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Polk Professional Series Recap: Antonio Brown Speaks with Former Valedictorian Gina Pearson


Former LIU Valedictorian Gina Pearson joined the George Polk School of Communications for another installment of "How Do I Become You?" (Photo: Melissa Fishman)

The George Polk School of Communications once again lives up to its promise to provide a “dynamic and imaginative” approach to learning with yet another installment of their instructional and influential series, “How Do I Become You?”

The series has called some of LIU’s most successful alumni back to their roots to provide advice and insight to those just getting their start in the industry. Its latest installment of the webinar featured one of LIU’s best and brightest alumni, Gina Pearson.

Pearson, whose brilliance in her youth secured her the coveted position of class valedictorian in 1995, spoke to her audience live from her home in Washington, D.C. and imparted a wealth of knowledge to all present.

The webinar was held on Jan. 27 via Zoom with an audience of more than 30 people who viewed a lighthearted conversion between Pearson and moderator, Antonio Brown.

Brown narrated a short introduction of Pearson’s life, career, and accomplishments thus far including: working in the U.S. Energy Information Administration, receiving a Government Information Technology Services (GITS) Board Information Technology Innovation Fund Award, and a current position as a Senior Technology Advisor at the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Brown began the interview with a question about the impact of mentorship in her youth. With delight, Pearson reflected on her younger years both in her undergraduate and graduate studies where she found herself meeting all of the right people at just the right time.

She explained that she didn’t necessarily seek out mentors, but instead found herself forming them naturally by fostering healthy relationships with those around her, particularly those that she knew to be experienced within the field she intended to pursue.

“With all of my mentors we hit it off by having a good rapport,” Pearson said, “ I would invite them to lunch or drinks after work or I popped into their office. If you yourself feel comfortable with someone and you feel like you have that rapport, it is so important.”

Pearson also hinted at the importance of being resilient when attempting to make connections and to not always rely on chance to help you find the relationships you’re looking for. Instead, try reaching out to those you look up to.

“To be asked to be a mentor is such an honor and I never turn anyone down. I don’t know anyone who would,” said Pearson.

The next question posed by Brown was about how her double-majors in college, journalism and cultural anthropology, have helped her in her career.

Pearson told the audience that these fields have an astounding amount of overlap in how they can be applied in a workplace setting because they teach you about how individuals interact and interpret material.

She points out that anthropologists study the behavior of people, while journalists focuses on generating content for the masses by highlighting subjects they care about. These two principles are crucial in the communications field because you need to empathize with your audience in order to be successful.

When describing the value of studying both fields Pearson remarked, “The philosophy you have in both fields makes you attuned to people; you care about them, you understand them, and you want to help them be understood.”

To have a career such as Pearson’s, it would seem impossible without harboring a myriad of skills while also having a fierce sense of determination that drives you to persevere until you land your dream job.

Among all of her assets, Pearson seemed to highlight her penchant for zealously putting herself out there the most. She showcased the value it had in her life by doing it from early on and urged her audience to do the same.

According to Pearson, one of the things that set the tone for her career was the internships she was able to secure during the latter part of her educational career. Whether paid or unpaid, she told her listeners to apply for them all and reap the benefits of the results.

“Internships are really important and doing them as often as you can. It will help you beef up your resume and help set you up for jobs.” Pearson also added, with a flair of excitement, “the federal government pays their interns!” referencing her own career with the U.S. Government.

To serve as inspiration for her audience while also providing proof of the fruits of your labor Pearson said, “When I was a grad student, I worked half of my time at the National Students Association and this opened a lot of doors for me. It was crucial to making connections and getting myself to somewhere I wanted to be.”

In the final minutes of her interview, Pearson was asked about the future of developing content. To this she said simply, “the future is bright.”

With an aura of mystery, Pearson left her audience with this fact about her career: “Each job [I had] morphed into another. In website design and development, I went where the jobs went.”

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