Editor’s Note — This is part of a student conversation series highlighted as part of Black History Month on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Medium page. The series will feature students who are making impacts on campus and hope to maintain that momentum in future careers.
This week, meet Odelia Amenyah, an advertising and public relations and journalism double major from Omaha. Through Heartland Pulse, she’s getting hands-on experience in the industry while telling stories of people in the state.
Describe Heartland for someone that’s never heard of it.
Heartland Pulse is a content marketing platform that helps Nebraskans form deeper connections with their state through unexpected stories.
Our work focuses on community: geographical places, physical environments and the people who interact with them — and each other. From cities and towns to unique businesses and groups supporting a mission or cause, our stories showcase why Nebraska is a unique place to live, work and play.
Why were you interested in joining Heartland? Any stories you’re particularly passionate about?
I was interested in joining Heartland because I liked the storytelling component of Heartland. It seemed more personal and focused on small business owners in Nebraska. These small businesses make up a big part of our economy and play a vital role in society. Not only was it cool to see the variety of different companies or events in Nebraska, but also to see the diversity and recognize that people from various backgrounds contribute tremendously to our state.
I loved a story about the Blair Freeman Group, a Black woman-owned construction and real estate firm in Omaha. It was a great experience interviewing one of the founders. Her story inspired me because she was in a predominantly white and male field, and here she was, taking great strides and being a leader not only in her industry, but in her community as well. Also, one of the students did a story on the ECHO Collective, which helps immigrant and refugee women be given the tools they need to become entrepreneurs. Those are just some stories that I loved. As the Heartland program grows, the way we tell these stories will be different since we are looking to focus more on content marketing.
Everyone deserves to have their story told and it is important that we create space for people to be in control of how they narrate their lives as future media/communications professionals.
You also serve as a student leader for Heartland Pulse. What has that experience taught you?
I have been the student lead for three semesters now, and the biggest lesson that my experience has taught me is to be patient. With patience comes understanding. Being patient has allowed me to be more of an empathetic leader, a better listener, more attentive and adaptable. Every semester looks different, so patience is key.
What has it been like to gain hands-on experience outside of the traditional classroom?
Experiential learning is one of the best things about the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. They center the classes around ensuring you are learning and crafting skills to create work you can put in your portfolio. I have learned a tremendous amount about dealing with people in an agency setting like Jacht, learning how to edit and interview in my journalism classes, working with other people and learning how to be accountable, and even just learning how to send a comprehensive email and engage with professionals. Experiential learning prepares me for new experiences and challenges and to be open to growing my skill set.
Is there anything you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
I have always been a person who works to help other people and to elevate and uplift others. I want to work with some media, so whether at a news publication or an agency, I want to create a space where I help Black professionals make their mark in the industry. I know that mentorship is so important, and I have been very thankful to have mentors that I can relate to and who have helped open doors for me. I want to help anyone grow in the field of advertising, public relations and journalism. But I also want to work with diversity, equity and inclusion in my field. I want to explore the industry and how different brands and companies can be more inclusive when creating their brand to include people from different backgrounds.
What or who inspires you?
My parents inspire me. I am a huge proponent of looking at the people around me who inspire me instead of people who are celebrities because I can see the work they do day in and day out. My parents inspire me because they immigrated to the United States from Togo in West Africa. When most people in their 30s had their lives settled, for the most part, my parents left everything they knew. I see how hard my parents work to give my siblings and me a chance at the “American Dream.” Their sacrifice is something that I cannot put into words. They have taught me to be respectful and open-minded, work hard and be a better version of myself than I was yesterday. I am fortunate to have the parents I have, and they inspire me because they are a fundamental part of who I am. They are the essence of my being.
What is your advice to other students looking to make an impact on campus and beyond?
My advice is to be present. Showing up is something that people take note of and value. Choose something you care about and be present for it, whether it is a club, class or job. Your presence means a lot, so showing up, being active and doing the work are essential, but also know that your impact doesn’t have to be paramount. It could be as simple as giving a good idea in your club meeting or as big as starting a new campus organization or creating a conversation. Learn to be present daily, not for others but for yourself.