Published Dec 21, 2020
This Master’s Grad Tells the Public About Rocket Launches
Derrick Matthews shares news about the Kennedy Space Center as a Public Affairs Officer for NASA.
If you're reading about NASA's astronauts or watching news coverage about a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center, there's a good chance that Derrick Matthews had something to do with it. The NASA Public Affairs Officer shares NASA's story with media outlets, letting taxpayers know where their money is going by coordinating interviews to local and national news outlets and writing stories on the Space Center's rocket launches. Derrick learned the nuts and bolts of public relations during his PR work with the Army, and his degree from Full Sail helped him ascend to the next level of his career.
Derrick joined the Army after high school and served in Iraq. When he returned stateside, he earned a bachelor's in Mass Communications and Public Relations, then worked in PR for the Army and Navy. He enjoyed his time writing and directing video broadcasts, producing press releases, and communicating with the media, but he needed a master's degree to earn a promotion. That's where Full Sail came in.
Full Sail's online Public Relation master's degree was appealing to Derrick because he could still work full time while taking online courses, and he'd be also gaining real-world experience.
"I liked the practical element of Full Sail," he explains. "You can actually use what you learn in PR."
Derrick learned how to use the Adobe Creative Suite and Google Analytics at Full Sail, and the program also sharpened his writing and editing skills. The tough Public Relations courses also prepared him for the demanding requirements of higher-level PR positions.
"My final project was challenging," says Derrick. "It was almost a 50-page campaign effort we had to turn in. We worked on it throughout the whole course."
Derrick landed his current position as a Public Affairs Officer for NASA a few years after he completed his degree. The job requires flexibility; there's no such thing as a typical day. He fields phone calls and emails from media outlets, coordinates interviews between NASA employees and the news media, and drafts news releases and fact sheets in response to inquiries. His hard work pays off when he gets to watch rocket launches at the Space Center.
"My favorite part is seeing the rocket launch… Folks just see the rocket on the launch pad and think, 'Oh man, that's amazing.' But there are years and years of research and hard work to just get that rocket to that pad before liftoff. Just seeing all that stuff come together, it's pretty inspiring."
Derrick says his time in the military prepared him for the challenging requirements of his job at NASA. He also says that his commitment to volunteering helped him get his foot in the door at federal government jobs — and he thinks Full Sail students should take volunteer positions seriously.
"Don't turn down any opportunities presented to you," he says. "Sometimes you have to do something for free and it might open some doors for you, because it's an opportunity to show off your talents and your work ethic… Sometimes you have to go somewhere and make less money to make more money two or three years down the road. You've got to work your way up."