About Alexis Packhem: Alexis Packhem works as a Sales and Marketing Associate for Sysco Eastern Wisconsin, serving as a business consultant to restaurants in the downtown Milwaukee area. She is also an Adjunct Instructor at Marquette University, where she teaches courses in the Strategic Communication department. Prior to joining Sysco in 2017, Ms. Packhem worked as a Marketing Coordinator for Eastcastle Place, a retirement community in Milwaukee, and served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant while pursuing her master’s degree.
Ms. Packhem attended Marquette University for her undergraduate studies, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communication and Theatre Arts in 2014. In 2016, she completed her master’s through Marquette’s Master of Arts in Communication program, specializing in Business and Corporate Communications.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Alexis Packhem] I completed my BA in Corporate Communication and Theatre Arts from Marquette University in 2014, and then continued on to earn my MA in Communication Studies. Following graduation in 2016, I have gone on to pursue a career in Sales and Marketing.
I am currently employed as a Sales and Marketing Associate for Sysco Eastern Wisconsin, where I serve as a business consultant to restaurant owners and operators in downtown Milwaukee. Aside from my full-time career, I am also an Adjunct Instructor at Marquette University in the Strategic Communication department.
[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 Communication program at Marquette University?
[Alexis Packhem] Truthfully, I did not know I was going to pursue a master’s degree until one month before orientation. I have always loved school, but had a true sense of “senioritis” at the end of my four years of undergrad. The summer following graduation, I worked as a recruiting intern for a large organization that was going through an acquisition. During this time, I found myself analyzing and growing frustrated over the lack of effective communication taking place. I was still in contact with various faculty members from Marquette and expressed my concerns to them, which led them to encourage me to apply for the graduate program.
Within a matter of weeks, I took the GRE, requested and collected letters of recommendation, and submitted a statement of purpose. I was fortunate enough to be admitted into the program with an assistantship, which meant my degree was fully funded. If it wasn’t for my mentors, who became friends, during my undergraduate career, I would not have made the decision to pursue an advanced degree at Marquette University.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Marquette’s MA in 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?
[Alexis Packhem] Marquette’s MA in Communication is a smaller program, which allows students to tailor it to their interests. Students are able to choose from a variety of courses with topics ranging from advertising to quantitative and qualitative methods. Students have the option to write a thesis, complete a professional project, or take both a written and oral cumulative exam to officially complete their degree. Because I did not have interest in pursuing further education at the time, I decided to focus my energy on a professional project.
The skills and strategies learned in my classes varied, however, I was able to apply all the knowledge I acquired to my interest in learning and organizational development. The program has changed since I graduated, however, I understand that it is still a small program with hopes that it will grow as it continues to be developed and promoted.
[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?
[Alexis Packhem] My professional project was facilitated by a professor I had worked with closely through my undergraduate and graduate programs. I elected him as my facilitator after completed his course in training and development. This was my first exposure to the topic and I was immediately hooked. The course was designed around one key objective and that was to create an eight-hour day training on a topic of our choice for an audience of our choice.
This course motivated me to dig further into this topic, which is why I chose to focus on communication challenges in small health care start-up companies. Entrepreneurs are known for having distinct visions and ideas that have the potential of developing into a successful, lucrative company. However, current research indicates there is limited training provided to entrepreneurs looking to grow a start-up company. I identified the need for training in efficient communication strategies for this group of individuals, and was able to conduct interviews with entrepreneurs and employees of small health care start-up companies.
My faculty advisor was instrumental in assisting me with the completion of this project. He assisted with many check-ins and reviews throughout the process. Aside from presenting this to the faculty for successful completion of my degree, I was also fortunate enough to pass this along to those I interviewed.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Marquette’s graduate communication program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Alexis Packhem] The connections that I made with colleagues and faculty members during my time as a graduate student at Marquette are irreplaceable. I am still in touch with several faculty members and will be going on my second year as an Adjunct Instructor in the Strategic Communication program, which allows me to continue to work with my mentors.
Aside from the personal relationships made, I have found that my academic background in communication has assisted me in reading and understanding each client I deal with. I am able to adapt to the wants and needs of each personality type so that I am best able to negotiate wins for myself and my client’s business.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Marquette University’s Master of Arts in 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 Marquette or another university?
[Alexis Packhem] I would advise incoming graduate students to utilize the time as a discovery period and to keep an open mind. I would also advise students to take a variety of classes that they feel they may be interested in to truly hone in on what motivates and excites them. I feel that developing relationships with colleagues and faculty is also key, as it allows graduate students the ability to brainstorm, network and bring varying thoughts together.
Thank you, Ms. Packhem, for your excellent insights on Marquette University’s Master of Arts in Communication program!