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Georgia Southern University

Student turned journalist: Senior Harley Strickland to start work with WTOC this spring

Harley Strickland is certainly leaving a legacy for herself at Georgia Southern. The senior journalism major was crowned Miss Georgia Southern in 2016, represented the University in the Savannah St. Patrick’s Day parade, and currently broadcasts weekly Facebook live-streams with the University multimedia journalism class. So it may come as quite a surprise that prior to her academic career, Strickland said she was once a timid little girl from Claxton, Georgia.

“My granny and I would always watch her soaps, and the news would come on just before,” said Strickland. “I always admired watching the reporters and wished I could do that, but I knew I was too shy.”

It wasn’t until her sophomore year of high school that Strickland found her connection to the camera. Her media teacher at Pinewood Christian Academy dug up an old teleprompter for the classroom and was looking for a group of students to utilize it for a school news show. Strickland became curious, and decided to give her dream of reporting a shot within the comfort of her small class walls.

She soon began co-hosting the school news show, and her showmanship began to grow. She began competing in pageants at the local level, raking in titles and scholarship money for her interview and communication skills. She slowly branched out of her comfort zone and became determined to follow her dreams, despite her reserved nature.

After high school Strickland began courses at East Georgia State College, and continued competing in pageants, which helped hone her skills on stage and in front of the camera. But she knew she needed more hands-on experience if she were to reach her goals of reporting in the “real world.”

She transferred to Georgia Southern in the fall of 2015 and declared a journalism major. She joined the University’s student media group and worked with their video component, “The Circle.” Everything was going perfectly for the budding star reporter until her world came to a halt in 2016.

Her father was diagnosed with cancer and given a few months to live. Strickland was overwhelmed with grief, and the added worry of classwork and looming projects left her feeling helpless. She decided to confide in the University’s Dean of Students, Patrice Jackson, Ph.D., to share her situation.

“Dean Jackson was amazing,” said Strickland. “She really listened and cared about my situation. She told me not to worry about my classes, that people would work with me. It was so genuine, and it made a terrible situation into one of my fondest memories at Georgia Southern. It’s when I realized the true close-knit community we have.”

University faculty and staff showed up for her father’s viewing, and many talked with her personally to show support and kindness.

“People just really take the time here,” she said.

The outpour of love Strickland felt from her community and Georgia Southern family kept her pushing toward her goals. She pressed on in her academics and eventually landed an internship with Savannah news station WTOC.

Strickland spent her final summer in college getting hands-on experience in the newsroom under the tutelage of University alumnus WTOC Bureau Chief Dal Cannady. Since completing her internship at WTOC, Strickland was hired to host the channel’s annual Holiday Gift Guide, and will also begin a full-time position as an assistant news specialist after graduation.

She credits much of her academic and career success to her time at Georgia Southern.

“If it weren’t for this University, for the amazing faculty and staff who took the time to give me personal feedback and criticism, I would never have been able to do this,” she said. “Dr. Dean Cummings [Ph.D., assistant professor of multimedia film and production] and Dr. Jennifer Kowalewski [Ph.D., associate professor of multimedia journalism], especially, made time to make sure I had the skills to be successful. I’m so grateful for that.”

Strickland was recently inducted into the University’s chapter of the National Honors Society of Leadership and & Success and is set to graduate magna cum laude in December.

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/Research University founded in 1906, offers 118 degree programs serving 20,418 students. Through eight colleges, the University offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs built on more than a century of academic achievement. Georgia Southern is recognized for its student-centered and hands-on approach to education. Visit GeorgiaSouthern.edu.

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