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ASU alumna is using her communication skills in all aspects of life

Lindsey Petersen

March 21, 2018

Arizona State University alumna Lindsey Petersen, a graduate of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, says that the skills she learned in the communication program are applicable to any profession.

"Knowing effective communication strategies has elevated my professional relationships and connections, enriched my personal relationships, and allowed me the opportunity to articulate my feelings adequately and respond to different situations and people in my life with much more understanding," she said.

Here she talks about how her education has helped her in all aspects of her life. 

Name: Lindsey Petersen
Graduation year: December 2016
Major: Communication
Minor: Nonprofit leadership and management
What's your current job? I am the lead marketing and events coordinator for Summit Health Management Oregon-BMC. It is a large healthcare organization in Bend, Oregon.

What was your "aha" moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? I entered ASU as a marketing major and switched to nonprofit leadership and management before arriving at communication. I always knew I wanted to pursue something that involved people, as I love human interaction and establishing meaningful relationships. As I progressed through the degree program, I knew I had made the right choice, as communication is so all-encompassing. The skills that I learned in this program are applicable to any profession. 

What made you choose ASU? At first the numbers of students at ASU intimidated me. I come from a small town in Oregon that did not yield much diversity, so I knew that ASU would provide me with opportunities to meet new people with different perspectives. I will be forever grateful to ASU for this, as the varied perspectives and backgrounds vastly enriched my educational experience. Additionally, the number of opportunities and majors that ASU provided was exceptional. There is a club or organization for every interest, that can be paired with any major or minor.  I was able to take classes on various subjects outside of my comfort zone, including public lands management, art, and astronomy. They all contributed to a very well-rounded education. And hey, for a snow gal the sunshine and palm trees were nothing to complain about.

Lindsey Petersen

Is there a particular faculty member at ASU who was influential?  

I had many influential faculty members at ASU. In the Hugh Downs School my most influential faculty were Graduate Teaching Associate Bailey Oliver and Instructional Professional Clark Olson.

Bailey Oliver — her COM 310: Relational Communication course was one of my favorite classes in the COM program, and within ASU as a whole. A lot of the COM material has the potential to be very dry, but she always presented information in fresh, relevant ways. She was professional but so endearing that I wanted to come to class and listen to what she had to say. She made sure to tie each lesson to real life experiences for college students. I loved coming to her lectures each week and can say that the information I learned I have used countless times in my life.  It has helped me navigate situations and become a better communicator. She deserves much recognition for her teaching style and commitment to the material.

Clark Olson — I took his COM 494 class, and also interned for him at Bonner David Art Gallery through a COM 484 internship. I saw him pursue his interest in art, all while devoting his time to higher education. Becasue of him, I have decided to pursue a master's in education with the hope of becoming an art teacher in a low-income school. He was never afraid to open the discussion to heavy or thought-provoking topics. I really valued this because it was a way for my peers and I to discuss things that really mattered, and showed us we had the  potential to impact society. Some teachers shy away from such heated debates, but I felt that he was always open to discuss them.  

When you were interviewing for your first job out of college, what experiences at this school did you talk about?  Internships? Group projects? Study abroad? I studied abroad at Dublin City University in Ireland offered by ASU and CIEECouncil on International Educational Exchange. This was a great way for me to put my textbooks to use and see how communication styles varied in different countries. Although many times I was not able to speak the local language in the different places I visited, it made me rely on nonverbal communication, which can be quite impactful. I was surprised at how far a smile and open body language took me.

In job interviews, I was able to translate the skills I learned through my internship, and articulate what I bring to an organization, thanks to my degree in communication.

Were you involved in any student organizations or clubs? Or athletics? I was the president of the Special Event Planner’s Association at ASU for two years, where I had the opportunity to really grow the program and increase its presence on campus. I was a College of Public Programs Council Member as well as a W. P. Carey Business School Council Member. I also played intramural basketball.

What advice do you have for students who may be following your path?  The communication program opened so many doors for me. After graduation, I felt overwhelmed by all of the possibilities available to me, because I knew that the skills I developed during the course of my communication degree could be applicable to any career. Although having so many options seemed crippling at the time, I think that being able to articulate your strengths and your feelings will get you far in life. The great thing about communication is that there is no single path that is necessary for success. After college, it is easy to get fixated on finding a job and becoming an adult. I've learned that it's also important to slow down and enjoy your current situation, because your future will come soon enough.

What's something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, or that changed your perspective? I always knew I wanted to pursue a career where I felt I was really helping people and impacting society. Initially, this led to me to pursue non-profit. However, my public lands management Professor Dave White said something that really changed my perspective. He was referring to his passion for alleviating the impacts of climate change on our world, to which he dedicated his career. He basically said, “Do I think that I am going to solve climate change in my lifetime? No, probably not. But my findings might help someone else discover something and that will help someone else and slowly we can all chip away at a large problem together. I might be just a cog in the wheel, but I know that my efforts are not for nothing.” This really changed the way that I viewed progress and the way I could contribute. No matter where I end up, I know that by using my communication skills I have the potential to touch peoples lives and add value. Although it might not seem as grand as I had initially dreamed, I think that we often overlook how impactful small, everyday actions can be over the course of time. It is amazing what individuals can achieve when they feel supported and understood.  

What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? My favorite spot on campus for studying was the second floor of Hayden Library that looks out over the lawn in one of the orange, plush chairs. Since this is a "no talking" zone, I was able to be alone with my thoughts or studies and look at the sunshine and bright pink bougainvillea plants that lined the palm trees. It made me feel really peaceful. I was able to cultivate appreciation for the stillness of each moment by simply being in touch. 

If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle? I am very passionate about alleviating homelessness. I know it is a very complex problem, and that ultimately homelessness is the symptom of other root causes. I think that I would spend my $40 million dollars addressing those causes and lessening their effects. Not enough people realize how close poverty is for a lot of the population. You don’t have to have to be anyone really important or have any special accolades to help someone out in this type of situation.

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