Words from the Chair | Winter 2018

Careers are always on the minds of students, and rightfully so. How their coursework and their extra-curricular activities in the Department of Communication, and more broadly at the UW, will ultimately help them to achieve professional goals is something they keep in focus during their time with us.

With this in mind, we created a Career Kickstart initiative several years ago to provide professional development opportunities for students. Through Career Kickstart programming we provide resume workshops, interviewing opportunities, job shadow experiences, and more.

Five years ago we added what has now become one of our signature student experiences: Career Exploration trips that enable students to meet off-campus with alumni in communication industries. We began in 2013 with a focus on the Los Angeles communications arena and then added a trip to New York City a few years later. And last month, we hosted our second Seattle-focused Career Exploration trip.

I remember our first one, in Los Angeles. Alumnus Peter Chiarelli spent half a day with us talking about the film industry and arranged for us to tour some key locations and meet with folks in the industry. Alumna Carley Simpson hosted us on site at a reality TV show she was producing. Alumnus Jerry Collins took us inside an entrepreneurial comedy production company. UW Alumnus Peter Clarke, and Susan Evans, both professors at USC, shared their experiences converting scholarly research into hands-on health nutrition support for food shelters. Finally, alumni David Horsey and Evelyn Iritani talked about Pulitzer Prize-level journalism and the changing news business. Woven throughout were great road-trip adventures in navigating southern California traffic, eating meals together, and students crammed into hotel rooms.

Encouraged by the success of our Los Angeles travels, the Department then added a similar experience in New York City, with alumna and Hall of Fame honoree Tinamarie Feil serving as our foundation and catalyst. To capitalize on the incredible network of alumni we have still living and working in the Seattle area, we added a local Career Exploration trip that showcases the many great career avenues here. For all of these trips, we dedicate two days of visits by students with Department alumni. In Seattle, students have visited Starbucks HQ, Edelman, Nordstrom, Microsoft, KING5, and Amazon. We will be adding some non-profits in future explorations as well.

More than 100 students have had the chance to participate in these Career Explorations. Students pay $150 for the L.A. and NYC trips, while the Seattle ones take place at no charge to students. The Department is able to fund all the remaining costs (transportation, lodging, meals) through the generosity of private donations. The Christopher Rauch Meyer Fund is dedicated 100% to supporting Career Explorations, and the Endowment for Leadership in Communication funds Career Explorations as one of a handful of transformation learning opportunities.

Students apply to be part of these experiences, and then a small number are interviewed by staff and/or faculty; only 8 to 12 are selected to go on each Career Exploration. These are large enough cohorts to include significantly varying career interests, but compact enough to facilitate good conversations and focused time together. We have created two videos to capture these experiences, one for Los Angeles and one for New York City.

The Career Explorations have led directly to career advances and geographical moves, and even opened the door to specific jobs for some students. For others, it’s been a rich opportunity to see the hands-on application of communication as an area of study. For others still, it’s the first time they’ve traveled outside of Washington state. In all cases, students are introduced to amazing role models and begin to see themselves becoming our next generation of leaders.

We live in the Communication Age, in which the ability to gather and marshal information in coherent communication narratives is the difference-maker for people, organizations, social movements, politicians, and nation-states. We have alumni doing vital, ethical communication work in many arenas. We want and need our current students to envision similar pathways and to think big and build their career goals. Our Career Explorations facilitate these outcomes, and we are able to offer these solely because of the support, financial and inspirational, of our alumni. Thank you.

David Domke
UW Department of Communication Chair