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SMC Alums Inspire with Stories of Life after Grad School

In an Emerson classroom last fall, graduate students in Professor Thomas Vogels class listen to several Strategic Marketing Communication (SMC) alumni over Zoom video calls as alumni share their journeys and advice with current students.
Katie Stafford, MA ’12, was one of several Emerson Strategic Marketing Communications (SMC) alumni to visit current students last semester over Zoom to share their career journeys and wisdom.

Written by Alan Geiss, MA ‘23

Flexibility, worldliness, assertiveness. Three qualities that have served alumni of Emerson’s Strategic Marketing Communication (SMC) program.

Former students were asked last semester to tell their post-graduate stories and share with first-year SMC students which lessons they learned have proved useful in addressing their current business challenges.

“Seeing their career paths coming out of our program and our school has been amazing,” Marketing Communication Professor Thomas Vogel said. “It is inspiring seeing how they have developed,” he said.

“Stay Nimble”

A smiling SMC alumnus, Andrew Faller, MA’15, talks to current students over Zoom video last fall about his experiences as founder of Juug Media, a digital marketing and ecommerce company.

Andrew Faller, MA’15, founder of Juug Media, a digital marketing and ecommerce company, bounced around for several years after graduating from Emerson, working on ad campaigns for Netflix and Lionsgate. The key to his success, Faller said, was staying nimble by exploring different fields and learning new skills as opportunities arose. Being open to learning meant when an opportunity became available in a start-up environment, “suddenly people were looking at me like I was a savant, like I was an artist or something,” he said. Being flexible and curious means being unafraid to change jobs to find the right fit, “especially since you can take what you learn to other places and provide incredible value.”

“The world is awesome”

Wearing bright red sitting at a desk, Katie Stafford, MA ‘12, currently serving in Amazon’s Department of Health and Emerging Technology, poses next to blue thermal bottle reading, "Amazon, Worldwide Communication" as she chats with students over Zoom video last fall.

“The world is an incredible place,” said Katie Stafford, MA ‘12, currently serving in Amazon’s Department of Health and Emerging Technology. Stafford recommended cultivating a spirit of worldliness and curiosity about diverse cultures. While growing up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, Stafford said her family hosted exchange students and professionals from around the world. The exposure to different cultures was enlightening, Stafford said, and she learned that communicators have a role to play in helping to solve the world’s challenges.

With SMC’s wealth of international students, Stafford advised students, “The conversations you have with your friends and classmates from all over the world and different universities are going to be richer than conversations you have any other time of your life.” Stay informed about cultural and artistic happenings, Stafford urged, and make it your goal to actively research the various cultures in your midst to better understand them.

“The entrepreneurial spirit”

A professional headshot of a smiling Cyril Urbano, MA ‘12, senior brand manager for The Clorox Company of Canada.

Cyril Urbano, MA ‘12 arrived from the Philippines with a suitcase and all his savings to study in Boston. Now senior brand manager for The Clorox Company of Canada, Urbano manages the Burt’s Bees brand. He got there, he said, by cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit, and having faith in his abilities.

“If you’re able to connect the dots on a particular issue, then be assertive with your opinion. Don’t just be quiet in the corner during a meeting…let your voice be heard,” he said.

Urbano cited a list of “10 tips for keeping your creativity flowing,” he received as Vogel’s student. The lessons from the classroom, he said, still resonate after all these years.

“The future of advertising is…shorter”

Smiling selfie of Courtney LeBlanc, MA ’13, global brand director at Weiden + Kennedy, an advertising agency in Portland Oregon.

“Make it big,” said Courtney LeBlanc, MA ’13, global brand director at Weiden + Kennedy, an advertising agency in Portland Oregon. “As long as you have your dream, keep it and make it big. Make it big and make it scary.”

LeBlanc shared her ‘nonlinear journey,” confiding that she quit the advertising business at one point, before moving forward in her career.

She said advertising will need to adjust as consumers’ attention spans are getting shorter for video but longer for audio, specifically when it comes to navigating various digital platforms.

“I think it’s really interesting that we’ve evolved like this. There are definitely more possibilities on the rise regarding audio advertising and storytelling,” she said. She challenged students to develop a “radically new way of storytelling,” a structure that can deliver a message in 10 seconds or less.

A laptop screen displays a grid view of a the Zoom video call, featuring on-screen SMC alumni and also muted-screen of current students listening to alumni over Zoom inside the Marketing Communication graduate classroom.
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