Cheryle Rivas

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Cheryle Rivas

Graduate | Public Affairs Specialist, U.S. Army

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Setting the Stage for a Career in PR
To say that Cheryle Rivas has experienced a whirlwind of events throughout her life would be an understatement. Between her role as an Air Force crew chief, military spouse, mother, broadcaster and dual master’s degree holder, she’s had no lack of things to keep her busy.

As the first in her family to graduate from college, Cheryle always felt compelled to serve her country, especially coming from a family with a strong military background. Four years serving in the Air Force provided valuable experience, but her desire to serve others necessitated a careful balancing act, considering her increasing
parental obligations.

“At the time, I was married and raising two small kids,” Cheryle said. “Upon leaving the service, I joined the [Air Force] Reserves, but had the additional challenge of balancing civilian career, Reserves, and family. I went on to study broadcasting in Seattle and continued working in that field for more than 16 years as a morning show personality and music video show host.”

With a career, a bachelor’s degree, a growing family and a Master of Public Administration, Cheryle would seem to be set. But eventually it became clear that public relations was the route she was destined
to follow.

Sending the Right Message to the Right Audience
As a civilian public affairs specialist for the Department of Defense (DOD), Cheryle knew there was more knowledge to absorb beyond her previous master’s program. Often overlooked details like measuring the effects of outreach efforts to deliver targeted, focused messaging were areas she knew could keep her from reaching her full potential.

“It became clear that there was a strategy and science behind it all,” Cheryle said. “Public relations isn’t just about demographics or psychographics. It’s also about making sure you deliver the right message to the right audience. I wanted to know more about that and understand it better to contribute more to what I was doing at work.”

It had been more than 15 years since her departure from the Air Force, which meant she was no longer eligible for G.I. Bill funds. However, her active duty husband was able to provide benefits through the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.

Making the Most of Every Opportunity
Now able to pursue a master’s in a field that truly interested her, Cheryle performed her due diligence, ultimately discovering the online strategic public relations master’s program through the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.

Through coursework, Cheryle was able to see how the curriculum framework all came together and often mirrored her actual professional duties. Gaining further insight helped to enlighten, enrich and sharpen her perspective of strategic planning and media outreach to ultimately paint a broader, more accurate picture of events as they unfold.

“The whole experience was pretty phenomenal,” Cheryle said. “My classmates and I were able to work, talk, blend and learn together from different parts of the country. It was just like being in an actual, physical class.”

Advancing Skills in an Evolving Industry
For Cheryle, the loyalty, duty, respect, honor and appreciation of all the things she holds dear came full circle once she completed her coursework to earn her online master’s in strategic public relations. The ability to put her military skills to use in the public sector seemed to validate an entire life’s work of compromise and sacrifice.

“GW afforded me the opportunity to grow and become a better public relations practitioner,” Cheryle said. “It opened my eyes to a different methodology in public relations. All of the GW military and veterans service programs, dog tags, newsletter and other resources helped keep me informed and aware of everything that was going on.”

In the midst of her career, Cheryle continues looking forward to the future. She considers her GW experience akin to art imitating life and appreciates the opportunity to reach higher and explore unlimited possibilities.

“To me, there was definitely a wow factor,” Cheryle said. “This is the key to the box that opens up a wealth of information. It allowed me to be a better public affairs practitioner in support of our mission, our soldiers and what we do for our civilians and family members.”

“I noticed that the GW program had all the things I was looking for. The Yellow Ribbon matching was definitely a plus, but with balancing work and life, the two-year time frame was exactly what I needed to juggle all of those responsibilities without getting in over my head.”

– Cheryle Rivas, 2017 Graduate