In Depth at the Immersion: Diana Napolitano Reflects on Her Path to the Program

At the Communications@Syracuse immersion in Syracuse, New York, we met Diana Napolitano, a student who not only attends Syracuse University, but also works there. Diana is the assistant director for government relations at Syracuse and the mother of two young children. We asked Diana to tell us her story—why she chose the program, why she chose an online degree program and what her plans are for the future.

What motivated you to apply to this program?

I actually came to this program in a very roundabout way. I started in advertising and marketing back in 1999—before the digital revolution, before everything changed. As the years went on, I felt like I needed to refresh my skills. And so here I am.

Why did you choose to earn a master’s degree in communications?

I had been thinking for several years about pursuing graduate education. Being in government relations, I first considered a master’s in public administration or public policy. I explored that a little bit and decided it wasn’t my cup of tea. I also looked at earning an MBA because I enjoy the business side of things and operations. Again, while interesting, I was still really more interested in communications. I really wanted to catch up on all that I’ve missed in all the years since I was last in the communications field.

Why did you choose the Communications@Syracuse program?

I chose Communications@Syracuse for a couple of reasons. First, I have two little kids—they are 5 and 7 now—so time is at a premium. Even though I work here and I could clearly stay on campus after work and go to class, that’s not always an option. What I like about the online program is that I can be at home—or I can be anywhere actually. But usually I’m at home attending the live sessions and doing my studies. As soon as class is over, I’m already at home, so I can put the kids to bed, do the dishes, talk to my husband—all of those important things.

Plus, the courses are just as rigorous in my experience as a traditional, in-person program. And finally, it’s not just online. I think that’s something people don’t always understand. You have the synchronous portion in which you are interacting with your professor and your classmates—and they’re small classes. That’s really important to me. I like that you’re not on your own typing away in the dark. There’s a lot of great support—and a lot of great people who are there to help.

Have you ever had to call student support?

I’ve called student support a couple of times. They’ve even called me. They’re always very helpful and always ready to answer all of my questions. You’re never on your own, which I think is really important.

You work full time, are married with children, and pursuing your master’s. How do you balance it all?

It’s tough. I’m not to going lie or sugarcoat it, it’s a tough balance—but you make it work. My husband is great; he’s been picking up a lot of the slack at home. I do my studies after the kids go to bed or during my lunch hour at work. You just fit it in where you can. And in the long run, you know it’s going to be a good thing. My kids are really understanding. I think I’m also being a good role model for them as well—pursuing education and doing what you need to do get ahead in life and to achieve your goals.

What does the Newhouse reputation mean to you?

From my point of view—not necessarily being in the media world—the Newhouse reputation is stellar. I leapt at the chance to be able to study here at Newhouse. It’s a jewel in my own backyard. At home we’ve always spoken about it reverentially. So it was really an important thing for me to be able to study here and to gain from the great expertise, the alumni network, and everything that’s available to students.

What are your career goals and how will this degree help you achieve them?

My career goals at this point are still being decided. I would love to get back into more of a communications role once I have my master’s. I would love to stay at the university and continue working here—and use my new, updated skills to help reach more students, reach more parents of potential students and help get the word out the best that I can.

Do you know what you want to specialize in?

I would like to specialize in advertising because that’s my background. When I worked at an ad agency, it was still old school. It was four-color, full-page ads in hardcover publications. I always enjoyed the strategy of determining where those ads were run and determining what the message was going to be. So I would like to stay in that field and see what people are doing now.

Tell us about some of the classes you have taken so far. What are some of the key takeaways?

So far I’ve taken two-and-a-half courses. I’ve taken an introductory course, which was great in giving me an idea of everything that’s been happening since 1999. The other one I’ve taken is Multimedia Storytelling.

Multimedia Storytelling was a lot of work, but what I really enjoyed about that class was that I learned a lot of skills I never had before. I learned Adobe Premier, so I learned how how to shoot and edit video. I’m not as good as some of the people here, but I learned the basics. I also learned how to take a great photograph, how to storyboard, and how to write a script. I feel like I learned some new skills that I can apply to my everyday work, if that need should come up. Nowadays with people being asked to do more—not less—in their jobs, it’s good to have that broader portfolio.

Would you recommend the Communications@Syracuse program to a friend or colleague?

I would definitely recommend Communications@Syracuse. I think it’s a great way to learn about the world of communications. You’re not on your own, you’ve got people supporting you, you can talk to your professors—they have office hours. One of our professors gave out his phone number and said call anytime, and people really do. Plus, you are getting a world-class education on your own time and in the way that works best for you. So if you have a family or if you travel a lot for work, it’s perfect. You’re not tied down to a physical location.