Alum Highlight: Shelby Giles
This much is self-evident: If you complete Georgetown’s Public Relations & Corporate Communications master’s degree, you will learn a great deal about PR and corporate communications. That, after all, is what the name implies.
But ask recent graduate Shelby Giles about her experience in the program, and she’ll say that her education went beyond simply acquiring expertise—way beyond.
“Georgetown doesn’t look at communications as a commodity,” Giles says. “It really teaches that you are an individual contributor to a particular team or organization.”
Helping people find their strengths—as well as how best to use them in the service of others—is central to Georgetown’s Jesuit philosophy, and it is infused in the communications programs as well. One of Giles’s favorite classes was Cause Consulting, in which students work collaboratively on communications plans with social impact clients, such as nonprofits and socially responsible businesses.
“There’s this vein of cause-oriented work running throughout the program,” Giles said. “That’s one of the reasons I decided to go to Georgetown. I wanted a school that aligns with my personal values.”
In June of 2016, Giles started a job that also aligns with her values. As an Account Supervisor for Vanguard Communications in Washington, D.C., she is working with communities and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to develop educational materials and other resources that address underage drinking.
It’s a position that’s right in line with the philosophy of her graduate program.
At Georgetown, faculty members “really went beyond the level of instruction that I would have expected,” Giles said. “They were career and life advisors, and I really appreciate that.”
Alum Highlight: Shakirah Hill
Ten years ago, Shakirah Hill was preparing to look for work in New York City when she heard about an information session for Georgetown’s graduate program in Public Relations & Corporate Communications.
It was 2007, near the start of the Great Recession, and Hill, a recent honors graduate from the University of Maryland, had developed a keen interest in marketing.
“I attended the information session and loved the course structure,” she said. “The opportunity to work with clients in real time was something that really appealed to me.”
Today, Hill is the Director of Digital Strategy for Communities in Schools, an organization dedicated to empowering students to stay in school and succeed in life. The organization works with more than 1.5 million students in 25 states and the District of Columbia to provide the kind of academic, social, and emotional support to help keep them in school.
As it turns out, Hill got her start in public interest work while studying at Georgetown. For three years, she worked in communications for Equal Justice Works, a nonprofit that funds hundreds of public interest attorneys for clients in need. Later, she moved to private firms, Environics Communications and Blue State Digital, where she served as an account supervisor and digital strategist.
At the informational meeting where she first learned about Georgetown’s PR program, Hill was struck by the number of high-level, working professionals teaching in the program. Her courses in strategic planning, budgeting, and client management were all hands-on and taught her practical skills she could use at work.
“I was able to apply the tools I learned at Georgetown directly to my work with clients,” Hill said.
Alum Highlight: Joe Scannell
When Joe Scannell was about to graduate from Marquette University in 2013, he was eager to trade academia for the working world. That’s not to say that he hadn’t learned a lot at his Jesuit alma mater. It was there that he discovered public relations and found out he was good at it. But now he was ready for something new.
Still, while applying for corporate internships, Scannell decided to also look into Georgetown University's graduate program in Public Relations & Corporate Communications. Yes, he would be going back to school, he reasoned, but the classes were at night so he could work during the day and maybe learn from both worlds.
He was right on both counts, and, by any measure, his career has taken off since then.Scannell didn’t hear back about the internships. But, once he enrolled in Georgetown, he learned through the program that Edelman, one of the places he had applied to, had an internship opening in digital media strategy and had provided the school with a hiring contact that students could call.
Scannell interviewed for the position, got the job, and three months later was promoted to Digital Project Manager. Since then, he has been promoted twice more and is now Senior Account Executive for Digital Corporate & Crisis Communications. This year, he was also named one of PRNews’ Rising Stars 30 & Under.
Working at Edelman, serving as a public relations officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves, and going to Georgetown made for a busy two years for Scannell, who graduated in 2015. But it was worth it.
"I think the caliber of the professors that Georgetown has assembled as adjuncts is world class, he said, "and I feel I was learning from the best in the industry."
Alum Highlight: Dyanne Smith
About the only thing Dyanne Smith can’t do at her incredibly multifaceted job with Metro Media Marketing is, well, tell you in a few words just what she does.
“I try to put everything into one great sentence, and I can’t,” she says.
Smith plans the marketing strategy for the company and promotes its flagship publication, Northern Virginia Magazine, on radio, television, and social media. She arranges partnerships and organizes events that showcase the magazine and its advertisers. And she heads marketing efforts for two related ventures: Specialicious, a daily deals site for Northern Virginia; and CityFancy, a social dining app that helps diners find restaurants that match their tastes.
Look at all the people she interacts with in a typical day and you might think she’s a born extravert, but that’s not the case, says Smith, a 2012 graduate of the master’s in Public Relations & Corporate Communications. In fact, she did a lot of that work in developing those skills at Georgetown.
The PR program’s curriculum is hands-on and flexible, reflecting a profession that is constantly moving forward. Students are taught by instructors who are working in the field. And they learn to develop their strengths in ways that will help them to both advance their careers and give back to their organizations and the profession itself.
“I saw myself evolve on a personal and professional level,” Smith said. “It pushed me to come out of my shell and confidently pursue larger career opportunities, specifically my first role in management.”
Smith had many mentors at Georgetown, so it’s not surprising that she’s become a mentor herself at work. It’s one way she’s helping to spread the program’s influence beyond the classroom.
“I always tell people it was the best decision I ever made.”
See more alumni stories here.