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Afsheen Shamsi: Leading an Award-Winning Communications Department

Afsheen Shamsi (’SPS16, Strategic Communication) is the Director of Communications and Marketing at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education. Under her leadership, the department has received multiple national and international awards. Afsheen is also a board member for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. Her previous leadership roles include Vice Chair of the Princeton Civil Rights Commission, board member for Princeton Public Schools, and Princeton Human Services Commissioner.

What initially attracted you to the Strategic Communication program at Columbia University?

I love telling stories about causes I am passionate about. This program seemed ideal to help me further develop those skills. Additionally, everything I knew about communication, I had learned on the job so I was also seeking formal training in communication.

What type of skills were you able to build and improve on through the program?

Some of the skills that I acquired from the program included strategic storytelling, developing an integrated communications plan, crisis communications, and management and leadership skills. Everything I learned in the Strategic Communications program I have applied directly to my work, including in the development of a strategy and integrated communications plan.

What was your most memorable experience at Columbia?

Although I had written op-eds prior to joining the program, the Strategic Writing course led by Christine Summerson really helped to fine tune my technique and the way that I currently write op-eds. Since taking the course, I have published five op-eds in New Jersey’s leading newspaper on topics that range from discrimination to autism. I would often reach out to Christine to get her input prior to submission, and I am always very impressed by how responsive she is. I always find her input to be incredibly helpful.

What was it like being recognized by the Hermes Creative Awards and the MarCom Awards?

It is an honor to be recognized for my work, and I want to acknowledge that I have a team of people who worked with me on the projects that were recognized. A video that my team and I worked on for Rutgers GSE was recognized by the Hermes Creative Awards, an international competition which gets thousands of entries, with an Honorable Mention. I am fortunate to lead a team that goes above and beyond the call of duty to position our department for success in every way. Also, my work on the 2017 Rutgers GSE Impact Report was recognized by the MarCom Awards with the three Platinum Award for the best annual report for an educational institution and the best creativity and design. This is also an international competition, and they get more than 6,000 entries each year. We won their highest award in three categories. Additionally, it won a platinum award for best annual report across all industries from Hermes Creative Awards. I am very grateful to Rutgers GSE Deans Wanda Blanchett and Clark Chinn for the opportunity to work with them to advance excellence and equity in education.

Written by Danni Zhou, '20, Columbia Journalism School.