Career Stories

Public Relations: Alexa Zoelle

Spanish studies major, Class of 2012

Alumna Alexa Zoelle headshot

Why did you major in Spanish Studies?

I decided to pursue a double major in Spanish studies and public relations within CLA for several reasons. What I loved about learning a second language was the way it allowed me to meet and converse with more people, and the professional doors I saw it would open for me in the future. I chose to major in public relations because I was interested in writen and verbal communication, and liked the client relations/business aspect of working in public relations with a team of like-minded people.

What is your current job? Do you use your Spanish at work?

I currently work as a Senior Account Executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies in New York City. My role is to provide communications and media strategy for a variety of clients in the healthcare and technology sectors. Spanish has helped me in numerous ways on the job, from translating articles, reading and understanding Spanish news covering my clients' business, to working with Spanish-speaking media and consumers. Overall, knowing Spanish is a great asset in my career, because it saves time and money for projects that would need to be outsourced otherwise. Being able to understand and speak Spanish is a skill in high demand, especially at marketing and PR agencies trying to target and reach this demographic.

What advice do you have for current or prospective students?

My advice to current Spanish/Portuguese studies majors is to study abroad. I spent a semester in Buenos Aires through CIEE and believe it make a big difference in my speaking confidence. I also recommend networking and exploring careers as much as you can while in college. Finding mentors and building relationships with people who work at a company or within a field you potentially want to work in can be very helpful as you navigate this process. Informational interviews are excellent for learning more about a company and whether they have any multicultural work opportunities. Internships before graduation or immediately following graduation are also essential for jump-starting your career in a communications or a related field.


Journalism: Kevin Keen

Spanish studies major, Class of 2009

Kevin Keen posing at a news desk

Describe your career trajectory and current job.

After graduation I worked as a bilingual television news reporter covering news in Southern Arizona and along the US Mexico border. Currently, I live in Switzerland and work for an international organization called the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. In my current job, I use my multimedia communication skills–honed, in part, in Latin America–to explain what the organization does and report on its progress. I envision, develop, and produce presentations, reports, and web materials for a variety of stakeholders from grant applicants in more than 140 countries. I work with people from at least 95 countries and in four languages–including Spanish. I constantly draw from my studies and learning abroad experiences to know how to work with such a variety of people and in so many countries.

What advice do you have for current and prospective students?

I highly recommend the learning abroad experience. The cultural, linguistic, academic and professional possibilities in Latin America are limitless. Based on your interests, you can pick a place and program that can help you achieve your professional, academic, and personal goals. I spent one semester in Argentina through IFSA-Butler and another in Ecuador through MSID. While on these programs, I took extra time to find journalism-related courses and internships. I also developed and directed an independent study course in which I produced bilingual video news reports. These kinds of focused and meaningful international experiences help students stand out when applying for a first job. They helped me land my position as a bilingual reporter, for which I would often draw from my time abroad and use my Spanish skills to do my work.