Do everything you'd like to do, but don't if you're not going to do it well.
Active learning opportunities, from internships to community service commitments, have been central to Christiana "Chana" Elgin's education. The journalism senior completed two congressional internships as well as interned with several local and national media outlets. This semester she is based in Washington, DC, for her internship with CBS's 60 Minutes news program. Her participation in campus organizations is likewise impressive; Elgin has devoted time to more the 10 campus groups, including the Dean's Student Council. Giving back to her community, Elgin has volunteered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Texas Children's Hospital, University Medical Center, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, and The Bridge of Lubbock.
Learn more about Student of Integrated Scholarship Christiana "Chana" Elgin in this question-and-answer session.
What got you interested in your major?
I am a senior broadcast journalism major from Houston, initially interested in media through an interest in politics. After realizing politics is a lot of work and manipulation—something I'm interested in but perhaps not cut out for—I concluded that media professionals were the ones truly molding society. Not that I have intentions of using the media as a discourse to dispel my opinion, but media professionals are the ones with information to give, allowing people to decide for themselves. They are a powerful group with an unbelievable position in society; it has been an interesting four years of study, and I am looking forward to continuing my understanding and participation with the media. Of course, I've pursued several routes of education, and I believe when all's said and done, I'll have two majors in journalism and political science, along with a minor in Spanish. My interests are formed as they come—any opportunity I have in front of me, I'll typically pursue it.
What courses are you taking this semester? Have you ever been involved in service learning?
This semester I am completing an internship with CBS' 60 Minutes Washington, DC, office. The other two classes I am involved in are independent-study courses specifically tailored to my interests. I am floored Texas Tech afforded me the opportunity to create such courses, one dealing with understanding social media and how it parallels the news in real time as it airs, the other with investigating news outlet biases pertaining to politics. Television is such a fascinating medium to me, news even more so; people are united and severely divided by it all the same. (Not to sound so scripted—writing does that to my voice. Sheesh!)
What is the most challenging course you've taken? How has it affected you?
SPANISH GRAMMAR—oh my gosh, it was a horrific experience. Even my intermediate grammar high school counterpart to this course was terrible. The professor was excellent, the learning environment was incredible, I was just overwhelmed by the challenge of learning information completely unfamiliar to me. I have a hard time in courses where pure memorization is the bulk of the course; typically, I do well with learning definitions quickly by site memorization, but if I could think of any explanation as to why I struggled with that class, I guess that would be it. Geology was a close second: That class did not rock. I did not miss one class; I took avid and thorough notes; and I asked questions and sat in the front. Yet even after reading the 1,800-page textbook cover to cover again before the final, I still only made a B. It's always exciting to take classes you know could take you for a ride, and a B isn't the end of the world, but I'm rarely satisfied with average anything.
Have you completed any internships? What other work experience have you had that is applicable to your field of study?
Internship is my middle name. My first internship was with Congressman Pete Olson of my hometown district, TX-22 in Houston. My second was for the fall semester following that summer commitment with the Texas Tech Congressional Internship Program in Congresswoman Kay Granger's office. Both taught me the valuable lesson of patience and how to work a very fancy Xerox machine. Not to mention, my phone-answering skills are unsurpassable, thanks to that nine-month stint on the Hill. Living in Washington gave me the DC bug. It is such a unique and vibrant place where you can truly be yourself. (Think a more creative/colorful New York. Not everyone is as intense as all that jet-black hair and Jersey Shore regalia.) During summer 2011, I completed two internships with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and 1340 The Fan, a sports radio program. Both of these internships were incredible opportunities for real hands-on experience. The people in Lubbock willing to give students a chance deserve all the credit in the world. Yes, I was tired working two jobs during the summer, but it was well worth it. I truly believe that thanks to those internships on my resume, I landed my current gig with 60 Minutes. A week before school started, I received a call from Rebecca Peterson, a producer for 60 Minutes, found a place to stay and four roommates on Craigslist—all within the span of three hours. I haven't been made into a Lifetime movie yet through my participation with Craigslist, so I'd say it's going well! Perhaps that joke is crass, but I think it's more a testament to how humans are connected across the nation and world today, using Facebook and Craiglist to find places to live, I mean. We were all here before; we're just all really well connected now. 60 Minutes keeps me very busy, but I am absolutely in love with the experience I am getting and the assignments they have me completing. Plus, I'm back in Washington, so I couldn't be happier. This summer I am interested in pursuing an internship either with the US Treasury or with The Human Rights Campaign, an organization dedicated to affording gay, lesbian, and transgender civil rights, which I feel is a very deserving cause. I'm not so much concerned with gaining tailored experience in my field of study but opportunities that come my way, truly. Whatever they are, if they seem even the slightest bit legitimate, I'm interested. To me, that's how you broaden your horizons and learn the most about your world. Plus, networking isn't bad!
What service projects (volunteering, community service, etc.) have you been involved in?
I first became involved with Make-A-Wish through my sorority, Chi Omega. It is an incredible organization that does indescribable things. Through all of the service I have done during my life, especially in college, it has been my personal favorite to be involved with. I am 100% hands-on in making the child's wish come true. I get to work with families I would otherwise never know, and I am humbled beyond words each time I am given the chance to participate. I enjoyed my involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters in college, as well; mentorship programs such as that and working with The Bridge of Lubbock have been eye-opening, to say the least. Often the families I have worked with in all three of those organizations have been largely underprivileged, and I am grateful for the chance to know them and, more so, for my ability to make a difference in their lives. Take a look at my resume; I volunteer almost as much as I take internships—any which way they come, I'm there. Be it serving turkeys on Thanksgiving or volunteering at UMC with the nurses, I love to help, and I am so glad I am able to.
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.
Honestly, just go for it. Going back to accepting this internship, my dad did a great job of putting things in perspective for me: I am young; graduation can wait; life is too short; and you have to just go for it. It seems foolish to say aloud, and I am not a person to spontaneously uproot my life and my working goals, but being tired is temporary. Being overworked is temporary. Perhaps it's unfair for me to explain because it is in my nature to work tirelessly, but balancing service and school is not a chore; specifically pertaining to the question, to be like me is simple. Do everything you'd like to do, but don't if you're not going to do it well. Perhaps I have wildly mistaken confusion for ambition, but either through a means of one or blend of the two, I have found a happy medium, and I feel as though it's truly paid off. What's even more exciting is that it's all just beginning!
What are your plans after graduation?
Law school. Yes, my ultimate goal is to act out Legally Blonde in real life, but why wouldn't you want to? She was ambitious, articulate, and just because her priorities were initially about eliminating split ends doesn't mean she's any less of a person! Law is interesting to me for a number of reasons. I'm not ready to graduate or be done with school. If I keep receiving my allowance (yup, I get one), I might never be, but there are some real benefits of having a law degree. With that certification, I would have a greater sense of the First Amendment and a greater grasp of what it means to be a journalist. I could use a law degree to advocate for those less fortunate in a real way. I can help mentor and listen all day long, but it might feel great to have the qualifications to truly make a difference. More than that, I am interested in the law. I can feel myself typing this and sounding self-righteous, but truthfully, we should all have that interest. It dictates who we are and what we can do. To me, it just seems like a no-brainer to make it an understood priority. Plus, "Chana Elgin, JD" doesn't read bad, either. Beyond that, stay tuned. I have several ideas, but based on how things have been going, I'd hate to make such plans and miss what could come my way. Again, it's either confusion or ambition—I'll let you know if I ever figure out which.
What experiences do you value most as a student at Texas Tech?
Classes I have taken from Pete Brewton and Dr. Mark McKenzie have been the most valuable experiences I have had at Tech. The two of them are full of knowledge and are both exceptional professors that truly know what it means for a student to learn; they are a great example of what being a proactive student will get you—sitting in the front of the room, being the obnoxious student who asks and answers all the questions really will get you far. For example, Pete never allows us to have him do things for us. One assignment we had in reporting required us to write a news story on a police report; with seemingly little instruction from him, a majority of the class complained, but rather than succumbing to what we were sure was a defeat, I challenged myself to do well on the assignment. My particular police report was about a dead body in the area, a man who was found frozen to death. Thanks to my frustration with Brewton, I took it upon myself to simply show up to the house where the police report was filed. I was able to write a very interesting story and in turn made the highest grade in the class. Well, all of that and Raidergate—that's always a pretty good time.