Efua K. Hayford-Wilson is completing the final year of her master's program in strategic communications in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.
I was at a point in my life where I needed a change. As I sat through a “Train the Trainer” training organized by my company at the Kellogg Center on Michigan State University’s campus, I found myself wondering about the skillsets needed to be an engaging certified trainer. These thoughts also came at a time when I was contemplating advancing my education, but slowly losing the enthusiasm due to the daunting GRE.
While eating lunch at Brody (one of the dining halls on campus), I initiated a search to match my thoughts and happened on strategic communication at MSU. One of the main attractions for me was the “No GRE” requirement for admission into the program. I was ignorant about the world of communications, but the courses detailed were intriguing. I was especially excited about courses such as Crisis Communication because I loved watching Olivia Pope fix issues on “Scandal;” Organizational Communication because I was in a leadership position at church; and Branding and Image Communication because I watch too much YouTube.
Thirty credits later, I can boldly say that enrolling in the MSU StratCom program was one of the best decisions I have made in my adult life, but it was not and still isn’t easy.
My journey is one I would ascribe to the undoubted grace of God. Why grace? I underestimated the comprehensiveness and science behind communications and lacked proper time management skills. Time management is a critical tool needed to excel in this program, and to properly balance my education and my other responsibilities (full time employment, coordinating my church’s choir, teaching the teen’s ministry and running a small catering business). Most of my assignments were completed either at the office on a slow working day (thanks to my awesome boss) or on Sundays after church.
In my final semester, I am more intentional about completing most assignments before Sundays by pulling all-nighters and reading course materials during the week. Once again, I will say this is only by the grace of God.
Although I was looking forward to certain courses based on my initial interests, I must say I have enjoyed every single class, and I have applied different aspects into my daily life.
I found myself tailoring most of my projects to address or highlight Ghana, my motherland, by using research methods to understand the potential profits for the Ghanaian tourism industry or developing a strategic message for Ford Motor Company in an attempt to break into the Ghanaian automobile market. I was also able to identify my style of leadership from both the Organizational Communication and Catalyst Thinking in the C-Suite courses. I also earned a certification in organizational leadership. The 100% online aspect of the program served me, allowing me to go home to Ghana and still complete class assignments whenever I had a stable internet connection.
Overall, my expectations were exceeded during this program and I am definitely having a bittersweet moment reflecting on my time in the program (granted that I still have two courses to finish this semester).
Since I dabbled in almost every class, I have yet to identify which specific roles I would like to be considered for in the workforce after graduation but I believe I will succeed in any role I am considered for.
Jason Archer’s words to me before I started the program still ring true today: “Efua give yourself grace.” Truly this has been a journey of God’s grace. I am hopeful for the future as I use the knowledge acquired in this program to make an impact in the world.
Here are some of my tips for success and things I've learned:
- Do not procrastinate
- Listen to the advisers; they know what they are talking about
- Have a planner or set up D2L reminders
- Practice timely communication with the professors about late assignments or technical difficulties
- Join the meetups. Although I was infrequent in attending, it is always a great time to reconnect
- Give yourself grace (Jason's words, not mine)
- Group assignments are not bad when you communicate
- Identify real-life opportunities to apply concepts you've learned
- Have fun and do not be scared to think outside the box
- Eat and rest well, or you will gain weight
- Have a good music playlist
- Aim for excellency, not perfection
- Have a strong support system who supports your dreams, aspirations and ideas
Thank you, MSU StratCom! #GoGreen #GoWhite
This story was originally featured on the College of Communication Arts and Sciences website.