By: Alexandra Hulett
Photo Credit: Caleb Miller
In this interview, Alexandra Hulett speaks with Mitch Case, a MCS alum from the class of 2011. In our conversation, we discuss his experiences at UMBC as a Retriever, lessons learned throughout his career, life in New York, and his current position as Director of Communications at the National Art Club.
Describe your academic life at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).
I earned my associate's degree at Howard Community College, then went to UMBC and majored in Media and Communications Studies (MCS).
Did you know what you wanted to study or focus on academically before you went to UMBC?
Yes, I did. I knew I wanted to study Media and Communications. My associate's degree was in that field. I took journalism, radio, and video classes at Howard Community. By the time I transferred, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do.
When did your interest in journalism and communications begin?
Good question. My interest in politics and news started in college. MCS stuck out to me. That might have been the catalyst. I also got my minor in political science at UMBC too.
While studying at UMBC, you participated in the Student Government Association (SGA) and College Democrats. What was the impact of those activities on your life after graduation?
The experiences I had back then have definitely shaped my career today. I served on the public relations committee of SGA. Originally, I was a Senate blogger. At the time, I kept a Tumblr account of Senate happenings. It led to me becoming SGA's Director of Public Relations. At this time, Facebook was just getting started. I started a Facebook page and a Twitter account for SGA. Managing social media accounts is what I do in my career today. I also served as president of the College Democrats for about a year. MCS played a huge role in most of that. We made flyers to invite people to our meetings. We maintained that Facebook account and took photos when elected officials came to visit. In my role as president, I did outreach and wanted to make sure people knew what was happening because we had gone dormant at UMBC for a while, so we wanted to make sure people knew we were back. That was a lot of great social media experience, and I still use it.
During your time at UMBC, did you take any social media classes? I'm not sure what the curriculum offered concerning social media at the time.
Social media classes were not offered at UMBC at the time. Social media classes were still pretty new in colleges. It's something I learned more about during my internships. I worked in UMBC's marketing department. I also interned at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). My work today is in the arts. My career passion has always been that. While my classes were primarily theory and critical thinking, most of my real-world experience came from internships and extracurriculars.
Can you recall any particular moments during your time at UMBC that were memorable?
In terms of my personal life, it was there that I met my husband. We met at the Strive Leadership retreat one winter. We will be celebrating 13 years together soon. Regarding academics, I got to take a class about sitcoms. I'm a big TV nerd, so this was really exciting for me.
Do you have a favorite sitcom at the moment?
Right now, I'm really enjoying watching the TV show Abbott Elementary.
Was there anything you would do differently if you could relive your UMBC experience?
Honestly, I wouldn't change anything. In terms of the MCS program, I'm not sure how the curriculum has changed over time, but I think it might be helpful to include a few more real-world classes.
Agreed, I would say the same thing.
There was a real push for internships, so I suppose it was understood that you needed to get that experience somewhere. I'm still on the MCS LISTSERV, and I'm happy to always see the department advertising internships and other career opportunities. Getting some of that experience before entering the job market is so useful.
Where did you land your first job after graduating from UMBC?
I graduated in December 2011 and started my first job in February or March 2012 as a Social Media and Website Coordinator at the Baltimore Office of Promotion of the Arts (BOPA). It is a nonprofit that operates as the city's art department, largely funded by the city government. They organize many great events in the city, like Artscape, the Baltimore Book Festival, and the Baltimore Farmer's Market. My position was brand new. Again, this was when social media marketing was still new, and everyone started realizing, "oh, we need to do marketing on social media; We need someone who knows how to do that." Luckily I had experience from SGA and my internships, so I applied and got the job. Also, I was able to get in touch with my references at BMA and say, "Hey, could you put in a good word for me?" That certainly helped. I updated their website and developed an app for the Artscape festival, which everyone in the office thought was a big deal. Luckily, I knew how to use WordPress. I also managed our social media accounts. Being in social media marketing during that time was a baptism-by-fire kind of experience, but it was nice to be a part of something new. As a 22-year-old, right out of college, I accomplished some really cool things, and I was able to make some really important decisions. After a while, this job helped me to leverage my next one.
My coworker left BOPA for a new opportunity. Her job was to handle press releases and media interviews. I saw an opportunity there for more experience. I asked my boss if I should apply. She said, "Go for it." I did the interview process, and they decided I was the right candidate.
That role gave me the experience for my next job at PROFILES, a local PR agency. There I worked with amazing clients, like the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore. We also were involved with neighborhood activities. I connected with local radio and TV stations. I knew everyone and who to call if we wanted something on TV. It felt pretty cool, having that sense of connection with the city. I worked at PROFILES for almost nine months.
I was in a long-distance relationship with my then-boyfriend between New York and Baltimore at this point. He studied medicine at New York University. For three years, we took three-hour bus trips every other week. We decided we'd had enough of that, so it was time for me to move to New York. I told PROFILES that I would be moving to New York. They were sad to see me go, but we decided that I could keep working remotely until someone else could take my place.
What year was this?
This was back in early 2016 before everyone was working remotely. I moved to New York without a plan or a real job, which was completely out of character for me, but I had no choice. In the end, everything worked out. Working remotely for PROFILES was enough to cover my rent for a couple of months while I looked for a new job. Within a few months, I landed a job at the AIDS Service Center of New York as a Communications Manager.
As a result of that whole experience, what was the biggest lesson you learned?
I learned that it is important to stay current, especially in communications. I subscribe to a lot of newsletters. Whenever possible, I attend training. PR, marketing, and other related things are constantly changing. In the 10 or so years that I've been working, I've grown a lot professionally. It's getting to the point in my career when it's time to mentor new professionals. Being constantly open to change and learning would be my best advice.
In your opinion, do you have any particular skills that distinguish you from your peers?
I like to think I'm really observant of trends, and know when it's time to get on board. I'm pretty decent at marketing myself and my skills. I know which accomplishments to highlight and I like to think I have a good LinkedIn profile. I'm an introvert, so I'm great with networking on LinkedIn. It is so important to network. I think the way to be considered for a job, is to be connected with someone who can put your name forward.
Could you tell me more about your current job?
I am the Director of Communications at the National Arts Club, a nonprofit organization. I still manage our social media, primarily Instagram. My time there has resulted in an increase in Instagram following of over 300%. That's something I'm really proud of. Since we're a nonprofit, we don't have a huge advertising budget, so it's been mostly organic, which you can only do by staying on top of trends and creating cool content. While we were in pandemic lockdown, we switched to virtual programming. We did more than 200 online lectures and performances. We went from having a space where about 150 people could attend in person, to our largest event where over 3000 people attended online. Suddenly, I had a worldwide audience. Adapting and managing that huge jump was another cool accomplishment for me. I have gotten to work with a lot of art magazines, art newspapers, and with TV. Also, I do email marketing, sending out weekly email blasts, and just keeping our audience up to date with what's going on.
You seem to wear a lot of hats.
Yes, that's always been my experience working for nonprofits. There's not always someone to do a specific job, so it can fall to you, and you just adapt.
Are there any tips you can offer to a student on how to handle all these responsibilities?
I'd say just be prepared for those other duties as assigned and be an advocate for yourself. In my job, Communications has always been my top priority, no matter what's being assigned to me. I signed up to handle communications, and I'll do it well. Don't forget what you're there for, and make sure you're enjoying it.
I have one more question. It's really serious. Do you miss Baltimore, and would you ever come back?
That's an excellent question. I miss Baltimore sometimes, but I'm pretty spoiled living in New York City. New York has ruined all the other cities for me. I lived in Hamden for two years after I graduated from UMBC. Maybe down the road. My brother still lives there, so I'm down to come back and visit. My parents have since moved to Delaware, so I don't get to visit Baltimore often. It's a great city, though. I'm just happy living in New York right now.
Posted: April 7, 2023, 1:03 PM