Colleen Penaluna is a student at Chapman University studying Communications with a minor in Political Science. Her discerning mindset for social justice distinguishes her from many of her peers – that and her love for corgis.
Thank you for being here today. How about our readers get to know you a little better. How would you describe yourself in three words?
Oh lord. I’d say I’m loyal, open-minded, and diligent (oh and sleepy too).
What is something that you do every month that you think makes you feel the happiest?
I feel like I really value my relationships with others – even with those who I might not see as often. Every now and then I’ll ask one of my friends if they want to get some food and chat about life, or anything really. It’s all about sharing that meaningful conversation with someone I care about that makes it worth it for me.
Do you think that this is what inspired you to study communications?
After graduation I actually didn’t really know what I wanted to study. That summer I got offered a job as state president for a non-profit called Rainbow. I had always been part of it and decided to give it a chance. I thought I needed some time away from school to help me focus on myself and figure out what I really wanted to do with my life.
My work in public speaking made me aware that I had always enjoyed the study of interpersonal relationships and decided to enroll in community college as an anthropology major. The more I learned about it however, the more I realised that my curriculum required a lot of research that didn’t really catch my attention. I finally decided to meet with my counselor and she suggested communications. I research about it and realized it was everything I was looking for! To this day I am very grateful I reached out to my resources and gave myself the time and patience after school to really figure myself out.
What is it that you are enjoying most about being a communications major now?
Communications is the study of behavior and expression. It’s about understanding how to talk to people and deliver clear messages. It is similar to anthropology in the sense that it includes observation of personal and social structures, but it also brings in some psychology since it teaches you how to predict and explain human reaction. I really think it’s the perfect combination of my personal interests.
I also think that the environment of my classes helps me become more engaged with what I learn. The students and professors in the Comm department here at Chapman all seem to have this desire to share and discuss ideas. This and the smaller classrooms really enable me to create engaging connections that inspire me to grow.
How would you describe your own voice as a communicator?
Interesting question! I believe my voice really depends on the context where I am speaking. For the most part though, I usually keep a very empathetic and open minded approach with others. I try to step back on a conversation and understand where that other person might be coming from. Communications is not only about talking, it’s also about listening.
Having this in mind, what are some of your goals?
I honestly don’t know for sure where I want to take my career. Communications really gives you a broad spectrum of where you want to focus. Recently I have become interested in the political processes of non-profits that engages in social justice advocacy. I know I want to help create a meaningful long-lasting impact in the world.
Although I also do stress about my future sometimes, I also think it’s okay to not have everything figured it out. I see it as a continuous process of learning and discovering what resonates best with who I am.
What is your own definition of success?
I guess I describe success as a feeling of personal fulfilment. It’s about finding something meaningful to do with your life and doing it. Personally I am always looking for new ways to engage in my community and working to create meaningful changes in both simple and impactful ways. I think the point is to go out into the world and put your ideas into action.
What advice would you give to someone who might not feel like they have found a career path they’re excited about?
I would say it is never too late to change. It is easy to feel stuck in the moment, especially if you don’t have the money or the resources to do it. Trust me there are always resources waiting for you out there. Do some digging and find a club or association that support one of your interests. Community college is also a great opportunity to learn about new topics of interest without having to fully commit.
Never forget to advocate for yourself, it’s you who has control over your future and your life.
Colleen’s desire to change the world for the better is only now starting – and I believe great things are coming her way!
If you want to see more of her – check her out here.
Near the end of the previous school year, I got in touch with one of my daughter’s teachers about how she was doing in class. Despite some amazing teachers and creative strategies to support her, she was having increasing difficulty with math and it was clearly taking a toll on her confidence. My daughter was getting to the point where she’d avoid doing her homework, already convinced she wouldn’t be able to do it without even trying.
After a few back and forths, her teacher suggested taking her to the doctor to get her evaluated. “For what?” I asked. I knew exactly what – my background in healthcare, being a daughter of a mom who worked with kids with learning difficulties and the experiences of my friends precluded me from feigning ignorance. I knew that my daughter likely was dealing with Attention Deficit Disorder. So my question to the teacher was entirely meant to challenge, to push back, and to make what she was suggesting not so.
While I couldn’t see it at the time, what her teacher had given us was a real gift. My daughter’s eventual diagnosis of ADD and our decision to try out medication has been a good one for her. She returned home after her first day saying it had helped her focus on the math lesson – “even though it was really boring.”
What happened over the next couple of weeks made me realize just how ingrained our belief systems can be. My daughter’s attention deficit had been replaced by something else: a confidence deficit. She’d gotten so accustomed to believing she wouldn’t be able to do her homework that just taking medication wasn’t enough – she needed to shift her belief system that she could figure it out.
That sounds pretty big for a 10 year old. Just like it’s big for any of us who want to do the same. The challenge is belief systems are so ingrained that they can be tough to get past – but before we can change those that no longer serve us, we have to nail them down. In many of our conversations with young adults we find that they’re carrying belief systems from friends, family or other influencers – and they’re caught between living up to those inherited beliefs and being true to what matters to them.
In some cases our belief system serves us well. And in many cases, especially when struggling with career decisions or a poor fit in the current job, they’re worth taking a look at. Here’s a hint: when you talk about your beliefs, they are very possibly preceded by the word “should.”
In her book Mastery Under Pressure my colleague Tina Greenbaum describes how to do this. Her guidance (excerpted from her book):
As my daughter works on rebuilding her confidence, it means she’ll have to re-engage on some “pretty boring math.” For the rest of us, checking your beliefs is at least worth a look – you might be pretty intrigued by what you find.
Last weekend my friend called me and asked if I could help her out on a film set she was working on. The person in charge of the production design had canceled last minute so she needed someone to replace them. At first I thought about rejecting the offer and telling her I was busy. I didn’t really know a lot about set design, let alone a film, so I didn’t really think I could be much of an asset.
But after giving it a second thought, I decided to give it a go. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
Participating in the set actually ended up being really fun. I got to help out with the arrangement of props and learned about complex processes behind film production. It even reminded me how much I enjoyed interior design.
I realized how tempting it is to conform ourselves with what we are already used to. It’s like we have this inevitable fear of rejection and failure that makes us avoid the unknown. Earlier during the day I was making excuses and now that it was over, I was fascinated by the work in film production.
So while there may be a million reasons not to do something, there will always be one great one to do it: to learn from the experience.
During my few hours there I was able to see a group of artists work together to achieve quality shots. Reflecting back, being around so many creative people made me really inspired and created an engaging work environment that fit with my personality. Although I do think I prefer to work in smaller groups of people, I was astonished by the effectiveness of the team delegation.
Knowing where you want to go and what you want to do for your future might be hard to decide. If you start exposing yourself to different situations, you get the chance to start testing out what you like and what you don’t. Join a club. Try a class at your local gym. Get an internship. Cut your hair. Find something you have always been interested in and give it a chance.
You might not like it at first, but at least you tried it. Or maybe you’ll enjoy it more than you expected. The knowledge you gain and the lessons you learn can be more rewarding than the actual results.
In the end, the best way to not regret the things you didn’t do is to do them. Discover, experience and reflect about how that situation influenced you. You might find a new interest that you didn’t have before, a cool group of people you can connect with, or even a talent you didn’t know you had.
The point is to try! If you’re curious about where to start, check this out – the steps you can take to learn more about finding your career fit.
And now with all this talk…. I should really start looking for a summer internship.
“If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.” – Dr. Seuss