Rebecca Striffler gained a passion for journalism when she joined her high school yearbook program and learned about photography, writing and storytelling.
Striffler’s passion continued to grow after she visited the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication during Arizona State University’s Open Door event, which allows the community to learn about different university programs.
That’s when she discovered the Cronkite School offered programs and classes that were tied to what she was learning in high school.
“To talk to all the students who were doing the exact same things I was doing in high school but on a professional level was what really clicked for me, and I thought, ‘Okay, I can actually make a career out of something that I really enjoy doing,’” said Striffler, who is from Goodyear but currently resides in Downtown Phoenix.
She gained experience working with the Cronkite Agency, a capstone experience at the Cronkite School that provides real-world experience to strategic communications and digital marketing student-practitioners.
“I got to see and do multiple different tasks for my client that provided me with a very real-world experience,” she said.
Striffler will be able to share about her experiences at the Cronkite School’s fall 2023 convocation ceremony, where she will serve as the student convocation speaker.
“I am very fortunate that Cronkite sees the value in public relations and is providing me with this platform to encourage my fellow graduates and to show some love for the successful and growing PR program,” she said.
Here, Striffler goes on to talk more about her ASU experience and field of study.
Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: When I started at Cronkite, I came in as a sports journalism student with a passion for sports photography. I was very good at writing, too, and just storytelling in general. But I was really looking to Cronkite to help me figure out what I wanted to do because I was still a little bit unsure. So then I took all of the explorative classes where you literally do everything and test everything in order to better figure out what you want to do in the long run.
Then I talked to my advisor and she told me a lot about public relations because I was explaining to her all of my different interests and what I would want for my future. And so I tried out the intro to public relations class (Principles of Strategic Communication) and I was like, “Wow, this really clicks for me.”
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: I was pretty good at writing for high school. And then when it came to journalism writing, I felt like I was starting from ground zero. I was so confused at first. You’re talking about a lead, and a graph, and now paragraphs are two sentences instead of eight. And we’re talking about the inverted pyramid — AP style, right? It’s so different, and I was not prepared for basically writing in a completely different format. So I had to kind of unlearn the style of writing that I was taught all throughout middle and high school and learn this new style. And it’s funny now, because I joke with people that I don’t know how to write an essay when a nonjournalism class asks me to write one, because I’ve now become so ingrained in how to write journalistically.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: I learned so much from (Faculty Associate) Sonia Bovio’s Public Relations Research class. She has just really opened the door for a lot of realities that we needed to know. She really took the time to help us understand what actual job titles would look like. What people make out in the real world. How to negotiate a salary. How to respond to a request for proposal (RFP) for a client. Just all kinds of different things. She always challenged us to look beyond our classes into what’s actually happening in the real world.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: So I’m a peer academic leader (PAL) in Gordon Commons right now. The biggest thing that I always tell my freshmen is that competition is always going to be around us, and we can get so wrapped up in competition, but at the end of the day it’s not going to matter. Truly, everyone here at Cronkite is going to go down some slightly different path from the next person. If you’re in sports, maybe you’re the person that’s doing play-by-play, and the person next to you is writing the game recap, and the person next to you wants to go into producing, and then the next person wants to be a podcaster. If you’re in traditional reporting, it’s even more broad, right? Someone might want to cover border topics, and someone might be interested in education and politics, and … there’s just so many avenues in journalism that, at the end of the day, the competition doesn’t matter because we’re all going to have our own niche.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: I really enjoy studying under the law building, especially at the tables out front because it feels wide open, but it feels secluded in its own way. It’s also just nice to listen to the birds and get the fresh air while you’re studying or doing homework.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I will be getting my master’s degree in digital audience strategy online, and then I also got a full-time job as a marketing assistant for McCarthy Building Companies Inc. It’s a national construction firm. I’m very excited to be working in a real environment as I’ve had multiple internships and I think that they’ve been really great experiences. But I’m just really excited to be fully invested into a company and a team and the work that it’s doing.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: Something I learned in my environmental science class is that Phoenix actually is lacking a lot of shade in certain parts of the city, and I learned through one of my classes that shade is directly linked with well-being and happiness, and so the areas without proper shade in our concrete jungle do experience some disadvantages. I think I would take that money and really focus on building either shade structures or adding greenery because that just helps improve health in general, and when you have the sun constantly beating down on you, it’s hard to really enjoy the city for what it is.