After Jennifer Hast graduated from CSU in May 2022, she got an extraordinary job promoting documentaries and independent films that center social justice stories featuring people of color.
But when she first came to CSU after high school in California, she had no idea what to study.
Undeclared and uncertain
“I entered college undeclared as I had no clue what I wanted for my future career,” Jennifer says. But this uncertainty enabled her to take many different classes and learn more about herself in the process. “I wanted to trust my instincts by continuing taking the courses I found personally enriching,” she says. So in her sophomore year, she chose to major in Communication Studies, and later added a Sociology minor.
As a Communication Studies major, Jennifer took courses in film and media studies that sparked her interest in the film industry and eventually got her involved in producing a film festival here on CSU’s campus.
Yet even when Jennifer chose her major, she was still uncertain what to do after graduation.
Film festival internship paves the way to a new career
As a senior, Jennifer took the film festival practicum course offered every spring by Communication Studies (SPCM 480). One day Beth Seymour, the Managing Director of the ACT Human Rights Film Festival at CSU, was a guest speaker in her class. Afterwards Jennifer asked Beth how she could get involved with the festival. Beth suggested an internship, and Jennifer then became ACT’s Volunteer Coordinator.
The internship was demanding but rewarding. “The Volunteer Coordinator recruits and manages more than 100 ACT Film Festival volunteers to create a highly successful festival experience,” Beth explains. These volunteers do everything from scanning tickets to running question-and-answer sessions with filmmakers and local activists at the festival, and Jennifer trained and oversaw them all.
While working for ACT, Jennifer had the opportunity to meet two-time Oscar nominee documentary filmmaker Skye Fitzgerald at a lunch-and-learn event ACT hosted at CSU. Skye came to campus to show his new documentary at the festival. By networking with Skye, Jennifer met with the PR agency that now employs her full time.
“He helped me curate the words that paired my strengths in school with a job field,” Jennifer recalls. “He connected me with his PR agency, which allowed me to interview and eventually land a job.”
Working in Hollywood
Jennifer now works for a PR agency in Los Angeles that exclusively promotes films about social justice and people of color.
“Within my first couple of weeks, I met various producers, writers, and filmmakers such as those who made the newest David Bowie film [Moonage Daydream] and work for Netflix. I am also a member of various film organizations that allow you to vote for awards and [get] access to special screeners such as those wanting to be nominated for the Oscars,” she says.
Recently Jennifer attended a screening of Sirens, a documentary featuring the Middle East’s only all-women metal band. The film was familiar to Jennifer, as Sirens was also shown at the 2022 ACT Human Rights Film Festival in Fort Collins. After this new screening, Jennifer heard the filmmaker, the main subject of the film, and the producers discuss the film, moderated by a writer from the L.A. Times.
Looking back, Jennifer realizes that she gleaned skills from her major and her ACT internship that are key in her new role. Interpersonal communication, event planning, global awareness, and strong writing are the ones she cites as most important. “Good writing is necessary when creating pitch letters and communicating with media outlets and critics,” she explains.
Jennifer is pleased with how well her degree prepared her for a professional career. “With a communication degree, you will be able to use it in any job field. Most people struggle with basic and formal communication, which you’ll witness every day. In most careers, networking and remembering names and faces are crucial. My degree has made all that easier.”
Advice for current students
Jennifer encourages current students to take advantage of the career development opportunities CSU has to offer: “CSU has tons of internship and networking opportunities; you just have to ask!” Following up with Beth Seymour about the ACT Film Festival and with Skye Fitzgerald about career opportunities are prime examples.
“You do not need ten or more involvements,” Jennifer stresses. “Just start small and try one or two that you truly are interested in. Do not hesitate to ask [your] department for help or guidance, and do not be afraid to ask questions. That’s what they are there for.”
At CSU, aside from her work at ACT, Jennifer also was a TA for the Communication Studies new student seminar course—which she found helpful as a first-year student—and a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.
Transitioning from a high schooler to a professional wasn’t easy for Jennifer, but she credits CSU for providing an environment that supports students through this challenging time. “What made CSU stand out to me was the abundance of resources that CSU programs provided. I also had fantastic professors who not only cared about my academics but my personal well-being,” she says.
Opportunities to get involved
There are lots of ways to succeed as a Ram! The 2023 ACT Human Rights Film Festival will begin accepting applications for new interns toward the end of the fall 2022 semester, and opportunities to volunteer—which are open to students, alumni, staff and members of the local Fort Collins community—will open up in early 2023. Sign up for the ACT newsletter here to ensure you can take advantage when these openings become available.