Special to the Citizen
A graduate of Platte County High School, Taryn Firkins had an eventful first year at Oklahoma State. She shared a tiny dorm room with three other girls. She had a year full of general education classes and had to risk her windshield getting hit by a baseball each time she parked her car near Allie P Reynolds Stadium in Stillwater, Okla.
The freshman needed to find something she really enjoyed. A nutritional sciences major wasn’t it.
During her second semester in Stillwater, Firkins took introduction to strategic communications and found the concepts taught intriguing. Her professor worked as a research affiliate for a Strategic Multi-Layered Assessment (SMA) group.
“Honestly, I hated biology more than anything, and I knew I was better at writing than science,” Firkins said.
In her class, they learned about public relations, working with the media and exploring several areas related to communications. She changed her major to strategic communications, a major that covers marketing, advertising and public relations like an umbrella, according to Firkin’s professor, Dr. Skye Cooley, allowing a student to thrive in many environments rather than just one or the other
“That integration is increasingly important as digital communication expands its way into more and more facets of our lives, both personal and professional,” Cooley said.
In Cooley’s class, she requires students to apply for internships as part of an assignment.
“The internship gives you a bit of a safety net to play in before you commit the early part of your career to doing something you might not like,” Cooley said. “The most important thing for students in the internship process is to ask themselves, ‘What am I getting out of this?’ Especially if it is unpaid, are you getting a skill that you are not getting in the classroom? Are you getting network opportunities? Are you getting professional training opportunities?”
Firkins applied around Kansas City, and while she applied for a paid internship at KCI Airport, she was ineligible due to her address being Platte City rather than Kansas City. Her resume was then passed to Alicia Stephens, the executive director of the Platte County Economic Development Council. The EDC’s mission is to help the economic environment of the county continuously grow by contributing to providing jobs and occupation of building space.
“We were really happy that Firkins was a Platte County R-3 graduate,” Stephens said. “We are the Platte County Economic Development Council, so we work really hard to interact with Platte County students.”
Stephens said Firkins did a little bit of everything during her eight weeks at the EDC. From taking minutes at meetings to research and summarizing for the sites and buildings database on the EDC website, Firkins found ways to simplify complex information into common language for the EDC’s newsletter. She also worked on publishing news pieces to the website and learned the importance of scheduling a tweet for maximum interaction.
“It’s been awesome because I knew that companies tweet, but I didn’t know it was that in depth,” Firkins said. “They know when people are going to see their tweets, so that’s when they schedule it versus just tweeting it whenever they think of it.”
With her internship done, Firkins appreciated her time at the EDC and believed it was a good way of dipping her toe in the water of many possibilities that strategic communications could offer.
“I don’t really know exactly what I want to do yet,” Firkins said. “I love the internship, and it’s been great learning everything. It’s a good place to start, and now I can just grow.”
Stephens hopes Firkins learned the importance of research, free thinking, professionalism and, most of all, communication.
“I hope she learned that the communication piece is critical,” Stephens said. “Communication can make or break an organization. … It’s a fine line between too much and not enough.”