An update from Gabrielle, a junior majoring in public relations and strategic communication and fashion media:
Feb. 29, 2016
The Monday routine, a set ritual for every college student: wake up, realize that you need another day to your weekend, sit in bed while commiserating with your roommate, and finally mustering the will to get out of bed (if only for the promise of Starbucks). But this was no regular Monday; a statistical outlier, happening on a leap day.
Today the normally pestering sound of my iPhone went off at 6:30 a.m. and I was up and checking emails, texts, and the GROUPME without hesitation. Why? Because CNN was set to film a segment at SMU about Hispanic voter reactions to the Republican primary, an important subject to discuss, given the current rhetoric of the candidates.
We were set to meet at 10:30 a.m., but to merely be “just prepared” was not enough. I mean, this is only international television, no pressure at all!
Now, how did any of this come together? Dr. Rita Kirk, my Women in Politics Seminar professor is also a CNN consultant. Dr. Kirk, the political communication mastermind that she is, was able to take select students and transform them into CNN research assistants. I was selected, along with another one of my classmates, and off we went to step up to the plate, work like we never had before and do anything Dr. Kirk instructed us to do.
Meeting time came fast, and from then on the only constant was go, go, go. We immediately left Dr. Kirk’s office to meet with Elise Miller, a producer for Anderson Cooper 360. Then off we went to the journalism studio in Umphrey Lee. From there, we juggled assisting in setting up the studio and keeping current on arrivals, and calls, if necessary.
Down time was nonexistent. The data needed to be up to the minute and 100-percent accurate. One minor change could make the dynamic of the focus group completely different, so the spreadsheets must be current and checked every minute. The margin of error had to always be at zero. My classmate and I quickly developed a way to be in sync with one another, which made the whole process run smoothly and aided in anything that was thrown our way, because from minute-to-minute, the needs, requests and directions were changing.
In this environment, you see right away that when Dr. Kirk says to move, you are already in motion while asking which direction. Time is not to be wasted. You quickly learn how to multitask, balancing your responsibilities along with anything Dr. Kirk says.
Working under Dr. Kirk, it all seems so smooth and effortless. She has her game face on and is ready to go. She possesses a confidence that one can only hope to achieve in their lives. Dr. Kirk is the guiding force behind all of this and if there was time, you would want to stand back and just observe.
One by one the focus group arrived. As they were checked in and introduced, it was amazing to see the faces put with the voices you had been in contact with over the past few days. It was all coming together. We ended up with a focus group of 12 Republican Hispanic voters, which ended up being a perfect number. As we sat the voters in their respective places, I was in charge of making a seating chart for Randi Kaye with their names and the candidate they were supporting. As someone with distinctively loopy, sometimes hard to read, handwriting, I was ever so slightly worried Randi Kaye would not be able to read it. The absolute last thing I wanted to be responsible for was messing Randi Kaye up.
The show begins and Randi Kaye takes control of the stage. Pictures were to be taken, notes to be recorded then transcribed later (shorthand is your best friend), key reactions noted and the show to be observed, as a piece of international television is being recorded in front of your very eyes.
Then the hustle and bustle of the morning’s events unfortunately had to come to a close, around 1:30 in the afternoon. There were people to talk to post show, a studio to be cleaned up, chairs to be put back, and any follow-up to be taken care of.
The feelings of excitement, accomplishment, and satisfaction thankfully did not wear off. Some of it is in a blur, only documented by pictures or hurried notes. But it was incredible! The adrenaline from everything going on stops all need for rest, hunger, or anything else you could think of. The fast-paced, constantly in motion, ever changing, and high-pressure environment is where I thrive. I had never felt more comfortable and confident in a job than in that moment. Although, I will admit, finally sitting down did feel amazing.
As I get in bed that Monday night, exhausted, I find that I cannot sleep. The exhilaration of the day still pulses through my body as I realize I have truly found my calling. I know tomorrow reality will sink in. I will be another student in yoga pants rushing to get to class because I stayed in bed just a bit too long and still had to stop for that extra-shot latte. But for tonight, I savor everything that happened. Every moment soaked in permanently, noted forever in my mind as the starting point of the amazing career path I wish to seek. A path that all started with Dr. Kirk.
Then as I finally drift off to sleep at an hour where only nocturnal creatures stir, I am already prepared to tackle the next group that CNN and Dr. Kirk offer.