Jack Derbak

Jack Derbak

March 1, 2022

Jack Derbak (2022)

Jack Derbak, is a Multimedia Communications Specialist for the City of St. Peters. He provides support for the City’s communications, public relations, promotions, and program marketing efforts. He also writes and prepares official news releases, as well as writing and producing publications, marketing materials, and other multimedia content. When he’s not behind a computer screen writing feature articles and news releases, he is out in the city with a camera, taking photos and video of city facilities, projects, and events. There’s always something new and exciting going on in St. Peters that Jack gets to tell a story about!

What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?

I graduated from Truman in 2017 with a concentration in Journalism.

What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?

During my freshman year, I was a part of the Truman Wildlife Association; however, it was my time with the Truman Media Network during my sophomore and junior years that really developed my communication skills.

Jack (center), his brother Austin, and his now fiance Katie posing for the cover of their album of Truman related songs (2016).

Did you go to grad school? If so, where?  Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait?  Why?

I did not go to grad school. Instead, I wanted to focus on developing my career in Communication after graduation.

What was your first job after graduation?

My first job after graduation was working as a Freelance Transcriber, where I worked on unscripted interview and television footage. Got to watch a few shows early (too bad I contractually couldn’t brag about them). My first post-grad job outside of online freelance work however was as a part-time Video Technician for the City of St. Peters. That part-time Video Tech evolved into a Television Program Development Associate position with the City in February 2020.

What work do you do/What are you doing now?

With the impact of the COVID pandemic requiring all-hands-on-deck in 2020, I was given more responsibilities in assisting the city’s other communication platforms until I was officially granted a full-time position as the city’s Multimedia Communications Specialist.

I provide support for St. Peters’ communications, public relations, promotions, and program marketing efforts. Essentially, I help with both online and printed content that the City of St. Peters produces for its residents and employees.

Jack operating the camera while at work (2022).

How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?

Without the experience I earned throughout my time in Truman, I don’t know how I could keep all these plates spinning at my position with the city! My decision to pursue the Communication major was an easy one. I always wanted to be a storyteller growing up, but it was thanks to Truman’s Communication program that I was able to build the toolset necessary to carry that dream out. News journalism, marketing, publication layout, digital video production . . . all of these course subjects laid the foundation for my success with the city.

Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?

Before I went to Truman, you wouldn’t catch me ever raising my hand to do a class presentation first! Yes, despite wanting to be a storyteller, the hardest part for me wasn’t building a story through writing or production . . . it was just TELLING it. I was incredibly introverted before my time at Truman, and the worst times I had were the lead-ups and anticipation before my presentations. Stepping up to a group of people and being the focus of attention was a lot.

Yet, something ‘clicked’ for me in the Business & Professional Communication course, which I initially dismissed as a Public Speaking course that forced me to wear a tie. I began feeling comfortable with the messages I wanted to convey to my audience. I started to understand that at the end of the day, the people I was talking to were just like me, and my nerves lifted. I stopped seeing projects as presentations, and viewed them more as conversations. The only goal was to make sure my conversation was engaging!

Jack (2nd fr right) chilling with some wizards during a Haunted House in West Campus Suites (2015).

I really grew from my time in that course. There were other courses that pushed my social boundaries also to get to the meat of a good story. Ever since then, I’ve felt comfortable pursuing stories and sharing messages that I can communicate effectively with the utmost confidence in myself that what I’m saying deserves to be heard.

What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?

Apart from finding my own self-confidence, I definitely look back most fondly at my time in the Digital Video Production course. The coursework in that class in particular was a revelation for me – working on sets and telling stories through video became a sudden passion of mine. It was only in a short few months I knew that was the career I wanted.

The apex of that course was also my proudest project throughout my time at Truman: a short horror film I created with dear friends in the middle of an abandoned ski resort. I remember the day-long shoots, cold temperatures, composing the score with a keyboard and a cheap microphone, cobbling hours of footage together only for Avid and Premiere to fail me and my team countless times (I refuse the notion that it was an operator error!!). All of it led to me turning in the project a good few hours after the deadline, because I had some encoding settings wrong and didn’t dare stop the process to start it all over.

I loved every stressful moment of that course. I learned so much from Dr. Smith and Dr. Yaquinto about the whole process. I got to experience filmmaking firsthand on a shoestring budget. Yeah, the final result was an excuse to climb around an abandoned building and throwing around red-colored corn starch while plastering monster mouths on my friends, but it was a culmination of everything I learned at Truman to that point. The result was so bizarre that it made me stand out when I submitted it alongside my resume to the St. Peters Communication Department. It was thanks to that short horror film that I find myself in a career and position that I adore, in an incredible work environment where I can see myself spending the rest of my professional career.

I don’t think I could sit through that short film now, and no I won’t give you the link either. Maybe Dr. Smith and Yaquinto still have it? (Editor’s note: We know how to get our hands on it. We’re just waiting on a time when it will be useful. )

Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?

Truman was such a liberating environment for me to grow as a person. As an introverted kid, I found myself meeting so many incredible people just like me, all trying to find their way in this world. I no longer felt the need to keep to myself – I shared my life with those around me, and felt free to try out new experiences to find out who I wanted to be after my four years were over. To be able to all find our ways through together is some of the happiest moments of my life so far.

Jack and friends enjoying some happy times while on campus (2015-2017).

What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?

You need to do what you feel is right.

I was incredibly blessed to have an idea of what I wanted to do when I grew up and I found my way through the Communication program constantly enriched with new opportunities that helped me on my journey; however, I understand that isn’t the case for everyone. A lot of people going to college don’t have a clue on what they should do. But I grew up with a lot of people who DID have an idea of what they WANTED to do, but due to circumstances and pressures, they struggled with deciding what classes to take, what they needed to fill their time with to succeed in the long-term, for example.

It’s no joke. Your four years go by faster than you think, and time doesn’t slow down after that. I’m grateful that I took the path that I knew was best for me. I got a lot of questions about “what exactly can you even DO with a Communication degree?” or my favorite: “… so you just take classes on talking?” (Editor’s note: That is the reason for this blog.) I had to flex my education in EXPLAINING what Communication as a degree entailed. Even though I knew this is what I was meant to do, I had to do quite a bit of hill-climbing to convince others that it wasn’t a waste of money. Now I have a fulfilling career, a place I go to every day with a smile on my face. I’m at the top of that hill and I’m loving the view.

I know college is a huge step for a lot of people, and the conflict of ‘what you SHOULD take’ versus ‘what you think is best’ can often cause you to freeze up. Please don’t let that keep you from doing what you love or trying a new experience. Don’t neglect courses that intrigue you, and don’t second-guess yourself when you’re find that dream class even if it doesn’t fit all that well in your long-term career plan. You’ll find yourself down the road regretting what you missed on the short-term.

What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?

Get that experience – internships are an excellent way to get applicable experience, and I learned so much during my first year with the City of St. Peters that even a full college education couldn’t match. If you happen to live around the St. Peters area, there are always internship opportunities popping up for Communication students!

Jack mixing sound during a City of St. Peters’ virtual concert during the pandemic (2022).

What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?

My time in college was really the last time I spent with a lot of people my own age, where we were all going through the same steps in our lives. I really miss going through the same joys and struggles as others around me. It’s normal for people to go their separate ways after school, but I didn’t realize that it would be the last time I was going to be in that kind of environment. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss it!

I still think a lot about the great people I met during my time on campus. This “Where Are They Now” series only reinforced just how incredible the people I went to school with are. Every article where I recognize a name and face, I feel so proud that they ended up somewhere they belonged. I couldn’t be happier for them.

What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?

“Communication Majors – Tell YOUR Story”  Sorry. I’m better at copywriting, I promise!

If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?

Digital Video Production by far was the most challenging, yet rewarding course for me. I would love to be able to help students through the process of scripting, production, editing, etc., leading up to the production of a short film. Not only do students pick up a broad set of skills that are applicable in so many other environments, but it also allows their own vision and influences to shine through in a personally directed project. The best projects involve your own voice being heard, not just matching the criteria. It would be so rewarding to help others produce their dreams.

What did we not ask that you think is important for people to know?

Don’t forget to take care of yourself. It’s always good to take a mental health break and to not lose yourself in the shuffle of responsibilities! Sometimes you have to make time for your hobbies, whatever settles you during stressful times.

Jack and Katie, high school sweethearts who went to Truman together, in their engagement photo (2022).

If you would like to learn more of Jack’s story, you can follow his work on the City of St. Peters website or at SPTVnow.


If you want to learn more about the Department of Communication, contact us!