For many undergraduate students, there’s a lot of time spent deciding on their major and juggling extracurricular activities alongside of classwork. Caleb Michael went through this same experience, but his focus on strategically achieving his dreams and the significant insight he gained through the process is what sets him apart from the rest. Read more below to hear Calebs’ reflections on his undergraduate and graduate school experiences as a Public Relations student as well as his outlook on the current Black Lives Matter Movement.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How you chose your undergraduate and graduate major, what you’re currently working on, etc.:
"My name is Caleb Michael and I’m a graduate student at the University of Southern California pursuing a degree in Strategic Public Relations. So a little bit of my background. I went to Oregon State University for undergrad where I majored in Speech Communication with a Spanish minor. I was also a Division I student athlete on the men’s soccer team. It’s funny because I came into undergrad as a political science major and I just knew that I wanted to go into law. Then I took one PS class and knew it wasn’t for me. That same term, I was in a COMM class with Professor Bushnell (shoutout her for inspiring me) and the first day in class, she told me I had a great voice and that I should pursue communications. The rest is history.
For grad school, I knew that I wanted to stay in the communications field but I wasn’t sure what. I didn’t want to do journalism because I don’t like writing that much. One day, I stumbled upon USC’s program and I liked what they had to say. Plus, I knew that when I got to USC, I wanted to do journalism work on the side. So, my plan was to build on my undergrad knowledge of communications, get my degree in PR, and then do practical journalism in the field on the side. It’s like the holy trifecta in the media world and by having an understanding of all three, I can make myself that much more marketable. This is hands down one of the best decisions I’ve ever made."
With the current events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, we asked Caleb to share his thoughts on the important topic:
“Everybody wanna be n****, but nobody wanna be a n**** when it’s time to be a n****.” I remember when I first asked my boy Darius to get me this hoodie. This was in 2018. Now, this statement rings true more than ever. Everybody wants to be down with Black culture and take what we have, but when push comes to shove, they go silent. The last week has been filled with so many emotions, and I felt numb at first. It’s the same story, just a different day. Being Black in America is something you’ll never understand if you don’t live it. Being stared at, profiled, and fetishized is commonplace. Not to mention the fact that law enforcement sees us as such a threat that they must resort to extreme violence. The MURDER has to stop. I urge everyone who calls themself an ally to take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself how you personally can bring about change. An unproblematic person is one who says the right things at the right time, but doesn’t ever act on their words. It’s more than just a repost and a retweet. Black bodies are at stake. Rest In Peace to all the Black angels who fell victim to the unjust RACISM in this country. America, do better. #blacklivesmatter✊🏾
What did you learn/participate in during your time as an undergraduate that prepared you for graduate school and knowing what you want to do?
"This is a great question. At OSU, I participated in a lot of things outside of just soccer. I had a radio show with one of my good friends at Orange Media Network, I did a podcast called, “Unfiltered”, worked in the Black cultural center for a year, started a diversity initiative called, “Real Talk”, and I worked for Red Bull for a year as the OSU rep. I also helped bring back my fraternity (Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.) chapter and balanced a social life in the midst of it all. It’s a lot I know. But I did all of these things not because I had to, but because I love being involved. I like taking ideas and growing them in addition to helping people out when I can. So when I was looking at plans post grad, I actually had accepted a job offer with Red Bull to work full time while my USC application was being processed. I just wanted to have options coming out of college and once I got into USC, it just felt right in my heart. So the short answer to that question is that all of my experiences led me to want to get my master’s."
Did you complete any internships while you were at OSU, or are you currently in any at USC? If so, what did you learn/what are learning from it to help you gain insight and experience?
"It’s funny because I actually never did an internship. Well at least not a formal one. For two summers, I interned with a sports event agency that puts on huge events for top football prospects every summer, but it was only a few weeks. Because I was playing soccer, we weren’t able to ever have a true internship for the whole summer due to our time commitment and schedule. This summer is actually the first time I’ve ever had a real internship. I was supposed to be interning at CBS NY this summer and then COVID hit. So they have adapted an online, shortened version for us, which I’m super grateful for. I’m working on another internship but I’m not at liberty to discuss it yet. If it becomes official, I’ll be sure to let you know in case you haven’t published the article yet!"
How did you balance life as a student athlete and college student? Do you have any recommendations for students who are trying to balance a lot of extracurricular opportunities along with their schoolwork?
"My planner and calendar were my best friend, and still are to this day. I put everything on my calendar and/or planner. From a young age, my mom made me use it for homework and it kind of just carried over into all parts of my life. I put everything from interviews to practice to even dates on my calendar. As a student athlete, we have so much going on and then I had other things I wanted to do so to ensure I got everything done, I had to stay organized. So my best advice is to be as organized as possible, and to not take on too much too soon. That’s the easiest way to burn out. I even find myself walking the line sometimes and there are times I’ve got to tell people no. So it’s all about knowing yourself and what you can handle. Self love is the best love and that’s always top of mind for me."
How has your experience with Annenberg Media helped you grow as an anchor/reporter? What advice do you have to students interested in pursuing a career similar to yours?
"My experience with Annenberg Media has been AMAZING. Being a student in Annenberg is a once in a lifetime opportunity because it is the best in the country. So you’re touching elbows with people who are the best of the best and all that does is make you better. The faculty that we have helping us are world class but what I appreciate the most is that it truly is a student run newsroom. I remember for the Kobe Bryant Memorial service, I told my executive producer (a student) my idea, they sent me to cover it, and I shot, edited, wrote all of my material that aired on the show that night. That kind of experience is what professionals have so being able to get that experience as a college student is priceless. I’ve grown so much in just a year and I can’t wait to see what another year will allow me to do.
My advice to anyone who wants to go into journalism is that you have to be passionate about it. It is an intense and brutal industry. Also, it’s important to recognize that the way news is being consumed by the public, thank Twitter for that, is changing everyday. So the traditional broadcast journalism route of working your way from reporter to anchor as a career is changing. My best piece of advice is to be versatile. That’s the only way to stay relevant. You’ve got to be able to write, shoot, edit your own stories and have them be ready for air. I’m still learning this skill but I know I have to do it to maximize my opportunities."
Feel free to add any more points you’d like to touch on for students to gain insight.
"Enjoy the ride! College is a once in a lifetime experience and once it’s gone, it’s never coming back. So take chances, make mistakes, but most importantly LEARN. I don’t believe in taking losses; my losses are just lessons and I make sure to not make them again. The more lessons we can learn now in college and not as professionals, the better prepared we will be to move into the work force. Also, take advantage of your network. I’m a firm believer that it’s not what you know it’s WHO you know. I’ve gotten jobs and even my internship this summer based on people recommending me and then me capitalizing on the opportunity. And just like those people helped me, I’m always eager to help others. I tell people all the time my DMs are always open, and I can be a resource to people in anyway that I can."
To see more of Caleb’s work or to reach out to him, check out his Instagram @calebmichaeltv.