When Alexandria Smalls enrolled at Grambling State University in Louisiana, she intended to major
in computer science. “I enjoyed the challenge of solving problems with code,” she said, “until I went to see a ‘behind the scenes of Avatar’ presentation and realized what I wanted to do most was tell that kind of story.”
Smalls changed her major to mass communications and never looked back. She became involved in the university’s broadcast team and found she had a knack for telling sports news stories with video. She also honed her communication skills by volunteering with a local fire department in Louisiana.
“In the fire department, we had to communicate constantly and be clear and direct,” she said. “Are people inside the house? Is the fire under control? For non-critical messages, I helped them expand their Facebook page.”
As Smalls’ expertise developed, she gained more responsibility and became the live stream production lead producer for the university’s sports division. She strategized with her colleagues on features, reviewed content, and coordinated shows with her team members and the coaches, editing and publishing videos along the way.
“That’s been my favorite job so far,” said Smalls. “I had full responsibility for controlling the environment, teaching student workers and team members how to set up for the best shots, telling our stories in the strongest way possible for the most impact. It was fast-paced and I was incredibly proud of my team’s results.”
Although she loved the excitement of working in a television station, she felt pulled back to Texas. “I’m originally from Dallas, and my family still lived there, so I started exploring options in both the Dallas and Houston areas.” Smalls moved to Houston, working as the media production specialist for a large church in west Houston.
She was responsible for the church’s website and designed a mobile-friendly multi-platform app that appealed to a broader audience. Her changes to their social media presence resulted in a 49% increase in their followers, and she also supported community events through graphic design and marketing strategies.
“My biggest challenge was trying to be a mind-reader,” Smalls said. “When someone says, ‘I don’t like that,’ then, of course, I want to change the aspects that are troublesome. But trying to find out what those aspects were proved difficult.”
Smalls also became adept at solving media and event crises. “One of the most memorable special events was a concert we’d been planning. It was a major event and at the last minute, my supervisor became ill and couldn’t make it. The rest of the team became nervous about pulling off such a big event without our leader managing the production aspects so I stepped up and said, ‘We’ve all rehearsed this several times, you’ve done this, you can do this.’ After I helped them relax, we ran through one more rehearsal and opened the concert.”
At Rice University, Smalls will be focused on generating and distributing publicity for current students, faculty, and staff in the Computer Science Department. Her favorite communications tool is a video recorder so the CS community at Rice can expect more video clips to appear on the department’s website and social media channels. “I’m looking forward to this new challenge and to starting a new phase of my career,” said Smalls.