Taking the initiative to impress employers and audiences alike, all while earning a bachelor’s degree in communication

by Laura Powers

Taking the initiative to impress employers and audiences alike, all while earning a bachelor’s degree in communication

George Mason University’s close proximity to Washington, D.C. provides a unique opportunity for students to participate in a variety of different jobs and internships while pursuing their degree. George Mason senior Eliza Smith seized this opportunity to the fullest and will leave Mason with more than a bachelor’s in communication, concentration in journalism as well as minors in dance and American Sign Language. She will also possess a solid resume, showcasing internship and work experience in communication, event planning, marketing, politics, non-profit work, theatre, and dance.

“The one thing that I tell everyone who’s applying for an internship is that Google is your best friend,” said Eliza who interned last spring with Congresswoman Susan Davis, and currently interns with Sister Cities International, a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network originally founded by President Eisenhower in 1956. There, Eliza primarily assists in planning the organization’s annual conference that invites diplomats, governors, mayors, and congressional representatives to network and discuss local and global issues facing cities across the country.

Eliza Dancing

While these experiences support her education in communication, she expresses her passion for dance and theater through her work with Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virginia. Known primarily for their silent Shakespeare productions, Synetic Theater is a perfect style for Eliza who has trained in classical ballet since the age of three. The goal of the theater, according to Eliza, is to provide a more universal approach to theater, adding that performances attract many non-English speaking audiences, as well as members of the deaf community.

“When you break down a play, the spoken text isn’t usually what resonates with an audience, but instead it’s body language, facial expressions, timing, interactions, and the musicality of the actors that creates the theatrical experience for viewers” Eliza said. “All I can say is Synetic is truly a one- of- a-kind theater company that you need to see to believe.”

While Eliza prefers performing on stage, she’s held a number of behind the scenes positions including work as a marketing intern, stage manager, and development and events assistant. Of all her contributions to the theater, her most favorite is her performance in Romeo and Juliet.

Through these experiences, Eliza said one of the most valuable pieces of advice she has been given by a previous employer is to always take initiative. “You can’t just sit and wait around for your employer to say ‘I need this done’,” she said. “Be that employee and or intern that is instrumental in really helping to orchestrate projects and tasks. While mistakes will happen along the way, don’t be discouraged, ask for help, and most importantly, learn from those experiences.”

After Eliza graduates from Mason, she said she can see herself working in a number of different areas. Through talking to her professors, classroom instruction, and internship experiences, Eliza said she can envision working in politics, joining a think tank, working as a lobbyist to impact policies most important to her, or working as an event planner.

“I’ve enjoyed every single job I’ve had. I’ve gotten something out of each one. Some have been more demanding that others, but every opportunity has led me to where I am,” she said. 

Eliza on Stage

Eliza chose to attend Mason for its cost, location, as well as its diversity. As an active member in the theater community since junior high, she said that she has always been a part of a very inclusive group of individuals. “We have a lot of people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, people from different countries, and those of different backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities,” she said. “It was really important that I found a college that was similar to that.”

With only one semester left before receiving her diploma, Eliza said that she’s enjoyed her time at Mason.

“There are a lot of great professors here who just want you to succeed,” she said. The communication department has some really strong people. The work that’s produced here, and the people who come out of Mason, I really admire. I’m excited to join the alumni and help make a difference.”

Check out Eliza’s blog on her experience interning on Capitol Hill: interningonthehill.wordpress.com