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WCAS student Jordan Harrison recounts her NEXT experience with National Geographic. Jordan is a rising junior majoring in biology.

Jordan Harrison spent her NEXTernship with communications manager (and NU alum) at National Geographic.

Rising junior Jordan Harrison spent her NEXTernship with National Geographic communications manager (& NU alum), Beth Furtwangler.

I walked into National Geographic expecting to learn about PR. I actually learned about PR, book publishing, photo copyright, children’s literature, media moments, and the Pope. National Geographic is a truly unique organization; it is a media and a news company, of course, but it also funds research and innovation and keeps such a cooperative relationship with scientists that you know you can trust their facts.

I shadowed Beth Furtwangler, communications manager for the daily news and National Geographic Kids divisions, who also introduced me to some of her colleagues including Lauren Hodapp, Kelsey Flora, Carol Woodward, and Farley Fitzgerald. I am so grateful to all of them for taking the time out of their day to talk to me.

What I really took away from my day with Beth was to always seize opportunities when they arise in the “moment,” whether in media or in my career. For instance, Nat Geo recognized the significance of the recent measles outbreak in Disneyland as a catalyst for conversation about science denialism, and ran the article “The War on Science” online two weeks early to be part of the conversation. In my own professional life, some similar advice I got was to seize internships or other experiential learning opportunities as often as I can.

Nat Geo also changed how I think about occupation versus industry. I’ve never had warm feelings about PR until now because I didn’t think there could be a lot of passion in it. However, a lot of the Communications staff said they felt more a part of a team working in-house at National Geographic than for an agency. For an organization like National Geographic that wears so many hats, from research to outreach to book publishing, the communications team is vital for coordinating everyone’s efforts. It totally changed my opinion of public relations as a fulfilling career. It goes to show that working in different industries can totally change your job satisfaction even if you are working in the same role.

And finally, here’s some fun stuff. Did you know that National Geographic has a cartographic department? A whole department just for maps. Whenever a map is needed in any NG publication, the map department has to make it and lay it out and nobody else can mess with it.