Leah Gebeke (’22 public relations) has always had a creative side. As a child growing up in Minnesota, she loved writing skits for relatives to perform at family dinners. Later on, she began using her skills to promote middle and high school events through student council.
“I knew I was always destined to write and create meaningful content to bring a smile to someone’s face,” she said. “Public relations gave me that opportunity to further explore my passions of content creation and uplifting spirits.”
Since arriving at Iowa State University, Gebeke has honed in on her major to become a skilled public relations professional, while also broadening her horizons with new experiences such as study abroad and theatre. With support and encouragement from faculty mentors, she is creating the content of a meaningful college adventure.
Finding a home at Iowa State
When looking at colleges, Gebeke searched for a school to call her own, that would be one of a kind in her family. Iowa State instantly felt like home, and she was excited about the hands-on opportunities offered by the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.
“I love the faculty,” she said. “They genuinely care about you, not only academically and professionally, but they look out for you as a human being. They all have good hearts and care about the students they are teaching and influencing. I also love the variety of courses and organizations you can join to truly find your niche and grow in that field.”
Gebeke said one of those inspiring faculty members is Deni Chamberlin, an associate professor of journalism and communication who leads Greenlee’s study abroad program in Urbino, Italy. Gebeke’s spring 2020 semester in Italy, though cut short due to COVID-19, included intensive communications coursework, cultural immersion and fantastic friendships.
“Deni Chamberlin inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and explore the unknown,” Gebeke said. “She influenced me to immerse myself in the authentic Italian culture. I have her to thank for helping me make the best decision I could have ever made during my four years at Iowa State.”
Gebeke said Novotny Lawrence, associate professor of journalism and communication in the Greenlee School, has also impacted her while at Iowa State, as a mentor and confidant.
“He has influenced me to chase after what I am passionate about, no matter how big or small that goal may be,” Gebeke said. “I have Dr. Lawrence to thank for my growth as an Iowa State student; I couldn’t have asked for a better faculty mentor.”
A dream internship
To build her professional skills, Gebeke has taken on leadership roles with campus radio, Ethos Magazine, Greenlee School TV, the Sports Media Club and the Study Abroad Center, to name a few places.
She’s also completed three internships, the most recent as a summer social media and content creation intern for the PGA’s 3M Open in Minnesota. Her work helped engage thousands of users across multiple social platforms leading up to and during tournament week.
“When working for an event like the 3M Open, you often hear the phrase ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,’” Gebeke said. “You meet notable people from every industry imaginable and create relationships that last a lifetime. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to take pictures and stand in the presence of legendary NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley or network with some of the biggest names at 3M, but they are moments I will cherish forever.”
When she graduates, Gebeke hopes to join a major media market and work in sports media or entertainment news.
To expand her Iowa State adventure even further, Gebeke joined ISU Theatre and Improv Comedy Club. She’s performed in multiple shows and found encouragement from yet another faculty mentor, Tiffany Johnson, assistant professor of practice in music and theatre.
“[Tiffany] has a way of making us feel empowered and confident in our skills as professional actors,” Gebeke said. “She motivates us to work hard and genuinely invest in our characters and their motivations. Her positive, bubbly energy and encouraging words have helped me so much as an actress and individual.”
Gebeke encourages new students to also chart their own path at Iowa State. They may create their best memory yet.
“My best advice for new students is to step out of their comfort zone,” Gebeke said. “Don’t be afraid to try new clubs or organizations because you could create memories and friendships that will last a lifetime, and it’s something you could look back on as the greatest decision you made at Iowa State.”