About Emily Neubauer: Emily Neubauer currently serves as Communication Manager for the Racine Unified School District (RUSD) in Racine, Wisconsin. She started with RUSD in 2014 as a Marketing and Communication Specialist, and was then promoted to Senior Communications Specialist before taking her current position. Ms. Neubauer began her career as a reporter and worked in local news for almost 10 years, most recently as a Senior Reporter and Multimedia Journalist for WAOW TV in Wausau, Wisconsin.

Ms. Neubauer graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Journalism from Springfield College in 2010. In 2018, she completed her master’s through the Master of Science in Communication (MSC) Custom Leadership program at Northwestern University.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?

[Emily Neubauer] Born and raised in Barrington, Rhode Island, I graduated from Springfield College in 2010 with a degree in sports journalism. I wanted to be a sports writer. But, life took its usual twists and turns, and in 2011, I moved across the country and ended up in Wausau, Wisconsin working for a local news station. I spent four and a half years in Wausau and loved every single minute of it. I got to cover everything from presidential elections and ACT 10 to severe weather and the Green Bay Packers run for the Lombardi trophy.

In 2014, I hung up the microphone and made the move to public relations. I currently sit as the Communication Manager for the Racine Unified School District (RUSD) in Racine, WI. Public relations is its own beast – but it is a fun one. Every day, I get to tell stories, take pictures, meet people and help promote the amazing things that our roughly 19,000 students in our 33 schools do every day.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Master of Science in Communication (MSC) Custom Leadership program at Northwestern University?

[Emily Neubauer] When I was in news, furthering my education was never at the top of my list of things to do. In the news world, experience was what helped you climb the ladder. A higher education degree wouldn’t do much. But, my time in public relations and communication has shown me that furthering my education would not only help me advance, but it would provide me with the necessary skills I needed to serve the RUSD community as best I could. Before I began the program, I had hoped that upon completion I would be a stronger writer, a more well-versed professional and have more of a global view of the communications world.

When I was researching programs, I wanted to be part of a program that meant something. I didn’t just want a title – I wanted a degree that had a reputation. As I was searching, I came across several programs that fit that bill. I reached out to many of them for more information and was pleased to see that I had options. And then I saw the MSC program. I knew right away that being part of such a prestigious university, in a program that boasts not only successful graduates but distinguished staff members, would advance me both professionally and personally. So, I applied and thought to myself, If I get into Northwestern, I will go – no questions asked. I will go and I will figure out the rest (tuition, commute, etc.) later. You can’t say no when Northwestern University comes knocking.

[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Northwestern’s MSC Custom Leadership 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?

[Emily Neubauer] Northwestern’s MSC program is structured for student success. The classes are manageable, and the professors are knowledgeable. It is a program where, no matter who you are, student, teacher, advisor… you are respected. Some of the main concepts emphasized in the program were global communication, creativity and leadership. I learned how to be a more effective leader. I learned how to manage different personalities in the workplace to make it a stronger environment. I learned different ways to interact with global leaders and how cultural differences are a real thing and can make or break a situation if not respected.

I gained a great deal of knowledge from the lectures but even more so from the readings that were assigned. Every week, we were assigned several readings that tied to the themes of the class. I would use those readings, most often case studies, to complete course assignments. I used real-world examples in my life to relate to the material. I stayed active and engaged in classwork and I appreciated the collaborative group discussion and healthy dialogues with fellow students.

[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?

[Emily Neubauer] The Capstone project seemed like a big scary beast… at first. But, once it was broken down and explained it seemed much more manageable. I started my Capstone project with the spring presentation. Public speaking is my thing and I was excited to take a case study and present my findings to the panel. I used creative and conversational wording. I developed a PowerPoint presentation that was extremely visual – using several photos and very little text. I developed a takeaway using an infographic style approach, again appealing to a person’s creativity rather than their analytical side. Once the presentation was complete, I developed a video that explained my high and lows in the MSC program and worked to develop a portfolio that highlighted my strengths as a communication professional.

My faculty advisor was extremely helpful during the Capstone project. He was accessible and always willing to answer questions, no matter the topic. He could sense when students were stressed and did his best to reassure all of us that we could get it done – that it was going to be okay. I appreciated his open candor and knowledgeable insight when it came to project advice. His feedback was honest and while sometimes not what I wanted to hear, looking back, has only made me a stronger professional.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Northwestern’s MSC program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?

[Emily Neubauer] There have been several times that I have used what I learned in the MSC program in my career. I frequently find myself reflecting on classroom discussions, old readings and turning to my former classmates for advice. Change Management might have been one of the more impactful concepts that I learned during my time in MSC. The topics learned helped me to be a better manager to my direct reports. I learned about different personalities and how to interact with others to get the best possible outcome. I also learned the power of communication when making change. In my non-profit leadership class, we learned about the power of direct communication, being open, honest and transparent, and using every communication platform possible to get your message across.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Communication Custom Leadership 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 Northwestern or another university?

[Emily Neubauer] It’s all worth it. Right around now (January) you’re probably thinking to yourself, I can’t possibly go to school one more Saturday. I get it. I was there, too. You are all there. It’s a lot of time, energy, money, commitment and dedication to do what you are doing. But, keep doing it. The classes will prepare you to be a better professional version of yourself. The friends you make and the connections you gain from the program will only propel you down your career path. So, my best advice? Do your readings, complete your assignments, start your annotated bibliographies now and DON’T WAIT UNTIL SPRING! Because, in August, when you’re standing in the chapel waiting for them to call your name you can look at your family and friends in the audience and say you are a Northwestern University graduate. And that is saying something.

Thank you, Ms. Neubauer, for your excellent insights on Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Communication Custom Leadership program!