Next up on the Girl Boss interview agenda is MCOM alumna, Heather Woolwine. Heather graduated from the MCOM program in 2011, and now leads the Public Affairs and Media Relations team at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). She sets a great example for professional students who are trying to earn a graduate degree while working full time. This media relations director, health communication extraordinaire, wife, mother, and self-proclaimed “education geek” is the definition of a Girl Boss!
Tell me a little about yourself.
Heather described her childhood as nomadic. Her father worked in marketing and advertising so they moved around a lot. She believes that this taught her to adapt to change and it fed her natural curiosity. Curiosity is what makes her a lifelong learner; Heather believes there is always the opportunity to know more and do more. She realized early on that she needed to find a discipline that would enable to her to flex all those muscles, and communication seemed to be a good fit.
Tell me about your career.
Heather is a public affairs and media relations director. When talking to her about her daily tasks, she laughed at the idea of having a consistent list. She says “no one day ever looks the same.” She describes her soiree of responsibilities with a bucket metaphor; her daily tasks fall into many “buckets” such as media relations work, proactive work (e.g. campaigns, stories), reactive work (e.g. community happenings that need research), internal communication, strategic communication, and risk and crisis communication. Her signature statement is, ‘I’d rather be dizzy than bored’.
What made you decide to pursue your Master’s degree in Communication?
Heather liked school and referred to herself as an “education geek.” She decided to get her Master’s degree for a few reasons: (1) she was at a point in her career and personal life where it made sense to go back; (2) she wanted more education to be able to apply theory to her work; and (3) she liked that the MCOM program catered to working professionals which gave her the ability to work at her own pace. She said that this also created a great mix of people in their classes — everyone from new graduates to those trying to juggle school and careers. It offered many new and different perspectives.
How did your experience in the MCOM program prepare you for your career?
She said that a lot of the benefit came during the time she was in both the program and working. For example, in a risk management or research methods class she would learn something and then think ‘wait a minute… how can I apply and use this right now?’ Other times, ideas and questions would come to her while working and she would raise them later in class. She described her experience as “real-time learning.”
Share your biggest accomplishment in your current position.
Her biggest accomplishment is her storytelling skill. Heather said that it is very rewarding to be able to tell stories in such a way that you are making a difference in someone’s life.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work experience or fond memories of the MCOM program?
Heather asked to share a bit of advice with current and prospective students. She said that before you come into the program, it’s important to manage your expectations. To achieve your goals, you have to engage with your support system both within and outside of program.