Recent movements like Time’s Up have focused the eyes of the world on the importance of diversity — and where it’s lacking. Two BYU news media students are doing their part to make a difference in the journalism field.
Cameron Hussein and Karmen Kodia, two juniors in the broadcasting program, recently traveled to New York City to attend the two-day 2018 Multicultural Career Workshop hosted by the International Radio and Television Society (IRTS) Foundation.
Kodia said that attending the conference gave her a newfound appreciation for the role she plays in diversifying the media.
“The workshop opened my mind to how important diversity is,” said Kodia. “Knowing that there isn’t a lot of diversity in media fields, but also knowing that I can contribute something to help change that made me more willing to follow my dreams and do what I’ve always wanted to do because diversity is needed.”
Taking New York by Storm
Neither Kodia nor Hussein knew anything about the workshop until Professor Joel Campbell emailed them on a Friday afternoon telling them and a handful of other students to apply — and that they better do so quickly since the application closed the following Monday afternoon.
“At the beginning I was debating if I wanted to apply or not,” said Kodia. “I didn’t think I was good enough to get in, but something told me to just apply and see what happens. I felt like I should use all the resources I have and put myself out there, and if I don’t get it, that’s fine. If I do, that would be awesome.”
Hussein took the opposite approach. After receiving the email, he just applied. “I didn’t think much of it,” he said.
Regardless their approach, both received a notification saying they had been accepted later that week.
The workshop consisted of one day of panels and another day where students had to pitch themselves to potential employers. Both Kodia and Hussein said that the second day was more rewarding but harder.
“It kind of caught us off guard,” said Hussein. Neither of the students knew beforehand that they would have to pitch themselves to top-tier companies like Sony ABC, CBS and NBC until they were informed so on the first day.
Both students spent hours in the hotel the night before researching the different companies so that they would be prepared. But that was just the beginning of what would prove to be a difficult process.
“I didn’t expect it to be that intense. I just thought you would meet the companies, exchange contact info and move on,” said Hussein. “But you’re pitching yourself, you’re handing your resume out to them. They’re going to make notes and they’re going to remember you.
Hussein said that he started out slow, warming up with companies that he wasn’t particularly interested in working for. However, by the end of the day, he was running from booth to booth just to get in his resume and give the recruiters a chance to see his face so they’d hopefully remember him later on.
“Sometimes you’re scared about what people are going of think of you when you present yourself, especially with these high-end people,” said Kodia. “But you just have to be confident in yourself and say, ‘Hey this is me, this is my experience and this is what I have to offer.”
Bringing What They Learned Back to BYU
Hussein and Kodia both felt that their experiences at BYU prepared them to be able to successfully pitch themselves to recruiters.
“BYU prepares their students better for the jobs than a lot of East Coast schools” said Hussein. “When I was talking to recruiters about how working for Newsline is like a job, they were blown away.”
Kodia stated that her experiences at BYU also helped her to wow recruiters.
“I don’t think we understand how lucky we are with the communications program and how much they offer us,” said Kodia. “Just the experience of being a reporter, for example, helped me. The recruiters were so impressed with me. They want people who have those experiences, so we are privileged here at BYU that we have a program that offers those things.”
Both Kodia and Hussein said students should be invited to apply for the workshop every year.
Kodia said that, while the School of Communications has done things in the past to bring attention to the importance of diversity — such as symposiums, panels and incorporating the topic in classes — helping students go to workshops like these is the next step.
“There’s so much more out there that we need to talk about at BYU concerning diversity,” said Kodia. “Yes we live in Utah and there’s not a lot of diversity here, but when we get out of BYU there will hopefully be a lot of diversity in the workplace. If we as students can’t communicate or associate with other people at a college, how will we be able to succeed in the workplace? It starts early, and it should start at college.”
Hussein echoed Kodia’s call to make the workshop a permanent opportunity at BYU. “It was cool to be around other kids who are minorities and being able to connect with them,” he said. “I think that it’s something BYU should send students to every year just because it helps so much with career development.”
“I am so grateful that BYU helped us go. I wouldn’t have been able to go on my own,” said Kodia. “That two-day conference changed my life. I think it should be required every year or an option for people to apply and go. It would be so good for the school and the students to be a part of the program and get inspired and share what they experience with other students.”
Looking to the Future
Both students said that interacting with the students, recruiters and panelists at the conference opened their eyes to new things.
Hussein said the highlight of the conference was talking one-on-one with director and producer Kameron Mack. During his time as the University of Kansas, Mack started a personal project covering campus fashion. He landed a segment on the school’s news station that eventually led him to real-world jobs covering fashion and sports.
For Hussein — who is also interested in covering fashion and sports — Mack’s story resonated with him. Mack encouraged Hussein to start his own segment at BYU.
“I tried explaining to him that at BYU it’s a little different, it’s more conservative,” said Hussein about the interaction. “But he just told me ‘don’t let it limit you.’ That was cool to hear that we shouldn’t let our education and what we’re doing in school limit us, we should expand and find creative ways to be successful.”
The workshop also introduced new career options. “Just hearing about others and their experiences, what they’ve been through and what they’re doing, that just opened my mind to so much more that I haven’t heard of,” said Kodia. “My eyes were opened to all the different paths in media that I had no idea about.”
Kodia said that she’s always wanted to aim for a news anchor position, but that she knew that she wouldn’t be able to realistically get it immediately. However, at the workshop she was able to learn the steps to help her get there.
“That was the biggest thing, just knowing that there’s so much more out there in the media world that I didn’t know about, that there’re things I can do before actually doing news,” said Kodia.
Hussein said “[the workshop] really pumped me up, and after that I was really motivated to go apply for internships and do all these different things.”
Over the winter break, Hussein went through every company’s website that he had met with and applied to any position they had open. He ended up applying to over 200 internships. He has already been called in for second-round interviews with companies like ESPN and NBC.
The workshop also had a lasting personal impact on Kodia. “Meeting different students from all over the states and communicating with them and learning from them was one of my favorite parts,” said Kodia. “Meeting people who want to do the same things as you, who are determined and also have a diverse background, just made me realize yes, I want to do this and I can do this.”