May 4, 2021
Posted in: News
Young started out studying photography at The Evergreen State College, an interdisciplinary liberal arts college in Washington state. As photo editing softwares are constantly developing and changing, Young learned how to teach herself in undergrad, which she believes is one of the most valued lessons in college.
She learned how to do her own research, create a network for collaboration and trust her own judgment, which guided her through her twenties and a dozen jobs. During an internship, she worked on branding projects which made her fall in love with the process of graphic design, which led to her working in design and communication for over 10 years.
“Throughout this plan, I have realized that my gift is in being creative but also that I’m able to communicate and work well with others,” Young said. “I’m sort of the bridge between a starving artist and a corporate project manager.”
Young currently runs communications for VCU’s da Vinci Center for Innovation, where she blends her passion for cross-disciplinary education with human-centered design and strategy. When she first started working there in 2019, she began thinking about what she would go back to school for.
She started looking into VCU’s interdisciplinary options and even though there isn’t an interdisciplinary degree option on the graduate level, she found there is a doctoral program called Media, Art and Text here. Since the doctoral program is part of VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture, she looked into their graduate programs and found the Mass Communications graduate program with a concentration in Integrated Communications fit her best.
“This aligned with kind of what I've done in my career but I'm self taught so I was like, ‘Oh, this would be great to kind of get a strategy in theory, just to kind of reaffirm what I've done on my own, as well as the online,’” Young said. “The fact that this is online was very helpful for my work schedule.”
As part of the program, Young is working on a Media Mechanics project. She gets to use her departments as a client and the focus of her project, which is helpful to her since it gave her the chance to look at her day job and ask the questions she typically doesn’t get the chance to ask while she’s performing her job duties.
While working with the client, she gets to do a deeper dive into her job, making sure their targets are being reached and looking more at the package of internal leads, like audience mapping.
“We're definitely were focused on the public relations side of things, which is only a small aspect of kind of what I do in the communications role for da Vinci, so having that time and space in that kind of focus to look at how am I going to package what we do in our press, to the press and to engage the press a little bit more gave me experience that you don’t get on the job typically,” Young said.
With the graduate program comes a great deal of people you meet and network with. Young said she met so many people all over the world that she wouldn’t have met otherwise, since she wouldn’t have been able to be a part of the program if it wasn’t online.
“It [The social environment of the program] exceeded my expectations; I don't think that I expected to connect with as many classmates,” Young said. “It may be an adjustment to not be in person, but allowing it to be virtual allowed me to first of all, participate, but also meet people that I probably would not have otherwise met through an in person program.”
Director of Graduate Studies, Karen McIntyre, PhD, said that the Robertson School’s masters program was designed with professionals in mind, with the curriculum covering both theory and practice. The program is entirely online and can be completed in just one year. For a part-time student, the program can also be completed in two years.
“We hope the master’s program will give students a boost in their careers,” McIntyre said. “For students who enter the program directly after finishing their undergraduate degree, the master’s degree can give them the additional skills needed to be more competitive on the job market. For students already working in the industry, we hope the skills they learn in the master’s degree will help them advance in their careers.
With the virtual aspect of the program, Young recommends the graduate program and all of its perks. She finds that the program has been flexible with her job, and she’s still getting the most out of her education.
“I think that the projects have been both full of theory as well as getting that applied nature out of it,” Young said. “All the instructors I've had have tried to make it so that it applies to the real world, and then using the theory to kind of explain the lessons along the way, so that's exactly what I was looking for.”
For anyone interested in applying to any VCU graduate program can apply through the VCU admissions website here.