When the 2014-15 school year started last month, senior Taylor Brandon returned to campus armed with a new sense of purpose. As the recipient of a competitive Frank Karel Fellowship in Public Interest Communications, Brandon spent the summer cultivating her professional skills at the Food Recovery Network (FRN) in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit organization that partners with college campuses to fight food waste and raise hunger awareness. “It was a totally eye opening experience,” she says. “The staff is very young—it was inspiring to work with my peers.”
Whether through jobs, internships or volunteer work, students are increasingly using the break between academic sessions to enhance their resumes and apply their classwork in practical ways. At FRN, Brandon oversaw the Food Recovery Certified program, a newer initiative that rewards businesses for donating their surplus and unsold foods. “There wasn’t anyone on the staff who had a ton of experience in nonprofit work,” Brandon recalls. “It put me in a position where I was able to learn by practice.”
She drew regularly on the toolkit of skills she’s developed as a public relations and advertising major at DePaul. Some of Brandon’s major responsibilities included drafting press releases, managing social media, editing articles and conducting research. The fellowship also offered participants numerous opportunities to network with each other and with professionals in the city, which Brandon found particularly inspirational.
By the conclusion of the fellowship, Brandon affirmed that her passion for public interest communications remains strong, but she hopes to begin her post-college career in a general communications firm. “I still want to go into advocacy work, but I believe that working in a communications firm first will help me learn how to better advocate for different populations,” she shares. Her ultimate goal is to “help people be present in arenas where they may not have had access in the past.”
As Brandon looks to the year ahead, she is excited to see what her future brings. “I’ve really cherished my time at DePaul, and I’m ready for a great last year,” she notes. “After that, the sky is the limit!”
Update: Watch a video of Brandon presenting on race, body image, food insecurity and her work at FRN.