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Purdue Master’s in Communication Student Balances Graduate Studies with an International Career

May 19, 2023 | Online - Master of Science in Communication

Already a successful international communication professional, Ye Ji Lee needed a graduate program that would enable her to continue working for the United Nations in Jordan. While browsing possible options, Purdue University’s online Master of Science in Communication stood out.

“Purdue’s program had multiple features that made it the clear choice,” Lee said. “It was completely online, so I could continue working while completing it; and it was specifically designed for professionals, so there were lots of potential networking opportunities.”

Lee’s passion for international advocacy and volunteerism has taken her around the world. After graduating from McGill University in Canada with a bachelor’s degree in International Development, she accepted a position as a communications assistant at the Korea Association for the Environment in South Korea. While working in South Korea, she became a volunteer for the United Nations , eventually relocating to Uganda where she worked as a communications and advocacy officer. Then she accepted another position with the UN. in Jordan, where she still works as a communications officer for UN Women, a UN unit that focuses on women’s empowerment.

Lee enjoys her international career and says it has afforded her the opportunity to live many different places and hear many different stories. As a communication professional, stories are at the center of Lee’s advocacy, and she is always looking for ways to expand her storytelling and communication skills. That’s why she decided to start researching master’s degree programs last year, in the hopes that getting a master’s would give her more opportunities within the U.N. and other international agencies.

Lee started Purdue’s program in spring 2022, and she’s already reaping the benefits. The online program’s flexibility — all of the classes are asynchronous — has made it easier for Lee to fit graduate studies into her busy work schedule, especially considering Jordan is seven hours ahead of West Lafayette, Indiana. She also appreciates getting to collaborate with her classmates, who include professionals from dozens of different fields.

“I am so deeply focused on nonprofit work, so it’s good to be able to work with people in the for-profit sector and in academia as well,” Lee said. “Collaborating with classmates who have lots of different experiences has helped me understand my field and role better.”

Though all of Lee’s classes are online, she says she never feels bored by the virtual content. Her teachers hold a synchronous meeting once a week that helps the students experience more of a “classroom feel.” She also has an easy time connecting course topics to her career goals.

“When I first started working as a communication professional, I had no training in public relations, so I had to learn by doing,” Lee said. “Being able to pursue my master’s and develop in-depth knowledge of the field has grown my expertise and boosted my confidence.”

Lee is currently taking a course in communication ethics, which she says has been very useful in her job as a communications officer at the U.N., where she creates stories, social media strategies, and other content focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment in Jordan. She looks forward to the courses she’ll take in the future, like social media and crisis management.

“These courses are directly applicable to my field,” Lee said. “I don’t use social media much in my personal life, but I’m tasked with creating social media campaigns all the time, so I think being able to take a course in that will give me a great perspective on strategy. It’s very practical.”

She’s also noticed the way Purdue’s program encourages collaboration between herself and other students. She’s learned a lot of tips and tricks from her classmates, such as how to track social media posts, develop different social media campaigns, and customize messaging for different contexts.

Lee still has a couple of years before she graduates, but she’s already thinking about the kinds of opportunities the degree can afford her. Since volunteering and advocacy are her foremost passions, she wants to continue a career focused on international advocacy and creating strong, integrated volunteer networks to do social good.

“I’m open to working anywhere in the world, I’d like to continue to experience new communities,” Lee said. “Communication is very important when you have an international experience, because you realize every local context is different, and the same message will land differently depending on where you are and who you’re talking to.”

Although balancing a busy career with pursuing a master’s has been challenging, Lee doesn’t mind the late nights spent studying and working through her virtual courses — being back in school makes her feel closer to accomplishing her goals.

“The communications field is changing all the time, so there’s always more to learn,” Lee said. “For me, learning and telling stories is also about making the world a better place for everyone to live in. It’s a way of making people feel more connected.”

Learn more about Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication, including how to apply, at the program’s website.

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