When Jessica Homan interviewed at the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) in early 2020, little did she know it would be the last time she would step foot in the Natural Resources Building due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, she embraced the virtual format and hasn't looked back! Jessica’s passion for her work revolves around communications. She was drawn to intern at PRI after learning about the impact its services and research has on citizens and scientists in Illinois and beyond—plenty of good stories to tell!
Tell us a little about yourself!
I am currently an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, majoring in communications and double minoring in leadership studies and earth, environment, and society. In addition to my studies, I am the social media intern for PRI and the president of IllinoiSkating, which is a synchronized ice-skating club sport at the university. Other interests I have include running and embroidery.
What drew you to your particular area of study?
I’ve always been interested in the power of words, and the impact that communication can have on society. There is so much influence and power in communication and building relationships, which I find compelling. My favorite classes in high school were always my English classes because I was able to dissect writings and speeches to discover different techniques that help enhance their meaning. That process is exciting to me and demonstrates how much influence words have. I realized in college that majoring in communications was perfect for me because it has allowed me to continue researching and learning more about exploring how communication shapes our society.
How did you get started at PRI?
I knew I wanted to gain more communications experience to improve my skills and apply them to future endeavors. I started looking for internship opportunities in the Urbana-Champaign area, and I came across PRI! What stood out to me was the impact of the organization’s services to the community and contributions to research and other scientists. That is what initially drew me to apply, and if I could play some part in that process, I would be pleased. I officially started at PRI in August 2020 and have been interning since!
What do you wish more people understood about working in communications?
I wish more people understood the large scope of skills and responsibilities that define communications. Most of the time, the first question I get asked about my future career is, “Oh, so you plan to talk to people for your job?” While, yes, talking to people is a part of communications, there's a lot more that falls under the communications umbrella that a lot of people do not recognize as a communications job. That is also what initially drew me to this area of study because there are many routes that I can pursue. Communication affects many spheres, which allows me to be a part of many different circles.
What do you find fascinating about working in this field?
The best thing about working in communications is the people you meet and the stories you write. While working with PRI, I have had the pleasure to read and help promote many talented employees’ projects and research. I have learned more about different topics, and that is exciting to me. I love the idea of being in a role where I can continue to learn more and meet new interesting people because, in turn, it makes my life richer and more interesting.
What’s it like doing this job in the middle of a pandemic?
It has been a different experience! It has been strange that I have not set foot into the office or met anyone in person. I am, of course, grateful for various technologies that allow me to still communicate with everyone on the strategic communications team. I do look forward to when we are allowed to meet in person, but until then, staying safe is the number one priority!
What advice would you give to those just starting out in your field?
I would say don’t limit yourself to a single career path. As I have mentioned before, a lot falls under the communications umbrella, so the best thing you can do is to experiment with many different roles. This way, you can truly find out what you enjoy and build up your skills. I believe a Sylvia Plath quote embodies this, “I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones, and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life.”