By Isabella Cueto
Jean-Paul Renaud entered the University of Miami as a political science major and then took an entry-level journalism course on a whim.
The course turned into a major and, soon after, into a career. After graduating from UM in 2003, Renaud was one of 10 people selected for a year-long intensive program at the Los Angeles Times. After the program ended, The Sun Sentinel hired Renaud and brought him to Fort Lauderdale. Four years later, the L.A. Times called again, this time with an offer for a full-time job. He worked at the Times for a year, covering the County Board of Supervisors.
In 2008, the Tribune Company, which owned the L.A. Times and the Sun Sentinel among other papers, was facing major economic hardships. Newsrooms were shrinking. Renaud was ready to move on.
“It was kind of like a perfect storm,” Renaud recalled.
The back-and-forth movement between Florida and L.A. continued when Renaud was hired as a media relations spokesperson by Florida International University.
“I loved L.A. and I kept being pulled away,” Renaud said.
In 2013, he moved back West to become director of communications at UCLA, a position that put all of his prior training to use.
“What we look like and everything we say about ourselves comes through my office,” Renaud said. “Everything that has to do with communicating with the outside world.”
Renaud manages press releases, visuals, brochures and the College of Arts and Sciences’ magazine. He also maneuvers between his seven bosses to translate complicated matters into things people will care about. It’s like being at the center of “a little country” with many intelligent people, he said.
“It’s the Cuban part of me that likes a little bit of the drama and a little bit of the politics of it,” Renaud said.
Renaud was born in Cuba in 1980. His family left for France when he was 2 years old and lived there for six and a half years. The Renaud family moved to Miami when he was 8 years old.
Each of his parents had to work at least two jobs, Renaud said, leaving him to entertain himself when he was not in school.
Being a new immigrant made Renaud feel disconnected from his classmates, he said. Common topics of conversation among third graders were foreign to him.
“I didn’t understand football, I didn’t understand Sesame Street,” Renaud said. “There were things I didn’t get because I didn’t grow up with it, and so I was always feeling a little out of it.”
Instead, he would watch daytime television, a hobby that gave Renaud a more mature vocabulary than that of children his age. Designing Women was a favorite of 8-year-old Renaud, and he said he learned much of his social cues and wordplay from watching the fictional characters interact.
In L.A., Renaud lives an active lifestyle that includes running (he has run four marathons and counting), hiking, biking and even kickball.
“When I first moved to L.A. – it’s a big city, so it’s hard to meet people – I joined a kickball team, a very silly thing to do,” Renaud said.
So what is next on J.P. Renaud’s bucket list? Simple.
“Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa,” he said.
Isabella Cueto is a freshman majoring in journalism.