Start Here / Never Stop Podcast: Jordan Fieulleteau '16, '18 (M.A.)

Alumnus Jordan Fieulleteau ’16, ’18 (M.A.) is a research fellow at the American Voices Project, a project undertaken by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, Princeton University’s Center for Research on Child Wellbeing and the American Institutes for Research.   

Fieulleteau, who received his undergraduate degree from UNC Hussman [then the UNC School of Media and Journalism] in three years, was a wide receiver for Carolina’s football team during most of that time. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree from the Hussman school in spring 2016, Fieulleteau enrolled in the graduate program that fall and became a Roy H. Park Fellow the following spring.  

After graduating with his master’s degree in mass communications in May 2018, Fieulleteau worked with Facebook as the product communication and public policy extern.

Fieulleteau was a co-host of  the 2018 Roy H. Park Distinguished Lecture in Memorial Hall. In 2017, he was a teaching assistant for the “Principles of Advertising and Public Relations” class. He was a member of the UNC Young Democrats as their social media manager.

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This is the Start Here / Never Stop Podcast with Dean Susan King at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

00:00:16 Dean Susan King: Hello, this is Susan King — for the first time on this podcast saying — the Dean of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. And with us one of our top grads —a double Tar Heel — Jordan Fieulleteau class of ’16, and class of ’18 with a master's degree. Welcome, Jordan to the first Hussman podcast. 

00:00:34 Jordan Fieulleteau: Thank you so much, I'm happy to be on here to speak with you today.

00:00:38 King: And we're very excited because you've had such an interesting career as one of the athletes a varsity athlete here at UNC. So you've gone from football to journalism — from a master's degree here in North Carolina to Stanford and Princeton fellowship. From starting here to maybe going to law or Congress so you're never stopping. This has been quite a journey for you.

00:01:03 Fieulleteau: Yeah, it's been incredible — been a very humbling experience. And it's shown me that working hard and really believing in yourself and the people around you can really get you far and where you want to go. And my experience at UNC was incredible and unique just because I was able to play football and also get a top-notch education. And I knew from as soon as I got the UNC I wanted to be in the journalism school. And there was something that was very important to me to like make sure I got into the journalism school when I was applying — because I knew in high school that's what I wanted to be as well. I actually toured the journalism school when I was getting recruited, and it kind of like sold me on UNC.

00:01:54 King: Oh, I'm glad to hear that. I'm glad it wasn't just the Kenan football stadium. But in fact, you were the sports editor weren't you at Wakefield High?

00:02:02 Fieulleteau: Yeah, so my junior and senior year I was —  and it was kind of a way for me to escape from football. And I guess that's something I've always carried and still carry today.

00:02:11: *Football Cheering*

00:02:14 King: But you came here as an athlete and a serious athlete. You were recruited pretty early— so talk a little bit about the role of football in your life. And in selecting you pretty early on, it's not only an athlete — but as a leader.

00:02:29 Fieulleteau:  So football to this day honestly it's still a very big part of my life. And I mean it was the mechanism for me to get to where I am today — my ability to play football obviously — afforded me the opportunity to go to UNC and not have to pay any money. And football was always instrumental in my life just because I started playing that right after my dad passed away. So it was kind of like a mechanism for me to like get away from kind of like the thoughts that came with that tragedy. And then I just dedicated my career to him. And I didn't imagine like the success I had in like high school and stuff. Yeah, I'm very thankful to have been able to play football at a high level — and to where it afforded me other opportunities.

00:03:14 King: And it's a tough sport though — you know, it's I mean it's a team sport— that's an amazing power of it. But you know — it's a brutal sport. So what was it about it that you found so powerful and appealing? 

00:03:29 Fieulleteau: Really is like the friendships — like yeah, football is like a really good sport to play. And obviously, it comes with a lot of like publicity and like it just playing against such good competition. And obviously, it's just so it's like the most popular sport in America, which makes it that much more fun to play, because everybody's always watching. But really for me, it was like the  friendships. I made some of like the best friends I ever have for the rest of my life, most likely playing football at UNC. And even in high school, I still have a lot of my friends from high school football. And I feel like it teaches you lessons that unless you play with a team sport with 11 different players — like each person whose dad was like unique and everybody has to do something collectively all get to the same success. I think it's like something that is very unique. And even like today, I noticed like my experience in football helps me like professionally as well.

00:04:23 King: But you also had a turning point in football when you decided that you were going to spend more time here in the journalism school — and kind of gave up football as the preoccupation of your UNC years. Tell me about that turning point.

00:04:37 Fieulleteau: Yeah. So like towards like the middle-to- end of my redshirt junior season — which was my fourth season at UNC I decided to step away from the football team. And just because of a multitude of different reasons I wasn't happy with — like playing time. Also just didn’t see like eye-to-eye with where the program or where the coaching direction of the program going. And also, I had gotten accepted and had already started my master's at UNC. And as soon as I left the football team, I saw myself —saw a lot of doors opening that wouldn't have been opened unless I had stepped away from football — at least for that one year that I did. And so I was able to go to Europe as a delegate my first spring and in my master's program. And I would never have been able to do that if I was like doing spring football. And now it's like an incredible opportunity. And that's when I started getting really interested in politics. Because I got to meet like some of the representatives in the European Parliament when I was there for the EU, and stuff like that. So that really got me more interested in politics. And it's kind of like today where I'm very, very, always on the pulse of what's going on the news and the politics.

00:06:05 King: Yeah, you saw the public square, which we sort of emphasize here so much for those who are in strategic communications, like you are doing in graduate school. And you were intrigued by that public square what you could do there.

00:06:17 Fieulleteau: Yeah, for sure. So I always I mean, even in undergrad when I did PR, and when I was applying to the graduate program, I mean, PR is everywhere. In every arena, whether it's sports, whether it's politics, whether it's work, whether it's, I mean, it's just it touches every aspect of American life, political advertising, and I knew that that was going to be like a long term thing that I wanted to do, just because I felt like it was more secure than football, but also because I just felt a very, I was immediately like drawn to that field. And even to this day, I'm doing a lot of PR stuff, even though the role that I'm in as a research fellow. So I see that like, every day. And I'm very happy to be like, I always say like a lot of people don't use their degree when they graduate. But I'm very happy to say that I'm definitely using mine.

00:07:14 King: And I know there were two really important women in your life while you were here. Your mother, Kendra Clark, and your mentor Trevy McDonald.

00:07:23 Fieulleteau: Yeah, so actually talking to me this morning. And so, first of all, my mother definitely wouldn't be nowhere near where I am today without her, all the sacrifices she made moving up in New York when we were 11, as my dad passed away, and being a single parent in America is just very hard to actually with the dynamic of raising two young black men. So I thank her for everything. And then Trevy. It's kind of like the coincidence, I just took her class one day, or one semester, and invited her to football practice. And then so like a policy, we had to like, invite Professor to practice, spring. And I invited her and then we had dinner after and I thought I was thinking about applying. And she convinced me to apply to grad school, when I didn't really think I could get in and ended up getting in. And it was honestly like a relationship that I still have to this day. And something that really grew throughout graduate school and in graduate school, a lot more worthwhile. Because having that support when like things weren't going well, or if I hadn't question there was always like her office, office door’s always open. And still is to this day, even though I'm not there anymore.

00:08:32 King: That's to me the difference between our program and many. You get professors who are with you for a lifetime — but really bring something extra to the to the experience. 

00:08:41 Fieulleteau: Yeah, for sure , you know, I keep in touch with a lot of different professors in the J-school and high EVK. So yeah, that was one of the best parts about the journalism school is like the relationships. 

00:08:58 King: Now when you left us, you got it really what sounds like a very cool job in the digital world at Facebook. Wow. And then you went on for this fellowship that's really focused on income inequality. That's, that's pretty different. Tell us about that.

00:09:13 Fieulleteau: So the fellowship has been very eye opening, to say the least. So I guess the premise in a little bit about the study is across this year, we're going to be interviewing 5,000 households, which represent 300 million households in America. And all these households are randomly selected. So the city I'm in was randomly selected in the neighborhoods and cities were randomly selected. And that helps us get a representative snapshot of what life is like in America for people in 2019. And I joined the project because I felt like a big aspect of it was listening to the stories of the American people, I feel like with politicians, politicians aren't listening to the constituents, and the level of detail that me and 50 other research fellows are listening to respondents this year. And we're hearing the life stories of people were hand their suggestions to what they think can work better in our lives. And what works, what's working well in their lives. And I think that the people should always have an input into what policies are drawn, and what policies are crafted that are going to benefit them. And that's a big aspect of the study. And especially people in high poverty areas need more investment and more, more attention, and more resources drawn into those c ommunities. And what what are they think is going to work well for them and what's not working well for them? Well, we don't know, unless we actually gone to those communities and hear those people speak.

00:10:48 King: Some people may see Oh, that's a far, far cry from where you began here yet. I bet your quarterback friend — your roommate here and his Chicago bear star. He still holds you as one of his best friends, he probably wants some of those insights you're getting.

00:11:05 Fieulleteau: Yeah, so I mean, even in the city, he lives in Chicago, multitude issues that are going on there. And those communities and that people in Chicago from this project, and I always keep them updated about and him and all my friends about like, what am I seeing in the field. Like, what are the some of the trends that we're seeing that the public on paying attention to right now. And I know he’s very happy for me and the fellowship. And it's definitely gotten a positive feedback from all my friends about what I'm seeing in the field. And just like the desire to hope, hopefully make change.

00:11:39 King: So what would you tell students today, you know, they come in sometimes not sure where they're going to go, you were a little bit like that you pick PR, you got a graduate degree, what's the advice you share with our students about their future?

00:11:52 Fieulleteau:  Take it one day at a time, but always think, with the future in mind. So all the decisions you're making now are going to affect your future, your future life in the future decisions that you're making. So I'd say always think with the future in mind and decisions you make today are going to affect you later down the road. So I'd say just be very calculated with the decisions you make. And it's okay if you don't know what major you want to do the first day or the second day, or even after a year, because the journalism school first off has like 15 different concentrations, and everybody and then we're going to help you so don't be afraid to ask for help. That was actually one of the biggest things for me is I was never really afraid to ask for help. And I noticed that a lot of people are and the resources that are available. If you just ask for help people want to help you. So definitely never be afraid to ask for help.

00:12:42 King: Well, Jordan, we always knock on your door for some help. And we always want you to come back and it's a big year for football. Mack is back and people are excited, but we're excited about where you're headed. We're glad you're never going to stop. So thanks for being our first Hussman podcast. Great to talk to you and we'll see you soon.