CCI Alums Named on Florida Politics’ 30 under 30

Each year, Florida Politics chooses 30 high-achieving “rising stars” under 30 years of age who are involved in the many facets of Florida’s political sphere. The 2016 class of Rising Stars of Florida Politics, or “30 under 30,” includes FSU College of Communication and Information (CCI) alumni Drew Piers, Elizabeth Ray, Clair Van Susteren, and McKinley Lewis.

Claire FSUClaire Van Susteren, 2012 Public Relations graduate from the CCI program, is what Florida Politics calls the “intern ‘done good.’” As a student at FSU, Van Susteren interned at Sachs Media Group. After graduation, she was immediately hired by the Tallahassee Media Firm, which propelled her into her current career with the Lauren’s Kids Foundation. As the Foundation’s Communications Director, Van Susteren organizes the annual statewide walk, coordinates media interviews with national news outlets, and even organizes events with major sports brands such as the New York Yankees and the Miami Heat.

“I’ve always wanted to make a difference in my community and the world, especially for women, children, and those without resources,” Van Susteren told Florida Politics. “Through my work with the Lauren’s Kids Foundation and volunteering on Lauren’s Book’s newly launched campaign for State Senate, I’ve been able to see firsthand how legislative advocacy can and does allow for real change to be made.”

Drew FSUDrew Piers, 2014 Public Relations graduate, also got his first professional working experience at Sachs Media Group immediately after graduation. His impressive work paid off, and Sachs Media Group has just recently promoted him to Deputy of the Public Affairs Group, directly under firm Vice President Herbie Thiele. In an interview with Florida Politics, Piers reflects on his positive experiences working for SMG thus far.

“I’ve has the opportunity to work on many fun and challenging projects at SMP, including successful statewide constitutional amendments, legislative issues like ride-sharing and abuse prevention, crisis management clients, and even some local candidate and issues campaigns,” says Piers.

Piers attributes much of his success and skills-building to his team and mentors. “I work with a great team too numerous to name each individually, but some of the people who have really helped my skills include Sachs, Michelle Ubben, Jon Peck, and Thiele. I’ve also had the privilege of learning from other great mentors like Steve MacNamara at FSU and Patricia Nelson in the Governor’s Office.”

McKinley FSuMcKinley Lewis, yet another Public Relations graduate representing the CCI class of 2013, has worked his way to being the head of the entire state agency that is Department Corrections. Beginning as an intern for Core message, a Tallahassee-based public relations firm, Lewis fell in love with communication work. He told Florida Politics that, “Working for the people of Florida has been a truly rewarding experience and the dynamic nature of government makes it fun.”

Lewis says that he is guided by, “those who stand up for what they believe in, even when it’s not the most popular thing to do.” Following his strong stance on standing up for what he believes in, Lewis plans to one day build his own firm and maybe even run for office by leveraging his experience and skills in leadership and public relations.

Elizabeth FSUThe final representative of FSU named one of Florida Politics’ “30 under 30” is not an alumna, but rather a current student of Integrated Marketing Communication in the College of Communication and Information’s Graduate Program. Elizabeth Ray has worked as a TV reporter and journalist covering major events and issues such as presidential elections and the BP oil spill, and now works for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, engaging in issues such as communications service tax, anti-discrimination laws, and funding for hospitality education programs.

“[The people I most admire in politics are] the men and women who work honeslty and tirelessly to ensure that all citizens have an opportunity to succeed, are protected from harm and can pursue their dreams,” Ray told Florida Politics.

The Florida State College of Communication and Information produces some of Florida’s most impactful and influential communicators. Congratulations to our FSU alumni and students, and to all of the 30 chosen as this year’s “Rising Stars of Florida Politics!”