About Kate V. Silina: Kate V. Silina is an accomplished communications and PR professional with a career that spans both the public and private sectors. She currently works for Sunshine Sachs in Los Angeles, as a Director on the firm’s Crisis and Strategy team. Before moving to California, Ms. Silina spent over seven years with the Obama Administration, leading legislative affairs for a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She has also worked for the United States Postal Service and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ms. Silina attended the University of Oxford and University of Maryland for her undergraduate studies, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Government and Politics. She completed her master’s degree in 2017, through the Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program at Georgetown University.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Kate V. Silina] Currently, I’m a Director on the Crisis and Strategy team at Sunshine Sachs. At Sunshine, I have the privilege of working with an A-List roster of clients across tech, financial services, entertainment, and politics, and leading and mentoring an exceptional team.
Prior to moving to Los Angeles, I spent 7.5 years in the Obama Administration, where I led legislative affairs for a $1.4 billion dollar division of the Department of Homeland Security. I also prepared Administration leadership for Congressional hearings, served as the on-the-record spokesperson to Congressional oversight committees, and helped manage crisis communications during high-profile incidents, including civil unrest in Ferguson, MO and mass shootings in Orlando, FL and San Bernardino, CA.
I have a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University and completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Oxford and the University of Maryland. In 2017, I was named as one of the Hoya Professional 30 and, in 2014, was honored to receive the Department of Homeland Security FPS Special Act Award for my work during the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.
A native of Vilnius, Lithuania, I currently live in Downtown Los Angeles with my partner James, hike almost every weekend, and have a book recommendation for anyone who asks.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program at Georgetown University?
[Kate V. Silina] As the news cycle accelerated and social media became more prevalent, Congress – my primary audience at the time – was becoming increasingly reactive and difficult to engage on complex public policy issues and I wanted to make sure I was as effective as possible in my advocacy efforts. I decided to pursue a master’s degree in communication because I wanted to gain a better understanding of the tools and strategies being used in the private sector to effectively reach audiences.
I chose to go to Georgetown because many of the professors teaching in the public relations and corporate communications program were actively practicing in the field and I felt that they would help teach me practical and up-to-date skills I could apply immediately. Additionally, I wanted to learn more about digital and Georgetown had a good selection of courses focused on digital analytics and measurement, digital communications strategy, etc. Last, the program had a significant number of students who worked full-time, so it was good for networking and also offered many evening classes.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Georgetown’s MPS program structured, and what concepts did the program emphasize? What skills and strategies did you learn in your classes, and how did you apply them to course assignments?
[Kate V. Silina] Georgetown’s MPS program includes a mix of required courses, electives, and a mandatory capstone project. The program really emphasizes practical skills – which I loved because I was able to apply the skills I learned in school to my job in the Administration from day one.
As I mentioned above, almost all of our professors were practicing communications professionals and they really encouraged us to think deeply and critically about how we could best identify and meet the needs of the target audience for any given project. This audience-centric approach served me well throughout my time at Georgetown and in my career. It has helped me do everything better – from designing and leading media training to providing clients feedback on their website redesign.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your capstone project? What communication issue or challenge did it address, and what were your primary deliverables (i.e. communications plan, tutorial, video, visual marketing materials, etc.)? What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully completing their project?
[Kate V. Silina] Working on my capstone was a wonderfully rewarding experience! My mother sang at the Washington National Opera (WNO) for years and I was thrilled to have the opportunity help them develop a millennial-engagement strategy. My final deliverable to the WNO was a comprehensive communications plan – complete with budget, messaging, event and activation ideas, etc. and, to develop it, I conducted a fair amount of quantitative and qualitative research.
I read all the academic literature I could find, reviewed the WNO’s internal data and research, found representative samples of millennials unfamiliar with the opera throughout the DC-Metro area through friends, family, and colleagues, designed surveys, and even held several formal hour-long interviews. I think the energy I put into really understanding the classical music business and communications landscape and the needs of my target audience was what made it possible for me to identify creative and effective solutions for the challenges facing the WNO.
I would encourage students working on their capstone to be conscientious and thorough throughout the research phase. This will help make sure that the strategies and tactics in their final plan rest on a solid foundation and help their client achieve their business and communications goals.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Georgetown’s PR and Corporate Communications program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Kate V. Silina] I learned a lot at Georgetown. I gained a much better sense of analytics, metrics, and measurement, I polished my presentation and public speaking skills, and I gained a much better understanding of how all of the tools in a communicator’s toolbox can work together to really make an impact.
However, the network I built at Georgetown has been especially valuable. The network helped me transition from the public sector to the private sector, it has helped me find clients, it has helped me make friends in a new city, and I still routinely reach out to my classmates to pressure-test ideas or to ask for advice.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at Georgetown or another university?
[Kate V. Silina] I would give students three pieces of advice:
First, graduate school is a unique opportunity to build a strong social and professional network. It gives you the chance to get to know and learn from people from different fields, of different ages, backgrounds, etc. Take advantage of this! Be helpful, be social, and make the extra effort to stay in touch once you graduate. It’s worth it.
Second, use graduate school to get outside your comfort zone. Take a class that you think will be hard for you, ask lots of questions, use the resources the school offers, and do the work. Broadening your knowledge base will help you gain perspective. This, in turn, will help you become a savvier strategist, a more creative problem solver, and, if you have clients, a true consultant and advisor.
Last, try to enjoy it! I worked full-time while I was in graduate school and sometimes it was tough. (There’s nothing quite like coming home after a long work week and sitting down to write a paper.) But it was also a wonderful period of personal growth and allowed me to make connections and friendships that will last a lifetime. Savor it and focus on how weird and wonderful it is to have time set aside each day just to learn!
Thank you, Ms. Silina, for your excellent insights on Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program!