Alumna Perspective: Building Connections Through Communications@Syracuse

After seeing an advertisement for the Communications@Syracuse master’s program on LinkedIn, Liz Webber explored how the program could help her grow in her career. With more than five years of experience in the journalism and media industry, Webber decided to enroll and anticipated gaining deeper insights into the media industry with her journalism innovation concentration.

What surprised her about the online program was the level of connections she forged with fellow classmates. In a recent essay on LinkedIn, Webber reflected on how her fellow alumni “have provided job leads, shared industry tips and have been among the first to offer congratulations when someone pulls off something awesome at work.”

Along with her classmates, Webber grew as a project manager, industry expert and leader during her time as Syracuse. As she prepared to graduate, she took on the role of insights editor at Entrepreneur.com in New York City, where she manages a team of editors and overall content performance. In the following Q&A, Webber discusses her decision to join the program, how she balanced work and school, and how her master’s degree has helped her advance in her career.

How did you decide to apply and ultimately enroll in the Communications@Syracuse program?

I had been considering pursuing some form of additional education, whether it was taking a few courses here and there or enrolling in a degree program. I happened to see an ad for the Communications@Syracuse program and started looking into the program. The more I learned about it, the more appealing it was to me.

It’s really amazing that you can continue to work full time while doing the program, although it takes up a lot of your time. The fact that you can do it in the evenings from your home was really appealing to me, and the Syracuse name was a big factor. I could also get it done in a year and a half and not delay my career or my career ambitions. 

What surprised you about the program?

I was really surprised that I met so many amazing people and that we still keep in touch. It’s a little difficult when you’re alone in your living room on your computer, but I really made some strong connections with the people in my cohort. I wasn't expecting that to be one of the best parts of the program.

You felt like you knew the people in your classes because the classes are so small, but then seeing them in person at the immersion weekends really strengthened those connections and made you want to keep in touch. I would also say that I’m probably closest to the people within my own specialization because toward the end we had all of our classes together. You’re seeing those same people multiple nights a week and communicating about assignments outside of class.

Which course or project helped you grow the most in the program?

I think I would have to say the Capstone course. Each student picks the big idea that they’re going to tackle and works with the professor to figure out what they need to do to solve that idea. My big dilemma was how do media organizations make money? So, newspapers in the past relied heavily on print advertising, and as circulation has gone down, they are losing out on those revenues. Digital advertising has increased dramatically for some publications, but it’s still not covering the cost that they’re losing from the print advertising.

I came up with a loyalty rewards app that would replace a traditional digital news subscription. When people read an article or shared it on social media, they would get points and could use them for rewards, such as additional content that’s exclusive to loyalty members, in-person events with the news organization, or even things like a Starbucks gift card.

I had never carried out any kind of project like that, and I also felt like I hadn’t thought about the big picture of the industry or solving a big problem in the way that the Capstone forces you to do. I think that stretched my abilities the most. 

How do you apply what you learned at Syracuse in your career?

The biggest applications for me are the intangible things. I started a new job in January while I was kind of winding down the program, and it’s a position where I have more leadership opportunities. I think the critical thinking that I gained from the program—looking at different aspects of the industry that I hadn’t been involved with before and the kind of project management that we learned in various classes in the program—have really helped me to grow in this new role.

What advice would you give to students who are currently in the Communications@Syracuse program or are considering joining the program?

If you’re in the program and you haven't done so already, you should really make an effort to reach out to your fellow classmates, as well as your professors. I think those connections are going to be really important and they’re going last for years if you do it right. 

All of the professors have office hours. Even if they don't have set office hours, they’ll meet with you when it’s convenient for both of you, so if you have a question on a project or a question about the industry, you should definitely try to reach out and talk to your professor about it, even if it’s just for 20 to 30 minutes.

Within the program, we’re all connected on social media. The first immersion weekend, we all formed a giant group chat on Facebook. Sometimes it’s something funny, sometimes it’s “look at this cool thing I did at work today,” so we’re all really supportive in that way. Coming together as a group, even in a very casual way, can help you make those connections through social media.

This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

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