Joe Brecht MCM‘22, a public relations specialist with Rutgers Center for State Health Policy (CSHP), is a proud son of the Garden State. Born and bred in New Jersey, he left the state to earn a BA in Political Communication at The George Washington University. He returned home to pursue his graduate studies at Rutgers, earning his Master of Communication and Media (MCM) degree. Joe kindly shares his educational experiences and outcomes with us.
SC&I: How would you describe your educational journey?
JB: My journey in lower and higher education is a surprising one. To start, I attended a STEM-oriented high school in Union County, N.J., that prepared me quite well for a career in engineering. I attended The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and during my time there, I discovered my passion for communications, particularly in the spheres of politics and public policy. When I began to think about grad school, I knew I wanted to come back home to start my career in the state I love, and I was thrilled that the School of Communication & Information (SC&I) was my new academic home. The courses offered to students in the MCM program span several interesting topics, from social media to public relations, and the program allowed me the flexibility to build a course of study that interested me and furthered my professional goals.
SC&I: How did you land at Rutgers CSHP, and how did the MCM program prepare you?
JB: During my final semester in the MCM program, I applied for an internship with the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy upon the recommendation of Teaching Professor Richard Dool, director of the MCM program. I had previously worked with “Dr. D.” as his program assistant. This role was significant for me, as I had the opportunity to work with the wonderful SC&I marketing and communications team, developing content for the MCM LinkedIn group and editing the latest edition of the MCM Student Handbook. Developing my skills in this role prepared me for my internship at the Center, which I began in January 2022. In the year since, I have become a full-time communications specialist with the Center, a position I am thrilled to hold, and I owe this excellent outcome to the education and the guidance I received from SC&I. In my current role, I oversee the Center’s social media accounts, developing content and strategies for engagement. I also manage our email distributions and edit content for the Center’s website, among other duties. I always keep busy and wouldn’t have it any other way!
SC&I: What classes and instructors had the most impact on you?
JB: Without a doubt, Richard Dool had a tremendous impact on my experience in the MCM program. From the first information session, he made me feel like my contributions to the program would be appreciated and that I could achieve my professional goals. During my time in the program, I took some of his courses, including “Conflict Management” and “Communication Ethics.” I cannot stress enough the importance of being able to navigate and communicate differences of opinion and lived experience and do so in a fair manner. Part-time faculty member Kristen Koehler is another SC&I instructor whose courses literally changed my degree trajectory. Initially in the Communication and Media Studies specialization, I took several of her courses, including “Intersections of Social Media and Public Relations,” “Public Relations Management,” and “PR Strategy.” Her coursework helped me discover my love for public relations and assisting organizations to communicate authentically with their stakeholders. She also taught me how to successfully leverage social media to communicate by setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals. And, to top it all off, halfway through my time in the MCM program, I officially changed my specialization to Public Relations. I remain grateful to both instructors for their guidance on my graduate journey!
SC&I: As someone who has pivoted several times during your educational journey, what career advice would you like to share?
JB: My best career advice to future SC&I graduates is to take advantage of experiential learning opportunities like internships and fellowships. Not only do they expand your professional network and provide you with experience in your field of study, but they can also lead to full-time employment opportunities once you have your degree. This was the case for me. My experience at the Center as an intern helped me become familiar with the communicator role and develop positive working relationships with my colleagues, both of which helped to strengthen my application for the full-time position. In terms of tactics for those looking for work in communications, my other advice is to be creative in how you present yourself to employers. For example, I wrote and designed my resume and cover letter using the graphic design platform Canva to help my application stand out. It is essential to tailor your resume to the role you are applying for, so I encourage you to also take some time to think about how you present your experience and qualifications; remember, professional does not have to mean boring!