Sarah Diefenbach, a student pursing her M.A. in Strategic Communication, a graduate program within the College of Communication and the Arts, applies what she learns in the classroom every day to her career at global data analysis firm Dun & Bradstreet.
Diefenbach shared that she regularly uses the theories and skills she learned in a recent Training and Development course to effectively communicate with an array of audiences. Specifically, she explained that this course underscored the importance of tailoring training materials to meet specific audiences’ needs and explored tactics for evaluating training sessions.
“The classes in the graduate program are very topical and cover what is relevant in the workplace,” Diefenbach said. “In a recent New Media and Organizational Communication class, we discussed different digital tools often used in the field. I already use some of the tools in the workplace, but others were new to me. This class provided an opportunity to explore these innovative tools and learn how I can best use them.”
For example, Diefenbach explained she was familiar with Microsoft SharePoint before taking the course, but through the class she discovered a useful feature in which teams can collaborate to store and share content. Moreover, she learned about other platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Trello, which she uses frequently at her job and in her personal life.
“These tools are used universally,” Diefenbach said. “We all know Excel and PowerPoint are important, but experience with newer tools can really help build your portfolio and give you a competitive edge when applying for competitive positions.”
Diefenbach credits the program’s faculty for serving as valuable assets who continue motivating her to think innovatively when approaching projects. She noted she now looks for the communication in everything after Dr. Renee Robinson, professor and program director, inspired her to do so. She added the program’s professors are always willing to talk outside of class if she has questions or needs guidance.
The impact of the Strategic Communication program on Diefenbach extends beyond her career at Dun & Bradstreet. Though she has been passionate about the communication field since she was in high school and enjoys her current career, she is still discovering additional aspects of the field she wants to pursue further.
“This program helped me understand potential future career opportunities,” Diefenbach said, adding that she now realizes she is passionate about the training and development portion of her job and is interested in considering related opportunities. “I am learning more about my existing strengths, while also building the skills I want to maintain in the future.”
Diefenbach acknowledged that it is challenging to balance a full-time career with her intensive graduate studies. She advised any current working professionals interested in graduate school to understand that pursuing a graduate degree is a different that earning an undergraduate degree, but has the potential to be very rewarding. She remarked prospective students should be ready to commit themselves wholeheartedly and have a support system in place.
“Find a program that really fits your interests,” Diefenbach said. “You are going to be spending a lot of time and energy on the content and the work. So, make sure you like what you are doing and be sure it is an area that will help you further your goals.”
The College currently offers three Master's-level programs, including Museum Professions, Strategic Communication, and Public Relations. In addition, four dual-degree options, including three accelerated B.A./M.A. programs and a dual M.A. degree with the School of Diplomacy and International Relations are offered.