When it comes to setting career goals, it is important to remember that such things require time and deliberation. The primary objective is to gain experience and forge connections with like-minded individuals. Professionals in similar fields who are familiar with students’ work ethics and can vouch for their abilities are incredible assets. Doing so positions students in an environment where connections keep a sharp eye out for postings that remind them of their unique abilities. Take University of Tulsa alumna Lizaimee Mata-Steger (BA ’10) for example, who, after nearly a decade of professional experience, is now in the process of moving to Washington, D.C. to accept a position as a regional public engagement specialist within the Foreign Service. Steger’s connections saw her potential and gave her the push she needed to launch her career in a new direction.
Steger graduated with a communications degree and minors in political science and French. She mainly focused on journalism classes at the time. “I got to sharpen my content development skills through a lot of writing practice and understanding how messaging needs to be targeted and catered to different audiences,” Steger said. She recalls the mentorship she encountered while obtaining her undergraduate degree, specifically that of Associate Professor of Media Studies Mark Brewin, whose support left a lasting impression on Steger: “Dr. Brewin was a great mentor, and he was always supportive of me exploring different ways to utilize my skill set and my degree.”
Steger applied those skills to her position as public relations manager for Oklahoma Natural Gas where she was the lead storyteller for the company. “I was in charge of anything that had to do with mass messaging, whether it was proactive or reactive, and the delivery of information to the audiences, be it across the state or simply with customers,” she said. Now, Steger is gearing up for a new adventure. This month, she and her family will make the move to Washington, D.C., where she will carry out six weeks of basic training before finding out where in the world her new career will take her. But where did Steger’s foreign service journey start? And what does this kind of work entail?
Steger claims that she has always been particularly interested in politics and foreign policy. “Making the transition from public relations to the policy side of things is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. When I did my master’s at Oklahoma State University, I connected with Cynthia Nichols who is a diplomat for the Foreign Service,” said Steger. When a job opened up in the Foreign Service, Nichols called Steger and told her that she should apply for the position. “I’ve been working on the application ever since before the pandemic. It’s an incredibly lengthy process, but I’ve learned so much about myself throughout it,” Steger said. “I got the job offer about a year ago, so I can’t believe everything is finally happening now.”
A future in politics
The Department of State hires people to serve in different positions around the world as representatives of the United States. Steger’s official title will be regional public engagement specialist. Her job will take her abroad where she will partner with local governments and organizations to discuss how the Foreign Service can help and share information about the United States. “It’s basically a public relations job abroad, serving the U.S.,” Steger said. When asked what kind of communities she will be serving, Steger mentioned that there is not a specific community that they serve, but rather where there are opportunities to connect and continue building relationships.
Eventually, Steger is interested in a political career, whether that includes running for office or pursuing a federal position. “I think this is a good starting point for me to reach those goals in the future, but regardless of where I end up, my goal is always to help people and help make people’s lives better. It’s something that I’ve always been passionate about, and it’s something that continues to drive me,” she said.
Forging strong career goals is just one of the many values TU students carry after graduation. Where TU alumni go, experience, connections and success are sure to follow. Steger is incredibly thankful for her time as a Golden Hurricane. “In everything I did, both academically and not academically, TU positioned me to be successful. I am so proud to be an alumna.”
Do you want to build a career that takes you places you have never been before? Check out the Department of Media Studies today and specialize in any number of roles in professional fields in communications, public relations, advertising, journalism and storytelling, creative multimedia production and more.