Hello! My name is John Wells, and I am a senior here at Chapman University, majoring in Strategic and Corporate Communication with a minor in Psychology. This Fall semester, I had the opportunity to join Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) as a Public Outreach Intern. What is OCTA, you may ask? Well, you may not realize it, but you come across OCTA on a daily basis. Those blue and orange buses that flood our streets are a part of OCTA’s arsenal that provides Orange County residents with safe and clean public transportation. Besides its public transportation services, OCTA spearheads highway and rail projects that ensure our roads and tracks are safe, efficient, and operational.  

Now, how did I end up here? In almost every communication class, networking is emphasized, with the Chapman Career and Development Center stating that 80% of jobs are found through networking. Last semester, I met a classmate who held this exact position, and he shared with me how much he loved what he did there. I was instantly intrigued, not only because of how much this position seemed to align with my degree but also because it aligned with my goal of working for a company whose sole purpose is to help the community. All that to say, I was ecstatic when I got the position.

Public Outreach is a critical component of the construction process as they are the liaisons between the public and the construction team. As a Public Outreach Intern at OCTA, I assist my team with communicating construction updates, road closures, detours, and any other messages of importance to those most impacted by the ongoing project. The main freeway project that I am a part of involves work being done on the 55-Freeway between the 5-Freeway and the 405-Freeway. This project spans four miles and impacts hundreds of businesses and thousands of people who either live or commute on that corridor each day. Our job is to provide resources to the public to ensure that the project goes as smoothly and efficiently as possible. This can be seen in our weekly e-blasts containing construction updates or us going into the neighborhood to canvass fliers with information to minimize the impacts felt during construction. 

Here I am working a project booth in a high impact community where we provided resources and information regarding the freeway construction.

One of the most significant projects I worked on with OCTA that provided me with valuable experience and contributed greatly to the company was the creation of a social media strategy plan for a new rail project. This was something that I had never done before, but I thought back to my Message Design II (SCC 400) class, where we learned about the ten steps to creating a campaign. Although this was not a campaign, per se, there was a lot of crossover. To complete this plan, I gathered background research on similar social media efforts for other OCTA projects, conducted a SWOT analysis, segmented and identified a target audience, set objectives, and strategized how the account would be promoted and how our content and engagement would be measured by establishing key performance indicators (KPI’s). I also identified key influencers who we could collaborate with, created a social media calendar, and generated hashtags specific to the project that we could use to brand and promote our content. After a couple of rounds of revisions with my supervisor, my supervisor was very impressed with the final result. As someone seeking a career in influencer marketing, this assignment was very beneficial as it broadened my understanding of how social media can inform or influence an audience. 

Here are some posters I helped create to inform residents about upcoming interstate lane changes in their neighborhood.

Although any first internship can feel daunting in the beginning, I quickly adapted thanks to the amazing team I worked with and all of the resources OCTA offered their interns for personal and professional development. I also have to shout out all of the amazing professors from the School of Communication who put so much care and effort into creating a program that teaches applicable skills in a hands-on manner. I look forward to transferring the skills and lessons I learned at OCTA and my education at Chapman to my future professional endeavors.