Student Spotlight: McKenna Freiss C’21

McKenna Freiss C’21                                  

Where were you born and raised?

Green Bay, Wisconsin

What attracted you to Drew?

I was initially attracted to Drew’s proximity to the city, and the opportunity this presented for NYC internships. I was also really interested in the TREC-programs Drew offers.

What made you choose English as a major and theatre as a minor?

I came to Drew very confident I was going to be a theatre major with an acting concentration, and I was, up until my junior year when I switched over to English. I think I’ve always just loved storytelling, in whatever form it comes in. Part of the reason I wanted to study theatre was because I admired the way a play could move you emotionally. Likewise, when I switched over to English, it was out of this love for fiction.

Did you have an idea of a dream job when you started at Drew?

I wanted to be an actress but after my freshmen year, I started to question my passion, and toyed with the idea of being a musician, or a TV/Film producer, or even working in casting until I finally landed on creative writing.

Have you done any internships?

My first internship was my freshmen year (2018) at the Cherry Lane Theatre in NYC where I worked as a production intern. My job was to help Cherry Lane put on their summer shows. My duties were very eclectic, and it really just depended on what was needed for that day—some days, I’d be painting and building sets, others I’d be helping to run fundraisers, sometimes I’d be reading and reviewing submitted plays, and once I went around New York City putting up posters for the upcoming show. It was always really fun and rewarding though, and I loved getting to see these shows to completion and knowing I was part of the team that made them possible.

Then, I interned at Overcup Press as a publishing intern Fall-Winter of 2020, which was all virtual. I worked on the team for publicity and marketing. Our job was essentially to promote Overcup’s catalogue, so we did a lot of research into comp titles and their marketing plans, as well as curating lists of potential journals, podcasts, libraries, etc. to reach out to for promotion. We also ran Overcup’s social media platforms and curated all the content for it (which involved brainstorming potential promotions). It was my first peek behind the curtain for the publishing world, and I learned so much from it.

Currently, I’m working as head of publicity at CLASHBooks. My job is very similar to my position at Overcup in terms of duties (lots of researching, emailing, promotion, and some social media). I also occasionally get to use my skills in copy-editing whenever CLASH needs an extra eye to look over a new book. I’ve been working there since January and I’ve learned so much.

Do you have any mentors at Drew?

I’ve always really liked my professors at Drew, and have had positive experiences with all of them. My theatre advisor Professor Rosemary McLaughlin was willing to listen to all my worries when I began to question my career path, and I’m very appreciative of that. I also really appreciated my bosses at the Archives, as they were incredibly accommodating to me with my workload and always offered helpful advice I think only a historian could offer.

Have you studied abroad? Done any short, long, or nycTRECs?

I was very lucky to be a part of The London Semester in Fall 2019. I really cherish that semester, and what I learned was invaluable, both in the classroom and out. The living experience was much different than dormitories, and I got to learn how to really be on my own for the first time. We also had the opportunity to visit and tour so many places—the BBC studios, the British museum, the National Theatre—that I feel so lucky to have gotten to see and learn from. I think it really rejuvenated my passion for learning and I loved the ways it brought our lessons to life by visiting these places in person.

 What issue in the world means the most to you?

I’m extremely passionate about social justice and equality. If I had to get specific, I would say issues of classism, such as accessible education, universal healthcare, etc.

What are a few of your favorite memories of Drew?

The London Semester was definitely my favorite. Specifically, I remember our British literature teacher would take us on these walking book tours through London, where she would show us all the places in person that these classic British books were talking about. It brought the stories to life in a way I had never seen! I also helped shoot and produce an entire web series on-campus with some of my Drew friends who are also passionate about storytelling and film/TV, and that was really challenging but fun. Lastly, I know exams aren’t anyone’s favorite time of the semester, but I do remember fondly the times my friends and I would stay up late in the campus library during exam week. There was just something really charming about the library’s set-up; with the study break sections, and the support stuffed animals, and of course the hourly coffee/snack bar that would rouse everyone up from their studying (you had to move fast to coup a cookie in time). It outweighs the stress in my mind.

How has your identity as a First-Generation college student affected your journey?

I’m the first one in my family to go to a university, and my family also has limited resources so they’re understandably unable to support me with my education. I had no idea what to expect going into college. At first, I sometimes felt out-of-place in my friendships because most of the people I was interacting with were from well-off backgrounds, so they couldn’t truly identify with my struggles. I wasn’t able to relax as much because I was often working three jobs at once just to pay for my tuition and expenses. That’s been hard, but I think it’s made me more grateful for my education and given me a hardened work ethic. I know my strength and capabilities now, and that no matter how stressed I might get sometimes, I can and will accomplish all that I want to.

What advice would you give students who are just starting out that you wish you had when you started?

Don’t feel tied down to one thing! I know I went into college dead-set on being a theatre major, and so even when my passions began to shift, I felt like I had to see it through; which is why I didn’t switch majors until much later on in my college career. I wish I had taken more time to explore rather than following a trajectory I felt obligated to. This is your time to figure out who you are, what you’re interested, and what you want to do. Don’t be afraid to get involved on campus, take courses in completely different subjects, and try new things. That’s what it’s all about.

What are your career goals? Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

I want to be a professional fiction writer one day, so I hope in five years I’m a few steps closer to that goal. In general, I would like to continue my journey in the publishing industry, maybe working as a publicist full-time.

Are there any fun facts you would like to share?

I had never had a pork roll before coming to Drew! I didn’t like it. Sorry New Jersey.

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