Natlie Neal ’10

Major(s): English, Contemporary Aesthetics in Media and Arts (CIS)
Concentration: Media Studies
Current Position: Program Manager/Marketing Specialist at CTS in Hopkins, MN

What is your current position? What are your responsibilities?

As a program manager and marketing specialist in the meetings, incentives and events department at CTS, I plan group travel programs for corporate clients. I also work on creative projects and create marketing strategies.  Basically, I’m involved in a program from beginning to end: From the initial sourcing of a destination and hotel contracts to making all the details go according to plan on site with meals, events, tours, transportation, hotel rooms, everything.  It’s perfect for me because each new program and client presents exciting challenges, and I get paid to travel.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in this field?

I didn’t know this career existed when I was in college.  I knew I loved to travel, worked well with people, thought creatively, was detail-oriented and negotiated well, but I was thinking about going into law when graduation came along.  It was a St. Olaf professor that recommended this job for me and I’m so glad she did!

How did you gain the experience necessary for this position?

Because I made a point of participating in multiple internships in college and traveled extensively in school and after graduation, I was able to get in the door with my experience and landed a job because I really connected with the woman who is now my supervisor.  You would be surprised how many job opportunities are open to people with a liberal arts background because it shapes the way you think about situations and allows you to study and do interesting things while in college.

How did your Media Studies coursework or experiences help you get where you are today?

First and foremost, the Media Studies concentration helped me look critically at how different media platforms affect our everyday lives, and it completely shifted my perspective on how people interact with each other and the world at large.  Why do certain advertising techniques work?  How do people consume media and what do they expect from companies, products, governments, and brands?  I approach my clients and travel programs with this same attitude, focusing on what is going to motivate them or make an event memorable.  Besides the philosophy and psychology behind the Media Studies concentration, I also gained valuable experience working with website design, marketing techniques, and pitching ideas that I use every day at my job.

Any advice you would give a Media Studies student knowing what you know now?

The Media Studies concentration is really what you make of it–if you just want to take the classes and get by, you can do that, but that isn’t going to help you in the long run.  I challenge you to dive into the classes, internship experiences, and portfolio work.  Bill Sonnega is a great resource and so are your fellow Media Studies peers and alumni.  Don’t be afraid to network in college–it will serve you well later on!