by Paula Moore, Vice President of External Affairs for ACCU
I earned my undergraduate degree in journalism because I loved to write, and I loved to talk to people—to connect with them, to find out what makes them tick. Almost 30 years later, that hasn’t changed. It’s still the essence of who I am.
I’m also a mission-driven head communicator for a nonprofit organization. I’m the Vice President of External Affairs for the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU), and I truly believe in Catholic education, that it makes people’s lives better to have access to quality, faith-based education.
Marrying those two interests—my love of journalism and the mission of Catholic education—meant I’d found the perfect job when I started this position in 2011.
So why earn a degree in emerging media? Because I also realized that things were changing in the field of communication, and I needed to build my education and knowledge. Also, working in the field of higher education, an advanced degree was really valuable as a direct path in advancing my career.
I spent years looking at master’s degree programs. I knew it had to be an online program in some kind of communication field, but most of the programs I looked at were too narrow in focus. At my job, I do PR, I write, I do marketing, and I work on government affairs. I didn’t want to have to choose just to study one of those things.
That was part of the appeal of Loyola’s Emerging Media graduate program. It cut across all of those fields and seemed like an ideal fit.
I’m an Old-School Researcher
In 2013, I was putting together a panel session on social media for ACCU’s annual conference . I reached out to local universities and invited a few faculty to join the panel—including Dr. Elliot King from Loyola’s Emerging Media program.
After his session, I approached him and said, “I’m looking around for a master’s program, something online that spans across different fields.” And he said, “Let me talk to you about this Emerging Media program.”
We spent an hour on the phone. I could tell he really believed in the program, and wanted to give his students the knowledge, skills, and insight to allow them to understand new and emerging media not just theoretically, but to apply what they learned in the workforce.
I’ll tell you, I’m old school. My degree is in journalism, and I’m still a big advocate of doing research beyond Google searches – I like doing research by talking to people directly. So talking to Elliot was a huge step for me in deciding on Loyola.
I said “Elliot, I’ve been out of school for 25 years.” He said, “Don’t worry, Paula, we’ve thought about people like you.”
And all through the program, everything he said to me turned out to be true.
The Basics Are Always in Style
I started classes in 2014, with the goal of taking one class per semester and graduate within three years. Because I was working full time, that seemed like the ideal pace for me. I wound up finishing about a semester ahead of when I thought I would and was able to graduate in August 2017.
One thing I liked about the M.A. in Emerging Media is that the program had a really solid foundation in the pillars of communication—knowing how to write, think, and ask questions. I felt it was a very good fit for my old-school journalist’s approach, yet the Emerging Media graduate program combined that foundation with a newfound savvy in new and emerging media.
I also enjoyed the residency component of the program, in which we’d spend a full week on campus each summer getting an in-person, hands-on experience. As much as I enjoyed the online interactions and pace of the overall program, balancing online with a few on-site classes was great. Like I said, I still like to actually meet and talk to people face-to-face, too!
I remember one particular “ah-ha” moment when we were studying the historical evolution of social media. We learned that back in the early days of the Roman Empire, people were writing graffiti on walls, with messages that were analogous to social media posts today. It was amazing. I thought, “They were tweeting even back in the days of Nero!”
Communication doesn’t change. It’s a human need to connect and be heard and find like-minded communities. That’s a constant all through history. The only thing that changes are the tools we have to make those things happen.
The Dream Job, Even Better
A lot of the day-to-day problems I faced at work turned out to be great to incorporate as part of my coursework. I was able to jump on projects that had previously been on my “back burner” or “nice to do someday” list, because they’d connect really nicely with an assignment that I had for class.
For instance, ACCU had just launched a Twitter account in 2013. So in 2014 and 2015 when I was in the program, I was able to really understand how to do analytics for Twitter to learn when my audience was online, what types of things they were responding to, and how to make connections with influencers in our community.
Beyond just understanding the hard numbers, I also learned a deeper level of analysis from the program. I learned to question things, to question why we’re using particular technologies and social media platforms, why we’re going in a certain direction, and how to connect with specific audiences.
That analysis and questioning is applied to every aspect of what I do, even when it’s not directly related to emerging media. For example, in the past 6 months, I’ve taken a more significant role in government affairs. I’ve been able to ask more pointed questions, dig deeper to better understand where policy is going, and why certain decisions are being made. It’s a really beneficial skill to have.
Now that I’ve graduated from the program, I kind of miss it. I miss being able to connect with my classmates and my instructors. The graduate program was a great way for me to keep up with what’s going on in the world of new and emerging media. For anyone working in the field, I would recommend taking this opportunity to enhance your knowledge and skills – and after it’s done, maybe you’ll miss being in the program, too!
Paula Moore is the Vice President of External Affairs for the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.