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Alumni Guest Columns

Coastal Carolina University graduates share experience and advice

Michelle Russo, Class of ‘08

Director of production for Paramount Global Consumer Products


When I was entering college as a communication major
with a minor in theater, I was still unclear what
direction I was going in, but I always had an interest in the
entertainment industry.

At Coastal Carolina University, I was offered a few video
production classes and discovered my passion for the entire
process of production from writing, to directing, editing and
producing. After leaving Coastal, I secured an internship at
Viacom in NYC and at the end of the internship, was hired as a
production assistant for TV Land’s On-Air Promos department.
Since then, my role and responsibilities have shifted, all while
staying in the Viacom– now Paramount– family. Through hard
work and making the right connections, along with successfully
managing reorgs and restructures, I found myself in my current
role as director of production for Paramount Global Consumer
Products and Experiences’ Content Team. This latest position
has given me the opportunity to relocate from New York to Los
Angeles, where I now reside and work from the Paramount Lot
in Hollywood.

In this role, I oversee a team of producers in the creation
of short-form content, supporting the Consumer Products
and Experiences teams. We create award-winning content for
social, digital, linear and business-to-business needs for all of
Paramount’s largest brands i.e. “SpongeBob,” “PAW Patrol,”
“Mean Girls,” etc.


I also direct most of our department’s video shoots, including
live digital segments. Throughout the years, I have developed a
great passion for directing, which has become my favorite aspect of the job. There’s nothing like being on set and watching a creative vision come to life.

When first entering college, I was not sure what direction
I was going in, and in fact, that direction changed many times
until I finally recognized my love for the entertainment industry.

What has gotten me to where I am today is my dedication and
hard work even when my path wasn’t clear.
My advice to anyone entering the entertainment industry, or
in any career path, is to always work hard and make connections.

You never know where your path may cross with someone
else’s later in life. Specifically, within the entertainment industry,one of the biggest pieces of advice would be to embrace change.

The industry is consistently changing and growing. Being able
to be flexible and stay on top of trends and the ever-changing
technology will be extremely helpful as you continue to grow in
your career. And lastly, don’t be afraid to take chances.


Hannah Huffstickler, Class of ‘23

News reporter for WBTW News Channel 13


During my time at Coastal Carolina University, I majored in communication and minored in journalism. I always knew I wanted to go into the broadcast news field, but never knew what that looked like for me.  


After I took Professor Kimberly Schumacher’s journalism class my junior year, I knew that was what I wanted to do after college. I did an internship at WJBF in Augusta, Georgia during my senior year. There, I got great experience as well as a good understanding of what a day in the life of a journalist looked like.  


I graduated in December 2023 and my first day at WBTW News Channel 13 as a reporter was on Jan. 31!  


That journalism class, as well as my internship, prepared me for this job and I went into it feeling very prepared. Since starting this job, I have learned so much and am still learning and improving every day. While I was working the dayside shift from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., I would; go into the morning meetings, pitch my story ideas, set up an interview for that day, film b-roll, do the interview, write my scripts, edit my video, turn it in, and then either go live in a few of the shows or film my look lives! 


I am now the morning reporter, from 4 a.m. to 12 p.m., as well as the weekend reporter and I love it! I pre-plan and film all of my stories days or weeks in advance and have the opportunity to cover weekend events. I will go live in the morning shows and then film look lives for later shows.  


I love my job, the people I work with, and I enjoy going into work every day.


Abbe Reynolds, Class of ‘23

Professional cheerleader, leasing and property


Thank you, Chanticleers! I cannot imagine how different my life would be without attending Coastal Carolina University. 


As a student at CCU, I was very involved around campus. I was a 4-year member of the Chanticleer girls dance team where I performed at all football, basketball and baseball games. I was also a Sister of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, a campus tour guide, a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) representative, a member of the Teal Nation Communication Student Agency and of the American Marketing Association (AMA). 


During my senior year homecoming, I was nominated for the Spirit of the Chanticleer award. This was such an honor as I truly loved CCU and was a positive representative.  


I graduated in May 2023 where I obtained my bachelor’s in communication with a focus in public relations and a minor in marketing. Upon graduation at our HTC Student Recreation and Convocation Center, I moved away from South Carolina to follow my dreams to Jacksonville, Florida. I began dancing as a professional cheerleader with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars where I continued my passion and even danced in front of 85,000 fans in London.  


Shortly after the move, I obtained a job as a leasing professional and soon after was promoted to leasing and assistant property manager. At this job, I had leading sales numbers within the company and began training new team members to do the same. While pursuing these two amazing jobs, I also moved my small business “Airbrushed By Abbe” to Florida.  


Coastal gave me the tools and networking needed to follow my dreams and obtain amazing opportunities post-graduation. As I continue on with my career and future endeavors, I still remain in contact with my incredible professors as they lead me to new networking opportunities and provide amazing advice. I will forever be thankful for what Coastal taught me.  


As always, CHANTS UP!  


Jay Orcutt, class of ‘23

Graphic designer


While attending Coastal Carolina University, I held the assumption that all of the necessary knowledge to ready myself for my career would be imparted within the confines of a classroom. 


Once stepping into the graphic design industry, I quickly came to realize how valuable my community involvement was at CCU. Regardless of your major, Coastal provides a wide range of clubs, organizations, and extracurricular activities that pass on experience that will overall better your future endeavors. The organization that specifically pushed me to be a more well-rounded candidate for hiring is CHROMA; an art and design organization on campus where I started off as a social media manager.


Not thinking much of it at the time, I later realized how this experience helped me run social media accounts for real-world clients. I eventually rose to be the president of the organization in my late junior year. Overseeing the organization as a whole, still running social media and continuing my normal class schedule, gave me the multitasking skills I use every day while working at a marketing agency.


In an academic environment, it’s important to be aware of the many opportunities (regardless of scale), as it could be the stepping stone that leads you to landing a position after graduation. An example of one of these opportunities is attending events where alumni speak and share their industry experience and knowledge. Who better to answer your questions than the people who were in your exact position?


Reaching out to alumni as a source of knowledge can be extremely beneficial for general questions, but also for networking. Companies typically like to hire internally or through internal referrals before opening a position to the general public. Through platforms like LinkedIn, connecting with alumni is a great way to stay engaged with the CCU community after graduation and also opens doors to future opportunities.


If you are to take anything away from reading this, my advice would be to make every moment at CCU count, get involved with the community and make some great memories!


Demondre Williams, Class of ‘23

Honors English teacher at Carvers Bay Middle STEAM Academy 


After graduation life has been pretty good, besides the normal thorns that can stick to your side along the journey.  


I graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a bachelor’s degree in education, which allowed me to take the English language arts teaching job at Carvers Bay Middle STEAM Academy. It hasn’t been long since graduation in the spring of 2023; The program allowed me to have a job secured before I walked the stage.  


Fast forward, I currently teach all grade levels and all the honors English classes at the school. The Spadoni College of Education and Social Sciences prepared me well and the current job experience helped me understand the nature of the public education system.  


Additionally, the Call Me MiSTER program had prepared me in a plethora of ways to launch the Distinguished Gentlemen program to mentor young males at the middle school.  


The growth I have had professionally has been exciting. I have attended many professional developments in my school district and obtained my Gifted and Talented add-on certification in post-graduate. 


The advice I would give to the fresh graduates would be to not be too prideful and to ask simple questions. The days are not going to be sunny all the time, but you have to be the navigator of your own life. If things don’t go as expected, don’t be ashamed because all professionals are still growing.  


Do not to be afraid of your needs changing, whether that be in relationships, your physical environment or emotionally. The time after graduation can feel like a void, even if you have everything lined up to the “perfect” situation. 


It’s okay to change, and it’s okay to fail because failure allows you to grow.  


There is beauty in failure because it pushes you to a limit you did not know you could tap into.  


Overall, I would trust the foundational values and skills earned at Coastal, and not be too hard on yourself. As you will find out, the other “adults” can be scrambling too.  

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