A Story of Trust and Inspiration with Courtland Bragg

By Andres Farrera

AUSTIN, Texas – NFL Films’ 25-year-old Emmy-Award Winning Associate Producer, Courtland Bragg, spoke to University of Texas students on November 14, students who were barely younger than himself, and told them that they could be in his shoes.

“People aren’t going to believe your dreams,” said Bragg. “That’s fine. They’re yours. But you have to know what your dream tastes like, feels like, looks like”.

In a room buzzing with hushed chatter at the University of Texas at Austin’s Belo Center for New Media, the youngest full-time NFL Films employee, Courtland Bragg discussed the importance of following your passions, the struggles of success and trusting your journey. The 25-year-old told students that he doesn’t want to be the only one to achieve great accomplishments.

Bragg found his purpose in storytelling and inspiring others, he spoke at UT about this passion and his journey through life so far. Growing up in New Jersey Bragg always had the aspirations to play college football but had his dreams crushed when Syracuse University rejected him. He was told that he was too short. ‘Shortland Bragg’, he was called, had been rejected based on something he couldn’t control. However, facing rejection didn’t stop Bragg from pursuing his dreams of living in the football world. Bragg used the rejection as motivation to find his purpose and platform.

“The two most important days of your life are: the day you’re born and the day you find out why,” said Bragg.

By focusing on the opportunities life provided him and remaining dedicated to his purpose Bragg was able to follow his dreams to NFL Films. Initially applying as an intern for NFL Films during his junior year in college Bragg was rejected. Again, having his dream of working with football stalled, but he persisted and applied again the next year. This time succeeding and securing an internship. Working in the NFL Films internship eventually led to a full-time position for Bragg, an opportunity which fulfilled his passion and purpose.

Although many see his accomplishments as great feats and an example of what success looks like, Bragg stated that we can’t see the struggles he’s endured to reach this point. Each individual can’t compare themselves to anyone else’s chapter because we are all reading a different story of life.

“Courtland was genuine, he tasted success, failure and everything in between,” said Zack Torres a 3rd year public relations student. “He didn’t say succeeding was easy, but he told us we could do it”.

Bragg’s discussion with the audience focused on his personal experiences as an example of persistence and dedication to inspire the students struggling to find their passion and purpose.

“What Courtland brings is an ability to relate to the students because he’s almost their age,” said Taylor Brown, program coordinator with the UT Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation. “His ability to relate on a more personal level… allows students to appreciate it a little more,”.

Courtland Bragg came to UT to tell a story of success, not a story about his success; a story about how to succeed, a story about trusting your journey through life. Through rejection, depression and adversity, Courtland Bragg achieved his dream of working with his passion for football. Bragg wants every student to have a similar success story of their own knowing that anything is possible if they trust their journey.

Immigration, University of Texas at Austin

Child Immigration: Unseen and Untold with Valeria Luiselli

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. — 7:00 p.m., Thursday, October 26

WHERE: Belo Center for New Media (BMC) 1.202

 AUSTIN, Texas –– Professor and author, Valeria Luiselli, will lead a discussion on child immigration and the unknown horrors these children endure. Luiselli’s lecture will be held at The Moody College of Communication on Thursday, October 26.

Having once lost her job for an expired green-card and having recently worked as a volunteer translator for the New York immigration courts, Luiselli understands that immigration is an issue of importance in today’s society. Luiselli’s work as a translator gave her a unique perspective and insight needed to write her most recent book, “Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions”.

Luiselli wrote her book not to tell the stories of these undocumented immigrants but to provoke a discussion surrounding the immigration systems of the U.S., Mexico, and the Northern Triangle.

“I wanted this essay to change the language around how we think about immigration,” said Luiselli.

During her lecture at The University of Texas at Austin, Luiselli will explain and analyze how undocumented immigrants’ stories go beyond the 40 questions she would ask to understand how they came to the U.S. Luiselli’s message for readers and participants in the lecture is for them to understand that these real-life tales do not stop for the children after they leave court. Unlike her book and the lecture where the information has limitations of a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Luiselli has noted that the recent political situation in the U.S has helped to launch immigration back into the minds of Americans as a problem in need of quick resolution.

In an interview with The Rolling Stone Luiselli said “The spectacle of Trump in politics has brought immigration back to the forefront of discussion,” Trump’s presidency has threatened a lifestyle that many immigrants have had for several years. A lifestyle of basic human rights. This threat has sparked a new discussion around the topic of immigration.

Professor at The Moody College of Communication, Dave Junker, stated that “Today, the voices we typically hear in immigration politics are loud and insistent. This book silences them through whispers, and calls us to attention through the voices of those rarely heard, but who are affected most by immigration politics: children.” The discussion with Valeria Luiselli allows students to see and hear what real world scenarios are like.

There is a growing need for people to understand the importance and effects of immigration. The social impact of refusing to resolve the immigration issue in the U.S. effects more than just Americans. But it is our duty to understand the power we hold in changing lives and resolving immigration problems. Especially if no one else is willing to accept responsibility and be advocates for those for are unseen and unheard.

The Moody College of Communication at UT continuously promotes positive change in society and encourages its students to be involved in society. Bringing in speakers and guest lecturers to provide real life experiences in a variety of fields helps students recognize societal needs and change the world.

Interview, Social Media, Sports

Twitter, Instagram, Band-T’s, and Fast Cars

An interview with the Circuit of the Americas Social Media Manager, Harlow Yeager

Harlow Yeager isn’t the type of person to sit back and be formal. He is the definition of an Austinite.

Wearing a band t-shirt, jeans, and boots Harlow Yeager adjusts his Ray-Ban sunglasses and takes a seat at a patio table. Aston Martin Vulcan cars race around on track setting blisteringly fast laps. His first several sentences contain the words f**k, sh*t, and other vulgarities that aren’t exactly appropriate for a college homepage.

Every year, hundreds of students graduate from UT and set out into the real world searching for a job that will pay enough for them to afford a place in Austin, pay off their loans and in some way, change the world with what started here.

As communicators humans are constantly seeking to express themselves and be given affirmation. It’s easy to see then why communicators for companies are a necessity, but not everyone can spend their days expressing their thoughts and opinions and get paid for it.

In a world based entirely around communication, doing so in an effective manner is what separates a lighthearted tweet from an offensive slander.

But Harlow Yeager makes it work. Currently the Digital Marketing Manager at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas Harlow Yeager lives the dream. With million dollar cars around his work space and browsing the internet to get paid.

And like many other success stories Yeager’s comes from humble beginnings and self-realization.

Growing up Yeager went to school in the DFW area and always dreamed of being a Longhorn. Visiting UT as a high schooler “I instantly fell in love, just like everyone does when they come here.” Yeager says “Seeing the stadium and the six-pack, I was enchanted.” With a nostalgic and reminiscent look about himself Yeager reflects on what brought him so far in life.

Yeager attended UT from 2008-2009 after transferring from Texas State. At Texas State Yeager like many students in their first few years at college, “didn’t feel at home and struggled to make friends.” But after transferring Yeager says he “felt at home instantly.”

Having studied political science, Yeager planned to go to law school after graduating but he knew if he took a year off he wouldn’t want to come back.

Instead, Yeager found a job working for the Attorney General’s Office. After several months, Yeager had a self-realization that he wasn’t pursuing his interests in music or passion for making people laugh.

Through his Twitter account, Yeager gained popularity and was offered a part time job with ACL Live. Yeager was able to continue learning about music and marketing. But “tweeting professionally is a lot different than tweeting on your personal account.” Yeager says, as he laughs.

But the time spent on Twitter paid off. “Crafting messages on Twitter was best for formulating and building my writing skills” Yeager says.

After a few years of searching for where he belonged Yeager was brought to COTA to do in house social media. Edgar Farrera, the sustainability director at COTA who has worked alongside Harlow Yeager on several projects, says Harlow “has a fantastic attitude and always exhibits great integrity in his work” Yaeger’s work with COTA includes managing the circuits Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages and website.

Recently, COTA was rated as the number one social media accounts for Formula One race circuits. “Being recognized for my work is great.” Yeager says, leaning back right as another Vulcan roars by. “It just makes you think ‘Shit. We’ve made it.’”

“I think he was voted the best because he works hard to remain relevant. In social media that is critical!” Farrera says.

The most difficult part of managing the media at COTA is “communicating to those who don’t understand,” Yeager says. COTA hosts a large variety of events including Formula One racing, Moto GP (motorcycle racing), Le Mans Racing (prototype car racing), and even vintage car racing.

In the past, COTA has been the host of the X-Games and plenty of concerts. With that, COTA and Yaeger are tasked with bringing a variety of people to their events. That’s where Yaeger’s skills can connect with fans through social media and draw in more than just the hardcore advocates.

When speaking about the X-games and crisis management, Yeager laughs to himself and says “we had problems. Have you ever seen a Port-a-Potty move when you’re in it?” he pauses. “It’s no f**king fun.” As a company, COTA has to resolve problems and let the public know “we’ll fix them. We understand.”

As a UT graduate and fellow Longhorn, Yeager’s insight into the Austin community makes him extremely valuable. As Yeager describes it COTA tries to “differentiate from other venues and sweeten the deal with a festival environment.” COTA is always looking to stand out and offer more. “We market everything as a blowout party.”

“I think having gone to school in Austin certainly helps us both connect, and understand, our community.” Edgar Farrera, another UT graduate, says. However, what’s most important about connecting with their audience is being a part of the community. With both Yeager and Farrera supporting the Longhorns, they certainly connect on another level.

As society continues to rely more and more on communication, Yeager is using people’s need for excitement to draw in new audiences. Hosting events that people can look at and want to be a part of is what’s best. Giving people a sense of “FOMO” (fear of missing out) is the goal, Yeager says.

COTA burst on the scene of Austin back in 2012 and has continually remained a main attraction for locals and tourists. Their events range from offering the only Taylor Swift concert in 2016, the only stop for Formula One in the United States, to the home of the X-games for three years.

While it takes a lot of moving parts for a company as large as COTA to function, their growing success in can be attributed to their ability to offer a new experience for every event, every time.

And without the effective connection and marketing done by Harlow Yeager, it might not be possible.

Yeager left they University of Texas unaware that he would have the opportunity to pursue his interests in social media and music. Yeager admitted that he was lucky to know what he wanted to do in life. Yeager says having a good understanding of what you want helps to guide you towards a dream career.

Today, Yeager connects with people all around the world. He brings laughter and excitement to more than just the hardcore fans but also to any who are looking to smile and have a good time. Bringing joy and happy memories may last longer than results or profits from any race or concert at COTA. In his own way, Harlow Yeager changes the world with what started several years ago at UT.

PR Writing Sample, Writing

Righting the Wrongs in My Writing

As it turns out journalistic writing is much different than any essay or personal narrative that I’ve previously written.

When I was introduced to AP Style I questioned its authenticity and usefulness. Having never heard of it and never seen any difference in writing I assumed it was a ploy. Some obscure writing style that few people used in the professional world.

However, after a semester of endlessly searching up specific uses of words in the AP Stylebook and constantly formatting my writing, I finally understand how important it is.

I’ve transformed my writing.

From improving my understanding of quotes and attribution to interviewing people for stories, my grasp on journalistic writing is being fostered for the real world. Although I’m nowhere close to being an expert or begin writing for ESPN, I am ready to start exploring new writing techniques.

I’m ready to expand my scope of writing away from just short blog posts and news releases. I’m ready to write full feature stories and insightful pitches to news reporters.

I began the semester with a harsh outlook on writing and a narrow view of public relations. I believed that writing was boring and too linear to ever engage the reader. I saw public relations as a profession that revolved around communication through person to person interactions.

Now I understand the importance of connecting through social media for your contacts on pitches and the unique relationships that must be built. I realize how a small grammatical error could ruin any connections and not researching reporters could lead to you wasting their time as well as yours.

It’s simple now. Writing doesn’t have to be a complex jumble of words where you try to impress your reader with needless adjectives. Writing is just telling the story that needs to be told.

I’m growing as a writer and as a professional. What I have learned in PR317 will stay with me. The lessons I learned have brought a new understanding of public relations and communications to light.

Thank you, Professor Bell and every other professor who will help me continue to learn.


PR Writing Sample, Recycling

From the Frat Party to the Recycling Facility

After a night out drinking and having a good time, the last thing on a student’s mind is where their beer bottle will end up. How many students ask for the recycling bin at a tailgate or frat party?

Statistics show that consuming alcoholic drinks will be a part of the college experience so do a small task and recycle. Alcohol and college students are a typical sight in modern society. The average college student produces 640 pounds of waste a year, 75 percent of that is recyclable according to the EPA.

There is no longer a taboo surrounding the consumption of alcohol amongst college students. This has created a social environment promoting chronic drinkers leading to a lot of recyclable materials.

The University of Texas Health Services says “45 percent of college students can be classified technically as binge drinkers, defined as having consumed 5  or more drinks on one occasion at least during the past month”. This may be an issue for parents or educators but it could be an opportunity.

Students are drinking more every year and  UT is composed of a wide variety of people interested in a wide variety things. This offers students with a seemingly endless amount of opportunities to drink.

The problem with students drinking so much is that only 30 percent of their recyclable waste is actually recycled. This causes a strain on the environment and limits the efforts of an environmental y conscious community like UT and Austin.

UT students are all about connections, reliability, and having a good time. If

Next time you’re at a fraternity, sorority or other social club event try to set up recycling bins or ask for a large trash bag so everyone can have the option of recycling their drinks. After the meeting or party be sure to clean up and separate trash from recyclable items. It’s a small act that can go a long way considering how many drinks are consumed per person.

For those at the football game be sure to separate your beer from those nachos as you toss them in their respective bins.

Whether you’re out at Sigma Pi’s frat party this weekend, the big football game, or simply drinking at home, just be sure that bottle makes its way into the blue or green recycling bins.

Recycling when out drinking may not be the first thing on your mind but it’s an important effort. It’ll not only improve the UT community but also Austin. It’ll also ensure we never run out of glass, plastic, or aluminum for your beer or margarita.