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“Learn to Rely on your Classmates,” Say Recent Strategic Communication Graduates

By Jaideep Salil

Alumni of the M.S. in Strategic Communication program recently shared their experiences with incoming full-time and part-time students. Moderated by SPS alumnus and previous president of the Columbia SPS Student Government Adam Gerber (2022), the panelists provided tips, insights, and practical advice on how to successfully navigate the graduate school experience.

The panel: Pallavi Das (2022), marketing associate, BORN Group; Alicia de la Piedra (2021), media specialist, H&M Group; Clement Gibson (2022), senior media manager, Performics; Taylor Glazebrook (2021), communications officer, Stravos Niarchos Foundation; and Yuri Zheng (2020), programmatic solutions consultant, Amazon.

Alumnus Adam Gerber moderated a panel of alumni from the Strategic Communication M.S. program on September 9.

Edited excerpts of their conversation follow. 

Name something unexpected you gained through the program.

Adam Gerber: I did not realize how much my confidence was going to grow. It emboldened me to be open to the idea of meeting and connecting with people beyond my own cohort.  

Yuri Zheng: This program taught me how to better interact with people. It provided me with the opportunity to go out there and meet as many people as I can.

Clement Gibson: I was encouraged to look at learning as a lifelong process as opposed to something that finishes when you graduate. Communications as a field is so broad and dynamic that there is always something new to learn.

Alicia de la Piedra: The program allowed me to do better in interviews!

Pallavi Das: The program coaxes you to churn out a steady stream of content. I was surprised to find myself bringing that same level of intensity and rigor to my workplace. It prepared me well for my job.

Taylor Glazebrook: I was surprised at how transferable what I learned in class was to my job. What I learned in class the previous day I was applying at work the next. It made me better at my job immediately.

What do you know now that you wish you had known at the start of your graduate experience?

Gerber: Strive to work more than the recommended amount of time. It takes time to produce content that is of high quality.

Zheng: Your GPA is the last thing you should worry about. Do not panic about your grades. Instead, focus on building your network. Meet as many people as you can. Make use of Columbia’s extensive resources.

Gibson: Focus on cultivating meaningful relationships with your cohort. You know each other best and can help one another when it comes to identifying job opportunities that are a good fit.  

de la Piedra: Strike a clear balance between your work and living spaces. Do not let your work time drip into your class time.

Das: I found the faculty here extremely dedicated. You should make a real effort to reach out to them, access their networks, and seek out their advice.

Glazebrook: Learning to manage your time well is important. Take the time to talk to your professors outside of class. Make full use of the resources you have here at Columbia.

One piece of advice for future students?

Gerber: Learn to rely on your classmates. These are people facing the same challenges as you, so reach out to one another and help each other out.

Zheng: For a full-time student, the semesters go by quickly. I found it helpful to break my goals down by the semester. It stopped me from feeling overwhelmed. 

Gibson: Get a planner. I find that writing down what you must get done allows you to better manage your schedule and achieve your objectives in a timely manner.

de la Piedra: Breathe. Relax. Attaining a high-level understanding of the course content is more important than reading every single line of your reading assignments.

Das: Make sure to pursue interests beyond just academics. Contrary to what some might say, it is possible to strike a balance in the program—and it is important to do so to not feel overwhelmed.

Glazebrook: Try to participate in class discussions. You will learn just as much from your peers as you will from your professors. 

The business world’s around-the-clock communications challenges are demanding a new level of strategic thinking. Columbia University’s Master of Science in Strategic Communication graduates emerge equipped with all the essential skills and tools for a successful career in a wide range of communication fields. Applications are open for fall 2023 enrollment; learn more.