Rachel Hook, a Little Rock native who lives in Alexander, graduated from the School of Mass Communication in May 2011 with a B.A. in Journalism and a minor in photography. She is now the Online Campus Coordinator in the Office of eLearning.
While she was working on her undergraduate degree, Rachel was a writer and executive editor for the student newspaper The Forum, as well as a communications intern for a state agency. The agency kept her on as its part-time director of communications until a few months after graduation, when she began an internship with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Three months into that internship, she was promoted to Online News Editor, a position she held for three years.
Rachel started working in eLearning in November 2014 as a Marketing and Communications Specialist, helping to launch and oversee marketing efforts for the newly formed Online Campus. As the Online Campus grew, her position evolved. For about the past year, she has been “essentially a project manager and team lead for eLearning’s Online Campus division,” she said. “I also work with stakeholders of the Online Campus on related projects and program developments.”
What made you choose the School of Mass Communication?
“I’ve always had eclectic interests – writing, science, art, music, philosophy, etc. As a child, having no idea what journalism was, I told my mom I wanted to “travel the world, talk to a bunch of different people, and write stories about them.” By the time I got to college, I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. I spent two years passionately struggling as a biology major, until I finally realized it wasn’t what I was meant to do. After that, I spent a year exploring some of my other interests. While taking a rhetoric class at UCA, I remembered what I told my mom all those years ago. I realized then that journalism could give me the opportunity to marry my various interests and skills. The next semester, I transferred to UALR and went straight into the School of Mass Communication. I felt right at home.”
What career did you envision for yourself while you were studying?
“While I was studying and in the early years of my career, my dream job was to be a travel writer and photographer for National Geographic Magazine. As I worked toward that, I realized I wasn’t cut out for a career in news media. (I still have tremendous respect for true, ethical journalists and always will.) I also realized that starting a family was more important to me at the time, so I needed a job that would support that choice. While my career is not in journalism right now, my journalism degree and skills continue to work for me in so many ways. I’ve found that the skills I learned as a Mass Communication student are highly transferrable and valuable to most employers; and who knows, I may still try to become a travel writer and photographer someday!”
Who was a faculty member who had a strong impact on you?
“I learned so much from all of them, but I worked and studied most closely with Sonny Rhodes. He was my academic advisor and student organization advisor for The Forum and the Society of Professional Journalists. He supported me like a friend but also challenged me to always be my best self. I couldn’t have made it to the finish line without Prof. Rhodes!”
What advice would you give to current students?
“Practical experience and networking are so important in this field. Most entry-level jobs require some experience, so try to find opportunities to practice your skills before you graduate (and make some extra money while you do it!) Working on The Forum, interning at the state agency, and freelancing for local publications on the weekends gave me valuable learning experiences and helped me build my portfolio. By the time I graduated and was looking for a full-time job, I already had 2 years of work experience and a strong professional network. All of this gave me a competitive edge when I applied for the Democrat-Gazette internship. Once you’ve got your foot in the door, more opportunities will present themselves.
“Also, be confident, never make excuses, and always listen carefully and respectfully to others – especially when receiving feedback.”