About Erin Sullivan: Erin Sullivan is the Director of Client Relations at Envision-U, a management consulting firm that works with organizations and leaders around the globe. Prior to her current role, she worked in Business Development for Align to Thrive, and as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Colorado Denver while pursuing her master’s degree. At CU Denver, Ms. Sullivan taught undergraduate courses in both Business and Professional Speaking, and Intro to Media Studies.
Ms. Sullivan attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout for her undergraduate studies, earning a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies with an emphasis on Youth Development and a minor in Psychology. She completed her master’s in 2017, through CU Denver’s Master of Arts in Communication program.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Erin Sullivan] I earned my Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies, with an emphasis on Youth Development, from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, Wisconsin. I also finished with Minor in Psychology. I enjoyed the hands-on, career-focused nature of a polytechnic university. Part of our requirement to graduate was to fulfill an internship or practicum, which brought me out to Denver, Colorado working for a large non-profit in the youth development sector.
I left the non-profit while pursuing my degree at CU Denver when I was hired as a Teaching Assistant for the Department. I taught undergraduate students Business and Professional Speaking and Intro to Media Studies. My current job is the Director of Client Relations for Envision-U, an organization that specializes in assessing company culture and aligning their leadership team and business initiatives to their ideal culture.
[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 University of Colorado Denver?
[Erin Sullivan] Ultimately, I knew in order to move from an entry-level job to a higher standing position in the non-profit world I would need to complete a master’s degree. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into one specific job title so I chose a communication degree, as I thought it would provide me with the most opportunities post-graduation. The classes I took throughout my program were pivotal in shaping the path that led me to my current career today.
I contemplated a lot of different programs and universities but, in the end, CU Denver’s graduate program stood out. The faculty members were incredible mentors and teachers, and recognized internationally for their contribution to the communication world. Classes were small enough where I knew I could ask questions and contribute my thoughts and ideas. Additionally, an added bonus was the beautiful, downtown campus which really highlighted the amazing city we live in.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is CU Denver’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?
[Erin Sullivan] Graduate classes were typically held in the evenings and structured in a seminar format. I thought this added a huge value, as the longer class periods allowed for us to take time to dive in and really dissect the content we were reading. Many of my classes focused on communication in organizational change, leadership development, and mindfulness in the workplace.
This program really allowed us to take our individual interests and apply them to the classes we were taking. As a sister-school to CU Boulder, I was given the opportunity to take an Applied Communication class from that campus as well. My biggest takeaway would be the relevance of the material in every class I took; Faculty knew how to take foundational material from past scholars and apply it to real-time, current situations.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience preparing for and taking your comprehensive capstone examination? What were the components of the exam, and were they tailored to your individual course of study? What advice do you have for students in terms of preparing for their capstone exams?
[Erin Sullivan] I chose to complete the take-home option for my comprehensive capstone examination. We were given a list of sample questions to prepare for ahead of time, knowing not all of them would show up on the exam and they may be worded differently. We had 10 days to complete the exam, which consisted of selecting four out of five questions and answering in a “mini-paper” style format. The questions asked were truly comprehensive of the program material, but were vague enough where you could respond in a way that focused on your specific interest area.
The final piece of the exam was to complete an oral defense in front of your three selected faculty members. Faculty asked great questions in the defense and were supportive when challenging your points to build your confidence in what you learned. My biggest piece of advice is to stay organized throughout your entire program. Keep all your program materials and make easy-to-reference tabs on subject matter. This will make the writing process over the 10 days much less stressful for you, as you know where everything you need is located.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from CU Denver’s graduate communication program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Erin Sullivan] The classes I took throughout my master’s degree shifted the current career trajectory I was on and helped me gain clarity in what I ideally wanted to be doing. My emphasis in Organizational Communication and Mindfulness in the Workplace are a direct connection to my current career.
I would highly recommend that students going through the program look into the Teaching Assistantship experience as well. I felt that helped me feel more a part of the department, build better relationships and connections with both faculty and my cohort, and increased my confidence and skills in public speaking.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the Master of Arts in Communication program at the University of Colorado Denver? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at CU Denver or another university?
[Erin Sullivan] Get to know your cohort! Chances are, whatever you’re feeling, most other people are feeling it too. Grab coffee or lunch with someone new from your class and get to know them on a personal level. Stay in touch with speakers that come into your classes; Graduate School is a great place to network and build your “professional rolodex.”
And most importantly, remember this is your program. Take classes that are relevant and exciting to you, write papers you’re passionate about, and make use of all the incredible resources and tools that are available to you throughout your degree studies. In my opinion, you really can’t go wrong with a Master’s in Communication and this program specifically opened my eyes (and mind) to a lot of new possibilities!
Thank you, Ms. Sullivan, for your excellent insights on the University of Colorado Denver’s Master of Arts in Communication program!