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Career Information & Alumni Profiles

 

Penn State New Kensington Communications graduates are pursuing successful careers in a variety of businesses and professions.  Our alumni are employed at major public relations and marketing firms, universities and health care organizations, media companies and national non-profit agencies.  A number of graduates are also working in the communications departments of a diverse range of industries including retail fashion, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and technology.  Read the profiles of a few program alumni below.

A Bachelor of Arts in Communications at Penn State New Kensington also provides a highly versatile pathway to graduate school. With the assistance of their Communications faculty mentors, former Communications majors have been accepted to graduate programs in a variety of fields, including film production, library science, English literature, social work administration, and higher education administration.  Our graduates are pursuing Master’s Degrees at prestigious higher education institutions, including the University of Chicago, Indiana University at Bloomington, University of New Orleans, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), and Arcadia University.

 
Matthew Zidek Communications Graduate

MATTHEW ZIDEK

(Penn State New Kensington Communications graduate in Corporate Communications, Class of 2007) currently holds the position of Admissions Counselor with the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. He earned his M.A. degree in Student Affairs and Higher Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2009.

 

Tell us about your professional experiences since graduation.

After completing my Bachelor of Arts in Communications at Penn State New Kensington, I continued my education at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, graduating with a Master’s Degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education in the spring of 2009.  In August of 2009 I began working as an admissions counselor at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.  Since starting here, my position has undergone several changes, with each change bringing on new responsibilities.  My major responsibility now is recruiting and counseling transfer students to our university. 

 

How did your education at Penn State New Kensington prepare you for your profession?

During my undergraduate work, I was heavily involved with many aspects of student life; it was through this involvement that I eventually realized that I wanted to work in higher education.  I had the opportunity during this time to intern as an admissions counselor in the campus admissions office.  This internship affirmed for me that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in higher education. 

My senior research project also provided me with a strong background in higher education.  For my project I researched learning communities and developed a plan for how they could be implemented at a mostly commuter college.Having that knowledge has been very beneficial in my current position, since I am working at a smaller university where two thirds of our population is commuter students. 

The courses that were most relevant to my graduate studies, graduate internship and current professional job were the courses that focused on public relations.  They have really helped me develop many promotional pieces for classes and in the office.

In addition, some of my most memorable experiences at PSNK came from my involvement in the Lion Ambassadors organization and being an orientation leader.  Involvement in both of these organizations really provided me with opportunities to hold leadership positions as well helping me to form a number of friendships.  Many of those friendships are still going strong today.

 

Do you have any advice for current students?

Take advantage of the one-on-one attention you can get from the professors in the program.  They have a wealth of knowledge to share with you, but you are the one in charge of your education and only you can extend your learning outside of the classroom.  At other schools, this is not as easily available.  Those connections I made really helped me excel in my academics. 

I would also advise students to take advantage of any professional opportunities that come their way through the courses or other activities. This helps build a strong resume.  I know personally from interviewing for several positions in our office that those were the resumes that stood out the most to our committee. 

 
Gretchen Toy at PSNK Graduation

GRETCHEN TOY

 

(Penn State New Kensington Communications graduate in Corporate Communications, Class of 2011) currently holds the position of Client Staff Assistant at the global public relations and marketing firm Burson-Marsteller (Pittsburgh, PA).

 

 

Tell us about your professional experiences since graduation:

After graduating in December 2011, I immediately began searching for jobs. To my surprise, I noticed there were a lot of openings in the communications field; however, unfortunately, most of them were looking for professionals with 2-3 years of experience. I submitted what seemed like an endless number of cover letters and resumes anyway, and didn't receive much of a response at first. I also made sure to utilize the connections that I had made during my undergraduate career – my professors, my internship supervisors, my classmates, etc. After reaching out to Burson-Marsteller, the global public relations and communications firm I interned with in 2011, I was offered an interview which resulted in a full-time position. I’ve been working in the firm's Brand Marketing Practice since January, 2012.

 

How did your education at Penn State New Kensington prepare you for your profession?

After beginning my college career as a legal studies major, I had to transfer universities. I decided to pick up a few courses at PSNK rather than taking an entire semester off during the transition. During my time at PSNK, I took a communications course focused on law and media ethics. After realizing how much I enjoyed the course, I began to explore the field of communications and quickly decided that it was the field for me. Because I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do when I graduated, I wanted to choose a major that would allow for flexibility while also providing me with the opportunity to develop writing and research skills--skills that are currently sought after in the workplace.

The communications program at PSNK enabled me to develop a wide variety of skills and provided me with endless opportunities. The program's internship requirement really motivated me to not only complete one internship, but two -- one with the Kiski Area Education Foundation and the other with Burson-Marsteller. I realized that internships were the best way to get hands-on experience in the field and to really set myself apart from the competition when I graduated.

My senior research project focused on the Toyota recall crisis and the social media campaigns used to recreate consumer-brand relationships. Not only was the topic relevant to the PR field, providing me with a great conversation piece for interviews, but the project also helped me to further strengthen my research skills. Now that I’m working for an agency, I realize that I will never stop researching – I do research for clients every day, one of the many things I love about my job!

I was also very involved in extra-curricular activities at PSNK, such as: the Student Government Association; the Campus Activities Board; the University Honors Program; the student newspaper The Nittany Pride; Penn State’s internationally renowned charitable fundraising event THON; PSNK’s Fall Festival Planning Committee; PSNK Freshmen Orientation Leaders; and the Academic and Career Success Center peer tutoring programs. I also served as a teaching assistant for the Spanish department and was selected as one of Penn State New Kensington’s Chancellor Fellows.

Not only did I enjoy the time I spent in these activities, but they also really taught me the importance of multitasking, a highly prized skill in the PR world! These extra-curricular activites enabled me to get away from my classwork and focus on other important qualities I would need in the future, such as leadership and creativity. I believe that extra-curricular activities are not only enjoyable, but also great assets to someone seeking an entry level position in the communications field. I discussed many of the accomplishments I made and the projects I worked on in extra-curricular activities in job and internship interviews.

 

Do you have any advice for current students?

I encourage current students to work hard, but also enjoy their time in the program because it really goes by quickly. I’d also emphasize the importance of multiple internships. I truly believe that I would still be searching for a job today if it weren’t for the connections I was able make through the internships I completed. I would also encourage students to spend time perfecting their writing and researching skills. While working in PR, I’ve noticed that writing is at the center of every activity I do during my work day, whether it’s corresponding through email, drafting copy for pitches/releases, developing one-pagers or doing new business research. I would also add that all of the time spent using the library databases will not go by wasted—I still spend countless hours on LexisNexis!

 


 
L. Maxwell with dog

LAURIE MAXWELL

(Penn State New Kensington Communications graduate in Corporate Communications, Class of 2007) currently holds the position of Manager, Pets for Life, with The Humane Society of the United States (Chicago, IL).

 

She is also currently pursuing an M.A. in Social Work Administration at the University of Chicago.

 

Tell us about your professional experiences since graduation:

The first few years after college, I was a deputy manager of a national campaign against animal cruelty at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Now, I still work for HSUS, live in Chicago, and manage a program called Pets for Life Chicago. Operating in four major metropolitan areas (Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia), this groundbreaking program does direct outreach to pet owners in underserved urban communities. These communities are often barren of pet resources like veterinarians and pet supply stores. We do door-to-door outreach and massive community events to offer our free dog training classes, free spay/neuter and vaccination service, and in-home consultations to problem-solve any pet-related issues. All the while, Pets for Life integrates core components of social work – such as meeting people where they are and supporting self-determination – into animal welfare work to help our clients make healthy choices for their pets. Our mission is to “help people help their pets.” Leading this program in Chicago is immensely rewarding; we empower people and keep pets from ending up at the city animal shelter.

I’m also currently enrolled in graduate school at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. I’m in their part-time program, while working full-time at HSUS. As part of the program, I’m completing an internship a few hours a week at which I co-facilitate therapy groups for people who have been convicted of domestic violence.

 

How did your education at Penn State New Kensington prepare you for your profession?

I used the required internship component of the communications program at PSNK to spend the summer interning at The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in Washington, DC. Upon graduation, I was hired.

My experience at PSNK in the communications program gave me the tools and the confidence to achieve the success I’ve had in my career. The small class size means the professors have the ability to devote individual interest in you and can serve as mentors as well as instructors. I spent semesters at large campuses as well, and I did not get the attention I received at PSNK. The Communications curriculum also is so adaptable to whatever your interest happens to be. Students are encouraged to focus their class projects on career topics that interest them. This means you leave PSNK with a portfolio of work you can show potential employers.

 

Do you have any advice for current students?

  1. Utilize office hours with your professors. They are there to help you.
  2. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, especially for your internship. Try a new city!
  3. You get what you put in to college. If you devote thoughtful energy into your projects, you will learn a lot and prepare yourself for the next step.

 


 
Communications Alumni, D. Lane

DENNIS LANE

(Penn State New Kensington Communications graduate in Journalism, Class of 2007) currently holds the position of Editor with CBS Networks/KDKA-TV (Pittsburgh, PA). He is also completing his M.A. degree in Emergency and Disaster Management at the American Public University. 

 

Tell us about your professional experiences since graduation:

After I graduated, I got a job as a news photographer and editor at WTOV-TV in the Stuebenville-Wheeling, OH media market. In that position, my primary responsibilities were to shoot and edit video for local news stories. It was especially exciting when stories I worked on got picked up by national and international news outlets such as CNN, NBC and BBC. In November, 2011, I accepted a position with CBS Networks as Editor at KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. Presently, I work primarily on editing video packages and feature stories for the evening and late-night news broadcasts. This year, I had the privilege to travel with a news crew to Dallas, TX for a week to cover the Super Bowl. I also got to cover the NHL Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. In August, 2011, I began work on my M.A. in Emergency and Disaster Management at the American Public University.

 

How did your education at Penn State New Kensington prepare you for your profession?

My interest in journalism started in high school. We had a television studio there and I always wanted to be an on-air meteorologist. In my first years at PSNK, I discovered that I really enjoyed behind the scenes work and working with video technology as well. I started out thinking that I was going to transfer to University Park after my first two years, but I began to fall in love with the small campus environment at PSNK: the small classes, the great faculty, the high standards, the individual attention, and the close community I formed with my peers in the program.  

My studies in Journalism at PSNK developed my passion for television news production. The introductory video production courses gave me the basics of non-linear editing that are used at pretty much every news station in the country today. I actively pursued an internship in television news production. I was able to acquire one (partly due to the recommendation letter that one of my faculty mentors wrote) at KDKA-TV during the Spring, 2006 semester.  I was fascinated by the pace and complexity of the live television news broadcast during my time there, and today I work with many of the same people that mentored me during my internship. The courses in rhetoric have definitely helped develop the way I perceive the political events that I cover in my work, and the training in the basics of news writing and news values are things I use every day in my professional life. Many of the skills I learned at PSNK – video editing, writing a press release, communications ethics, and crisis communications management – are all required skills in my current graduate program as well.

One of my most memorable experiences is when my final research project was complete – it was a great sense of relief that it was over, but also a great sense of accomplishment that I had been able to push myself so hard. A second great memory is when we had the screenings of student video projects at the end of our video production class. It was great to see all of the creative, quality work that students were able to complete – we all worked extra hard on the projects because we knew our peers were going to see them. It was such a fun day.

 

Do you have any advice for current students?

If you’re interested in journalism or media production, my advice is to work as much and as hard as you can in the communications lab at PSNK and learn as much as you can because you’re going to use these skills daily and employers expect you to have them. My second piece of advice is to do multiple internships if you can. The more experience you have, the better – and the more contacts you develop through these experiences, the better.