How Operation Underground Railroad's Brody Bolerjack found success in a journalism degree
David Alder, writer
Can seemingly tough video classes and meticulous attention to grammar help rescue children from child trafficking and keep people buying soda in a pandemic? For Utah State University alum, Brody Bolerjack, the answer is yes.
Bolerjack graduated with a journalism degree with an emphasis in public relations in 2019. His time at Utah State involved playing for the mens lacrosse team, serving as the philanthropy chair for Sigma Chi fraternity and playing a lot of basketball.
His journey at Utah State started with having no idea what he wanted to major in. A few classes in the JCOM department caught his eye and he slowly started to take classes focusing on communication and a multimedia class from JCOM associate professor Brian Champagne. His junior year, he landed an internship at Coca-Cola on its communications team, doing social media coordination.
After graduating, he was hired by Coca-Cola full time its communications team. “I was super grateful I learned the things I learned,” Bolerjack said. “Like in Steve Reiher’s class where I learned some crisis management. At Coca-Cola there was so much every single week.”
He now manages all volunteers and donors at Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), an organization dedicated to the fight against human trafficking and child sexual exploitation world-wide, serving as the main contact between the organization, its donors and volunteers. He also helps creating social media posts. “It’s cool work and I love it,” he said. “I’ve traveled to a few amazing places around the world, some scary places, but there’s no better way to build passion for your work than to see it firsthand.”
Bolerjack is passionate about what the organization stands for. “We are making sure that the donor's money is going the extra mile and being used in the most efficient way possible.”
“The best part is knowing you’re doing something good in the world. Every day is different. They treat their employees well. [It's great to] wake up every day knowing that you’re doing a good thing and that you can get paid to do it.” However, there are some challenges.
One of the hardest aspects of the job is marketing the fight against trafficking to people who don’t want to accept that it is happening all over the world.
“Often, people don’t want to accept it’s happening or give a donation until they’re either touched by a story or know someone who has been affected first hand,” he said. “It’s not world hunger, poverty or climate change. It’s different because unfortunately politics and money have been mixed into it.”
He said sometimes their social media posts come under scrutiny because of certain topics that are shadow banned, which give the O.U.R. public relations and marketing team quite the obstacle to overcome. “We’re here to rescue victims and innocent children, women and men. It isn’t political."
Bolerjack says he owes a huge portion of his success to different skills learned through classes at USU. “The most important part of any of the classes was being as tech savvy as possible. Those video editing classes saved me at Coca Cola.”
Students who pursue the journalism major are required to take a variety of classes to improve skills in every facet of communications, with some focusing on producing multimedia and fine-tuning skills to produce quality content.
“Being tech savvy with photography, videography and social media is going to be amazing on any PR team,” Bolerjack said, “because some of the older people don’t understand this and rely heavily on those they manage.”
Another element he said was critical that he learned from his education was developing good, professional grammar. “I can’t push enough how important grammar and being personable in a message is.”
The journalism program helped him in several other aspects of his life; improving his problem solving and communication skills, and his work ethic.
“When you are in a communication/PR field, you have to be more of a get-it-done person. Other departments are relying on communications PR departments to get things done. It’s taught me to be more timely and better at communicating,” he said.
There are a slew of possibilities for employment in the communications field. There’s something for everyone to learn from classes offered through the journalism and communication department.
“If you’re someone who wants to work on a team and you are timely and creative, then this is a field for you,” Bolerjack said.
After working in the field three years, he said if he could tell students considering this major anything, it would be how diverse, important and rewarding it is.
“In the future, it’s going to be important, more important than it is now. There’s so many different routes you can take and so much success you can make from it.
""If you speak another language, for example, people are always hiring. It’s an amazing job for someone who doesn’t want to do math every day.""
"“If you want to speak with people and make a difference, if you want a job that’s rewarding, you can take any branch from this degree and run with it,"" Bolerjack said..