Due to the small-school atmosphere at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, students have the chance to gain experience in many different roles during their education, learning skills beyond their intended career field. For Alyssa Willetts, class of 2018, that extra experience was instrumental in getting her where she is today.
She first discovered OKWU when the soccer program began scouting her out of Chickasha High School. After originally committing to Sterling College, in Kansas, Willetts realized that OKWU was the better fit, and made the change when they offered her a scholarship. Even then, her path wasn’t clear; she’d always known she wanted to work in television in some way, and at the time, OKWU didn’t have a program with that emphasis.
“I wanted to get the basics of storytelling and communication and how you write for the web, things like that,” she said. “I thought I could get those basics at OKWU enough to be able to find a job after.”
But during her time in the communications program, Professor Evan Hewitt joined the OKWU family, and her path became clearer. He brought along his experience in the film industry and began teaching OKWU’s Digital Cinema program.
“[OKWU] is going to put you in the best position to succeed after college.”
“When Hewitt got the school, that changed everything for me because we started to do video,” Willetts said. And even beyond the program fit, she had fallen in love with OKWU’s family atmosphere.
“When you hear about college, you hear about these big schools, and how it’s hard to make friends,” she said. “Going to OKWU, I didn’t have that problem at all. Everyone was so close-knit.”
The small size of the communications program was also vital for allowing Willetts to learn all aspects of her future job, something that she says comes in handy in the modern world of reporting. “And that helped me a ton, getting that background [at OKWU],” she said. “I actually had the skills now to be a reporter in all facets.”
After graduation, she found the job market in her field competitive and progress hard to come by, at least initially. “It was so hard, at first. It was taking me months, and no one would call me back. Or I would get an interview, and they would go with someone else,” she said.
Finally, though, she landed an internship in Kansas City with a sports media company, which eventually turned into an overnight producing job in Topeka. Now, after climbing the ladder, Willets is a full-time news reporter. “I’m kind of doing exactly what I wanted to do,” she said.
And like so many others, her job has shifted in recent months due to the coronavirus epidemic. “It’s been pretty crazy,” she said. “Every story has to do with COVID now because that’s really all that’s going on.”
One interesting aspect of the past few months was when Willetts was tasked with covering protest rallies in Kansas City. She and her camera operator roamed the streets, interviewing those protesting against stay-at-home orders throughout the state. By her own account, it was an eye-opening experience.
“That was the most challenging thing I’ve done so far,” she said, noting that most of the protesters she encountered were hostile to her news team. “I was just trying to do my job the best that I could.” But despite the hostility, she’s grateful for the experience.
Willetts’ advice to anyone considering OKWU is simple: go for it, even if you don’t think the program fit is a perfect one.
“I didn’t see my particular major at the school [at first],” she said. “But just by talking to the people there… it helped me understand that they would tailor my studies to what I wanted to do. And that’s exactly what happened.”
Now, she’s excited for what the future holds, and hopes to enter a bigger market in the future. And she’s grateful to OKWU for helping to get her foot in the door.
“That school is going to put you in the best position to succeed after college,” she said.