About Ashley Wiktorek: Ashley Wiktorek is the Director of Marketing and Client Relations for Barber Power Law Group in Charlotte, North Carolina. In this role, she handles a wide range of responsibilities, managing the firm’s brand and client relationships, developing marketing campaigns, overseeing digital and print advertisements, and organizing event marketing for trade shows and conferences. Prior to joining Barber Power in March 2019, Ms. Wiktorek spent over two years as a Social Media Marketing Assistant for international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse.
Ms. Wiktorek attended Liberty University for her undergraduate studies, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with specializations in Human Development and Counseling. She completed her master’s degree at Liberty as well, graduating from their Master of Arts in Strategic Communication program in 2015.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Ashley Wiktorek] I earned my Bachelor of Science in Psychology: Human Development and Counseling in 2013 from Liberty University, as well as my Master’s in Strategic Communication at LU in 2015. Currently, I work for a franchise law firm in Charlotte, North Carolina as the Director of Marketing and Client Relations.
This role entails a broad spectrum of different marketing avenues, such as event, brand development, digital, trade shows, and email marketing to name a few. What’s great about my current role are the opportunities to develop my skills in different areas of marketing, while also figuring out which ones I thrive in more. Before my role here in Charlotte, I worked primarily in social media marketing for two years with a well-known international relief organization.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Master of Arts in Strategic Communication program at Liberty University?
[Ashley Wiktorek] The decision to pursue my MA degree in Strategic Communication came at the eleventh hour for me. I’d always had this goal of going to grad school because I love learning, but thought it would be to continue my psychology degree towards being an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor). After completing my second counseling/client advocate internship during my undergrad, I realized that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go after all.
Around that same time, the opportunity came up to interview to be a Graduate Student Assistant. The interview went well, and they asked me to apply for the MA in Strategic Communications program. A close friend of mine was already in the program and after discussing with him what my goals were, I came to the conclusion that this degree would help me reach those goals. Two weeks later, I was enrolled in LU’s School of Communication and hired as a GSA. Little did I know that those two years in this program and working as a GSA would give me a passion for teaching college students and a new long-term goal to be a professor.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Liberty’s MA in Strategic Communication 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?
[Ashley Wiktorek] There were three classes for each semester and most of my classes met just once a week for a three-hour time block. This schedule was great because it gave me plenty of time for research and writing my thesis. The MA program focused on two areas in communication: marketing and communication theory. My course load throughout the two years covered both, while other students chose to focus on just one.
The main emphasis of the program was to help students practically apply the concepts they learn in the classroom out in the workplace. Instead of multiple-choice tests, we had hands-on projects. One of my favorite projects was the creation of the School of Communication’s Instagram account in a social media marketing course. We were able to identify which metrics were relevant in seeing substantial growth of the account, while also learning the importance of staying current.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your thesis? What was your primary research inquiry, and how did you decide upon it? Could you describe the process you undertook to research your topic and form your final conclusions? What advice do you have for students in terms of completing their thesis (i.e. determining a research topic of appropriate scope, conducting thorough research and analysis, and crafting a strong presentation, etc.)?
[Ashley Wiktorek] Completing my thesis was definitely a journey. My classmates and I were advised to choose our topics, select our committee members, and submit our outlines by the end of the first semester. I dove in wanting to write about something I was passionate about. I chose to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of student conformity in the classroom — specifically paying attention to groupthink.
I had my topic, a committee of professors who were knowledgeable in this specific area, and submitted my draft to the dean of our program. Unfortunately, there was an organizational change within the department leaving me and a few of my peers to start from the beginning with theses the summer before year two. This resulted in me needing to change my topic, draft a new outline, and choose a new committee. I wouldn’t change anything. I ended up with one of the best mentors and thesis chair from this turn of events.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Liberty’s Strategic Communication program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Ashley Wiktorek] Effective Social Media and Strategic Communication Campaigns for the Digital Age were two courses from the marketing side of my program that have continued to be helpful in my career. The concepts I learned in Organizational Communication and Listening and Nonverbal Communication also help in how I work with a team, my supervisor, and within a company or organization.
I definitely believe that my professors at Liberty prepared me to the best of their ability. Along my career path, I’ve learned there will always be opportunities for growth and a few bumps along the way, but there will also be big wins. My biggest takeaway from my professors: Listen to your gut and apply the skills you’ve learned academically. You’ll run into people along the way who see value in your degree and appreciate your expertise — celebrate this!
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Liberty University’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication 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 Liberty or another university?
[Ashley Wiktorek] Write a thesis. This was required when I was in the program; however, now I believe students can opt out. It’s hard work but worth it! If you decide to continue with your education and work towards your PhD, then you’ll be glad you already had the research practice in your MA program.
Whether you’re starting or still considering an MA communication program, I cannot stress enough the importance of time management. Writing a 70+ page research paper takes time and you want to use it wisely. Don’t stress, make small monthly goals, and make sure to have fun with your peers along the way.
Thank you, Ms. Wiktorek, for your excellent insights on Liberty University’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication program!