Kathryn Harris King is a graduate of the online Strategic Public Relations program. With over 20 years of experience, Kathryn’s work has transitioned from pure writing to external communication and public relations. She was looking for a program that would pair well with her extensive experience. Upon entering the program she was surprised at the depth of the networks she was able to form in addition to the rich and engaging curriculum.
Why did you choose this program?
I had looked at graduate programs off and on for several years and none of them really seemed to add to my base of knowledge as a professional with twenty years of experience. And I was really thrilled to see the curriculum here where I could learn about new social media tools and the kinds of things that my job had, kind of grown into.
Well, I started out as primarily a writer and my job has evolved into doing more external communications, more public relations. And so I’m hoping that it will help me do that and it has already started to pay off. So this program has given me the skills to take that a step further and to do more of that kind of work that I enjoy.
What surprised you the most about online learning?
The relationships. I was really surprised. I think I’m probably closer to some of the students I completed this graduate degree with than I am with students I went to four years of undergrad with. We’ve really formed some relationships and networks that’ll be beneficial to us. We’ve already started to interact, you know, “I have this problem at work. Has anybody else had this?” And it’s just a great resource for us.
More extensive than I expected. They had told me coming in that I would have a lot of access to the professors and I thought, well, you know, you’re going to say that. But I really did. You know, whenever I had questions the professors were available, they were accessible. The students, the interactions were great. And lots of feedback and help, you know, especially when you just started the program.
A lot of the group projects facilitate that kind of interaction and, of course, the discussion boards as well when you’re responding to at least two other students, you know, and you get the varied perspectives. And one thing that impressed me was the … you know, you’re interacting with students who could be across the globe and getting an entirely different perspective. We also set up Facebook groups to chat more informally. And that was very special though.
What would you tell a friend or colleague about this program?
I would say it’s definitely worth your time and effort, the expertise of the faculty, the level of professionalism of your fellow students, the guest speakers that they bring in. It all makes the degree very worthwhile and very practical. And you’re able to apply your knowledge almost immediately.
How did you find the optional, on-campus weekend?
The first option … I attended both of the optional weekends. The first one had the vice president of communication for Discovery Networks [ph.] when she … and talked about when she dealt with a hostage situation they had. And so that was quite informative. And then Christi Harlan, who talked to us about news writing … was very interesting to hear the perspectives of people who have practiced at that level. And, you know, I was fresh out of crisis management listening to her talk about how they managed a crisis. So it was quite interesting.
And then the next weekend we had someone from Honeywell talk about what it takes to be in communications and public relations. And we had a lot of … that time, because some of us knew each other better, we had also scheduled some time outside the classroom. And so we really were interacting like a regular … I mean an on-campus student would interact.
What was your favorite course?
Political Socialization, which was my favorite part of the program, with Dr. Zingman. I probably wouldn’t have predicted that because I’m in Strategic Public Relations, not political management. But it was very engaging. And especially with the primaries going on, it was interesting to see how different demographic groups coalesce around certain issues or candidates and what thinking processes go behind that.
I also Political Socialization is extremely applicable to my job. I work for a government contractor. And so quite often we’re communicating with the multiple publics. And, you know, what we need to say to the people in our neighborhood is so much different from what we need to say to congressmen. You know, they’re looking at things at different levels and all of those levels are important.
Any final thoughts?
If you’re considering pursuing a degree at George Washington University online, I would highly recommend it. You won’t be disappointed at all. It’s a very worthwhile experience. You will learn as much from your classmates as you do from your professors. And the professors are aware of that. And just open yourself up to learning in that format.