Find Your Passion: World of Opportunities

Caroline BeardA double major in public relations and Spanish, Beard won a scholarship/internship combination from an organization seeking to conserve natural resources. (Jeff Hanson)

By Deidre Stalnaker

Public relations major Caroline Beard says The University of Alabama has provided her a “world of opportunities.” And she has taken that adage to heart, from exploring the world to saving it.

Some students know exactly what they want to study during college and what they want to do after graduation before they even set foot on a college campus.

“When I arrived at UA, I knew I belonged in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, but I wasn’t yet certain about a major,” Beard admits. “I sat down with Jim Oakley and discussed my strengths and the things I like to do. Mr. Oakley said my creativity and love of writing made me a perfect fit for PR, and he encouraged me to sign up for an introductory course. I heeded his advice, and I haven’t looked back; I love this field.”

Beard has transferred her love for the field of public relations to a variety of causes, including one to help save a river here in Alabama.

Last summer, she received an atypical scholarship/internship combination thanks to generous contributions of The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, a grant-giving organization with the goal of conserving natural resources in North America.

Caroline BeardBeard’s educational experience includes spending the Spring 2011 semester in Spain. (Jeff Hanson)

Through the Munson program, she worked in Birmingham with the Cahaba River Society, a small nonprofit conservation organization whose mission is to restore and protect the Cahaba River watershed and its rich diversity of life. There, Beard put topics she learned in class into practice. She used public relations tactics to help CRS with tasks ranging from day-to-day operations to major fundraising events, like the Cahaba River Fry-Down.

“The Munson Foundation internship proved to me that I am capable of executing what I’ve been learning and practicing these last three years,” she says. “Working at the Cahaba River Society, I was responsible for every aspect of public relations. Using social media, media relations, event planning, direct mailings and surveys, I wore a lot of different hats, and I was able to try a little bit of everything. After last summer’s internship, I’m confident that I am prepared to enter the work world, and my résumé reflects it.”

The Munson Foundation Scholarship/Internship Program has been a win-win opportunity for UA public relations students and natural resource organizations in Alabama. Students are given the opportunity to gain valuable professional experience while working for organizations that have noticeable positive impacts on their surroundings. Equally important, these organizations that may not have the time or resources for public relations efforts benefit from the fresh ideas of well-educated young professionals.

Caroline BeardAn official ambassador for the University, Beard shows her school spirit. (David Brown)

Beard has been very involved on campus, including Capstone Men and Women, where she serves as an official ambassador for The University of Alabama; the Capstone Agency, a student-run PR firm housed in the College of Communication and Information Sciences; and Platform Magazine and Executive magazine, online and print publications at UA.

“My involvements outside of class enrich my educational experience at UA, allowing me to put into practice many of the things I’ve learned in class and to develop skills necessary for a professional life beyond college,” Beard says.

“To me, the best part of college is that it is a world of opportunities. I’ve had the chance to befriend students and professors from all over the country – and the world – and to study in the top-ranked undergraduate PR program in the nation. I’ve been able to learn a variety of new and interesting things in the classroom – from Eastern philosophy and photography to indoor rock climbing and Spanish cinema.”

Beard will spend this spring semester in Spain, exploring the roots of her second major, Spanish.

“College is all about seeking opportunities and milking your four years for all they’re worth,” she says. “I’ve loved everything I’ve been lucky enough to do so far, and I can’t wait to see what my final semester holds.”

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This story is part of the Find Your Passion feature section of the UA home page. For more stories, please visit Find Your Passion or Crimson Spotlight. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.