SXU Alum Turns Government Internship Into Digital Director Position With Mayor's Office
Saint Xavier University (SXU) political science alum Denzel Averhart '18 is hard at work as the associate digital director of the Executive Office of the Mayor’s communication team in Washington, D.C. In his role, Averhart produces video content and manages social media platforms, and his work is seen by thousands of people. Averhart believes he's only just getting started.
After completing an internship during his senior year at SXU in D.C., Averhart was offered a position as a communication specialist for the government agency Serve DC - The Mayor's Office On Volunteerism and Partnerships in District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser's Office. He was soon brought into the Executive Office of the Mayor and became the office's associate digital director, where he creates videos, graphics and other content for the mayor's social media platforms.
As part of his responsibilities, Averhart works on projects that require him to collaborate with different government agencies, and he handles distribution and review of scripts, setting up camera equipment and filming, categorizing and using the footage to create the final project, which is published to the mayor's social media accounts. Through his work, he's met celebrities such as Dave Chappelle and corporate giants, including the CEO of the American division of Samsung. As he continues to build his skills in digital work, Averhart also looks forward to his newest upcoming adventure – he's going to begin graduate school at American University and study production, film and media.
Averhart credits SXU for helping to set him up for success, but his academic career was not without challenge. During his sophomore year, he faced some personal difficulty, but after some time off, he came back and ensured he made a B or better grade in each class. He was able to take that initiative and turn it into an internship in Washington, D.C., where he would remain after graduation. Averhart appreciated the flexibility and encouragement of his professors, especially his academic advisor and political science professor, Matthew Costello, Ph.D.
"Denzel's first year at Saint Xavier was strong, and in his sophomore year, he faced some adversity that affected his schooling and took a year off to deal with it. When he came back, he was focused and strong, producing good research and solid work. He persisted at his goals, overcame adversity and excelled at academic and professional challenges, developing into an outstanding political professional," said Costello. "Denzel exemplifies what we try to achieve in the political science program – to build practical idealists who aim high, work hard and achieve much."
Averhart believes that his time as a political science major paved the way for the current opportunities he has. "The things I learned as a political science major and the background I was able to build helped me in my government work. I especially appreciated what I learned in terms of managing, reviewing and understanding data, something we did quite a bit in my Scope and Methods course.”
One of Averhart's undergraduate projects that utilized scope and methods focused on police brutality, and current events have him imploring people to continue to fight for what they believe in. "Since the time I completed my project at SXU, some progress has been made. There are so many people participating in protests, making sure their voices are heard online and showing the world that police brutality is intolerable and that Black lives do matter."
Averhart's favorite part about attending SXU was the people he met, friendships he forged and professional relationships he built, as well as the small class sizes. When asked what advice he has for current students interested in entering the political science field, Averhart encourages students to learn as much as they can and to consider participating in internships. "There's a lot of upward mobility in the government field, so you may have to start with a job that allows you to move up the ladder. It's a really big field with lots of opportunities, so don't be closed-minded."
As Averhart looks to the future, he plans to move to another area after he earns his master's degree. With the solid foundation of experience he gained in D.C., he hopes to start his own video production company. He anticipates taking on bigger projects, engaging in wider distribution, and sharing people's stories, experiences and ideas to broader audiences.
"I'd like to expand my network and the quality of work I'm able to produce. The work I do is dependent on creativity and I look at every project and even my long-term goals as a puzzle. You need to cast the net as wide as possible and collect as many pieces of the puzzle as you can," said Averhart. "My goal is to keep moving forward and never stay stagnant."