About Adam Mohrbacher: Adam Mohrbacher has worked for the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) in Aurora, Colorado since 2016. He started at the IASLC as a Communications Specialist, and is currently a Digital and Social Media Manager. While attending graduate school at the University of Denver (DU), Mr. Mohrbacher worked as an Inclusive Excellence Marketing Assistant in the Office of Undergraduate Admission, and also completed a six-month internship with Aurora Sister Cities International.
Mr. Mohrbacher holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Communication from East-West University in Chicago. He completed his master’s in 2016, graduating from DU’s Master of Arts in Media and Public Communication program with a specialization in Strategic Communication.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Adam Mohrbacher] I obtained my bachelor’s degree in English and Communication at a small school in Chicago, Illinois, called East-West University. Following my graduation in the summer of 2011, I moved back to my home state of Minnesota to work and attempt to obtain applied communications experience to complement my undergraduate work.
For the next two years, I interned at two non-profits in St. Paul, Minnesota, while also working a job unrelated to communications to support myself. In 2013, I began to become interested in pursuing graduate school. I believed that obtaining a higher degree could provide me with additional skill sets and open new opportunities for professional advancement. I applied to the University of Denver (DU), was accepted in 2014 and eventually graduated in 2016.
During my time at DU, I worked in communications for the Office of Undergraduate Admission, completed a six-month internship with Aurora Sister Cities International and finally was offered a job at the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), which is where I work to this day. Since graduation, I have worked diligently to continue to reinforce and expand my skills by earning certifications in social media advertising and inbound marketing.
[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 Media and Public Communication program at the University of Denver?
[Adam Mohrbacher] I decided to pursue a master’s degree in communications because it was congruent with my previous educational work and my personal passions. I have always loved writing, and communications is a field that allows you to write daily.
Additionally, as I began to become more heavily involved in the theory behind communications work, I came to respect and appreciate the psychological depth of the field, the complexity that is involved in trying to raise awareness or inspire action within a specific audience.
And finally, I think the multi-faceted nature of communications has always appealed to me – despite it also being occasionally intimidating. Many communications-related job postings will include an incredibly large and diverse list of both “required” and “preferred” skill sets. It’s not enough to be a great writer, understand media relations, etc. You also need to have experience in social media, graphic design, basic web development, SEO and so on. And while this situation can, at times, feel daunting, it can also offer exciting, valuable opportunities and challenges to an individual that loves to learn and grow within their profession.
The Media and Public Communication program at the University of Denver attracted me for a variety of reasons. First, the program appeared to offer curriculum that was both rooted in theory while also providing opportunities to gain real-world experience, a balance that is critical for anyone aspiring to become a modern communications professional. Second, the department’s faculty included a diverse array of accomplished professionals, and its small size suggested that there would be ample opportunities for mentorship and collaboration. Third, the program was highly personalized in its recruitment effort. I found it deeply meaningful that the department chair (who at the time was Dr. Sheila Schroeder) made the time to engage me in an hour-long phone call to answer my questions and concerns. I don’t believe that such personalization is universal, and it made a real difference in my final decision.
Finally, the program being located in Denver was an added bonus. I had never spent significant time in Denver or the Rocky Mountain Region of the United States prior to attending the University of Denver. It represented an exciting new adventure and also influenced my decision-making process.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is DU’s 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?
[Adam Mohrbacher] DU’s program combines theory with applied experience. In my program, which was Strategic Communication, students experience this combination right from their initial semesters. For instance, two of my initial classes were Foundations of Strategic Communication and Media Theories – which fully embodies that dynamic between the theoretical and the professionally applicable.
This structure was also embedded in my later coursework. I would be immersed in theoretical classes such as Brands and Identities and Intercultural Communication while also taking workshop-style courses like Strategic Messaging and a Seminar in Public Relations, where we put together a communications campaign for a local non-profit.
In terms of skills and strategies, the University of Denver’s communications program emphasized the importance of understanding big picture communications planning while also being able to produce quality deliverables. This approach was invaluable when completing course assignments. Being able to wrap one’s mind around how to put together a full strategic communications plan, for instance, was just one example of how DU’s areas of emphasis paid off. This idea was also true when it came time to execute on smaller-scale assignments, such as press releases, media advisories, small graphic design projects, etc.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your internship? What kind of role did you take on, and with what organization? What were some of the key learning outcomes? Did you have to complete a paper or other project-based deliverable as part of your internship experience?
[Adam Mohrbacher] During my time at DU, I completed an internship at Aurora Sister Cities International. The process for obtaining the internship was easy and straightforward. Media, Film and Journalism Studies (MFJS) students benefited due to the department having its own Internship Director, Dr. Erika Polson. Erika would disseminate internship opportunities by posting them on one of the department’s bulletin boards and by sharing them digitally. I remember applying to several internships but finding my eventual role at Aurora Sister Cities to be the best fit.
My time at Aurora Sister Cities International was beneficial for my personal and professional growth. For one thing, with Aurora Sister Cities being a very small organization, I was able to work closely with its Executive Director, Kaylyn Shorb, and take a lead role in several of the organization’s communication efforts. I managed the organization’s social media, produced monthly newsletters, managed the organization’s website and produced other deliverables such as a brochure and an op-ed.
Some of the key learning outcomes associated with this internship included project management, refining my writing and design skills and honing my aptitude for international and intercultural communication. I believe that, upon completion of my internship, I was required to write a summation of projects that I completed and conclusions that I had drawn. The internship experiences also paired well with other courses that I took during my time at DU.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from DU’s Media and Public Communication program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Adam Mohrbacher] I took away many things due to being involved in the Media, Film and Journalism Department at the University of Denver. One of the biggest was a strong understanding of media and communication theory, particularly regarding putting together strategic communications plans, understanding the methodology of persuasion and grappling with the unique challenges of communicating across cultures and nations.
I also came away from the program with important connections – both personal and professional. For instance, it was partially due to some of the positive recommendations I received from individuals working within MFJS that I obtained the job I currently have. Additionally, I am working with one of my friends from the program to start our own small agency. I believe that the University of Denver and the MFJS department creates a sense of community that you can return to even following graduation.
MFJS integrated many aspects of technology into its Strategic Communication program, such as Adobe Creative Suite, software designed for entering and analyzing survey data and social media. Students also had the opportunity to take elective courses, which I used to study search engine marketing.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the University of Denver’s Master of Arts in Media and Public 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 DU or another university?
[Adam Mohrbacher] I would advise anyone who is just starting a Media and Public Communication program to be their own best advocate. Nobody is going to do it for you. Engage with your professors and communicate clearly what it is that you want to do upon graduation. Rely on their expertise to help guide you. The Media, Film and Journalism department is full of great resources, but it’s up to the individual student to take advantage of them. Make sure to also fully absorb the theory taught in many of the MFJS classes. These courses will inform your tangible assignments during the program and your future work as a communications professional.
More broadly, I would advise any student looking to have a career in communications to think critically about what they would specifically like to focus on. Like many professions, communications is a broad field. And whether it be PR, marketing, advertising, branding, social media, content development, etc., students should analyze where their interests lie to tailor their educational and vocational choices to align with their long-term goals.
Finally, I would strongly encourage new students to spend time looking at different job postings and identifying skill sets that are in high demand. No educational program, no matter how strong or comprehensive, can train you in everything that a modern communications professional may need to know. You are going to need to educate yourself in your free time while simultaneously working through your program. And the first step involved with that is doing your research and identifying gaps that you will need to fill.
Thank you, Mr. Mohrbacher, for your excellent insights on the University of Denver’s MA in Media and Public Communication program!