veterans. I know this decision isn't going to bring me the big dollars my parents would hope for, but as long as I can bring happiness to others, I'm perfectly fine with having the bare minimum. After I've served the public for several years, I want to share my knowledge by teaching higher education. I have big goals, but my mother always tells me to dream big or not at all. My dreams are slowly becoming a reality and I am excited for what the future holds.
What experiences do you value most as a student at Texas Tech?
The extracurricular activities I've been able to participate in are experiences I value most at Texas Tech. Through President's Select, Chancellor's Ambassadors, the Lauro Cavazos and Ophelia Powell-Malone Mentoring Program (Mentor Tech), and the College of Media and Communication Dean's Council, I make the greatest contributions to Texas Tech. As a member of President's Select, I serve as an official ambassador for the university. My duties include providing accurate information to prospective students by conducting campus tours, interacting with current and potential donors at various events, and recruiting prospective athletes to our programs. I receive the most satisfaction when a prospective student comes up to me after a tour and thanks me for providing them with a newfound knowledge of student life, tradition, and everything else that makes Texas Tech a wonderful academic institution. As a Chancellor's Ambassador, I am given the opportunity to spend more time interacting with donors. This serves as my chance to express to them my reasons for choosing Texas Tech and why I push for everyone to attend our university. Unlike President's Select and Chancellor's Ambassadors, where I interact with prospective students and donors, through the Mentor Tech program I am able to interact with current Texas Tech students. I serve as one of several leaders of the Protégé Advisory Committee (PAC). As a PAC leader, I help my protégés find all the necessary resources they need in order to succeed academically and socially at Texas Tech. Finally, through Dean's Council, I am able to make positive changes for the students in the College of Media and Communication, which includes providing alternative ways to receive foreign language credit. When I'm not giving back to Tech, I love participating in intramural sports. I've been fortunate enough to win five championships through flag football and volleyball.