On September 24, MA in WRD and MA in NMS students received valuable career insights from four communications professionals working in the nonprofit sector. “Profit from the Nonprofit Experience,” the first event in a series of WRD professional development events, brought four Chicago-area nonprofit professionals to DePaul to share their experiences: Katie O’Dea, Director of Communications at the Latin School of Chicago; Veronica Vasquez, Communications Manager at American Red Cross of Greater Chicago; Melissa Frazin, Jumpstart Site Manager at DePaul; and MA in NMS graduate Chris Jones, Public Affairs Associate at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
The event was designed to be interactive and participatory. The 32 student attendees spent 15 minutes with each professional, first listening to a short presentation and then asking questions. The nonprofit speakers described how they had come to the nonprofit sector, spoke about the work they do at their current jobs, and reflected on the pros and cons of working in the nonprofit sector.
O’Dea stressed that the tradeoff that many people assume comes with nonprofit work—more rewarding work for less money—is an oversimplification. She said that there are plenty of well-paying, highly professional jobs in the nonprofit sector. O’Dea also said that many large corporations have divisions that serve nonprofits, and that students interested in social-good work in corporate settings might consider such positions.
All of the speakers stressed the variety that characterized their work: a nonprofit communications professional might have a hand in planning or producing their organization’s print publications, website content, social media, events, and public relations materials. Jones said that his NMS degree had prepared him well for such a diverse range of responsibilities.
MA in WRD student Shannon Kelley was pleased to hear about the variety of skills nonprofits look for in their employees. Kelley enjoyed “getting a behind the scenes look at the type of educational training and experience most valued by nonprofits.” She hopes to apply the event’s helpful information as she begins searching for a job in an LGBT nonprofit.
Among the event’s other attendees were the students in Professor Lisa Dush’s Proseminar in New Media Studies. Said Dush, “I see both of our MA programs as preparing students really well for communications-related jobs in nonprofits. This was a great opportunity for the students to learn more about what those jobs are like.”