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Ryan Alvis: Communication Strategist from the Marines to the Secret Service

Ryan Alvis (’20SPS, Executive Strategic Communication) is a Strategic Communication Specialist with the United States Secret Service in Washington, D.C. She previously served as a Marine Corps Public Affairs Officer for eleven years. She led a team of thirty marines and civilians that specialize in social media, photo, video, and graphics. During her service, she deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan in 2013 and Operation Inherent Resolve, Iraq in 2016.

What initially attracted you to the Executive Master’s in Strategic Communication program?

The executive option attracted me because I have been working in the field for more than a decade and wanted my courses to meet me at my experience level. Learning with peers across other industries has enriched my experience and made it genuinely fun. Traveling to New York was also important to me because I wanted to feel like a part of the Columbia community.

What type of skills have you been able to improve on through the program? 

By applying the process I have learned in Strategic Communication Management, I have learned how to best organize my thoughts when addressing a communication problem. Identifying communication objectives and implementing communication objectives are two different skill sets which the program recognizes. The courses teach you how to communicate ideas to leadership, which is often a challenge.

How have these skills helped you succeed at your job? 

It’s incredible how valuable just three months of school have been for my new job with the Secret Service. I have consistently referenced school texts and notes to inform Strategic Communication processes that I am shaping for the agency. This program is teaching me how to enhance my approach to planning and presenting and will allow me to develop new skills in research and evaluation. This program has prepared me to become a leader in the field of Strategic Communication in a way that is applicable to all industries.

Is the format of the program helpful? 

I am a part-time student with the Executive Program, which requires nine units of course work per semester. This is ideal for me as a working professional and mom because it only requires one trip to New York per month. The online classes are very engaging because they use live video sessions and facilitate engaging discussions. Interaction with my experienced cohort is what sets this program apart from others. 


Learn more about the M.S. in Executive Strategic Communication program at Columbia University.