Student Spotlight: Katherine Keng

Katherine Keng, a senior majoring in public relations and English, is from Marietta.

What encouraged you to apply to Grady College?  I was decidedly undecided throughout freshman year. In terms of majors, all I knew was that I wanted to be in a line of work where writing would be a key tenet in my daily duties. I stumbled upon public relations, whereupon I was unclear about what such practitioners did. As I learned about the work, I realized that good PR underpinned the growth of my dad’s startup company. I applied for Grady because I believe every organization should invest in good PR, and I wanted to be one of the people making it happen.

What activities are you involved in at Grady/UGA/Athens? I am a part of UGA’s Honors Program, which has given me unique learning opportunities through Socratic Circle-type classes, lunchbox lectures and faculty mentor network. I am also involved with PRSSA and Creative Consultants. Currently I am working with EcoFocus Film Festival, a local environmental film organization. The setup is great because we have a lot of flexibility and room for creative idea sourcing. The best part for me is collaborating with same-age peers, which I haven’t been able to do much of in past internships. I was a contributing writer and copy editor for Little Red Book, a campus fashion magazine, and Chinese Language Society member and Alpha Lambda Delta service society member for three years.

What kinds of internships have you been involved in, and what were your responsibilities? Last summer I interned with JMC, LTD., the manufacturing partner of Ford Motors in China. I was JMC’s first intern, so experimentation was a running theme, and being in a foreign country upped the excitement. I took charge of the corporate newsletter, integrating my bilingualism and writing skills to write feature stories, reports on competitors and company updates. During this process I learned to digest and translate annual reports and also grew my Photoshop and InDesign capabilities. I also rewrote parts of the company’s English website for higher readability and web presence and sat in daily on marketing meetings and presentations to collate a higher understanding of branding.

What were the best parts of your internship experiences? The best part of my internship experience was being immersed in a different culture. It was a lot of fun but also made me appreciate certain aspects of American work culture more. I also engaged with some Chinese social media outlets. Though I learned a lot about the consumer mindset and social landscape, exploring the content on those sites did not feel at all like work.   

What part of your Grady experience (classes, professors, etc.) has been helpful in your internship or work experiences? I’ve been lucky to have a roster of top-notch teachers. The Dr. Jones team has been especially wonderful. Dr. Barry Jones sharpened my writing skillset, while Dr. Betty Jones’ graphics communications class taught me many new things and had high real world relevance. I ended up with pieces for my portfolio after all their classes and really appreciated that the Drs. Jones were so helpful on any matter, both in and out of class. Dr. Leara Rhodes, my Honors faculty mentor, has also been incredibly generous with advice and time. All three of these professors take real interest in their students’ lives – I think that’s amazing.  

What advice would you give to someone who is considering pursuing an Ad/PR program? My advice would be to work on creating a brand for yourself. Find something that others don’t have and use that to an advantage. It’s not new advice, but especially in AdPR careers, a brand name can go a long way. (Of course, you also have to start with hard work in order to back up that brand!)

What are your career goals and interests? My short-term career goal is to find a position in either branding or corporate social responsibility. I realize that true social responsibility is not just participating in a program or two but actual integration of social and environmental considerations into an organizational vision. The idea of helping to transform an organization for the better really appeals to me. I’m interested in newness in all its forms (cool-hunting, technology, etc.), but I also know that some things, like being part of a good cause, transcend trends. 

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