About Danielle LeCourt: Danielle LeCourt is an Adjunct Professor of Communication at Westminster College, the founder of a communication consultancy firm, and an advocate for diversity in communication. As a Professor, Ms. LeCourt teaches classes in Westminster College’s Master of Strategic Communication program, of which she is also an alumni. Her communication consultancy provides institutions of higher education with effective media platforms and strategies to support their research and pedagogical programming. She also works as a professional performance coach, and has worked with individuals in leveraging and enhancing their skills set to advance in the workplace.
Prior to her current roles, Ms. LeCourt worked as a communication outreach specialist, content strategist, and pharmaceutical researcher. Her portfolio includes numerous writings on the topics of education, communication for social change, economics, and persuasion for behavior change. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Utah, and her Master of Strategic Communication from Westminster College.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Danielle LeCourt] I am a professional writer and business owner with a focus on both content production and strategy. With a background in research, communications, and marketing, I now help higher education institutions build and grow platforms for a variety of research and education initiatives. Before building my own communications/content consulting business, I worked as a pharmaceutical researcher, a community outreach specialist, and a communications strategist. In addition, I continue to serve the graduate program from which I graduated as an adjunct professor, and I teach topics such as organizational communication, integrated marketing communications, intercultural and global communications, and qualitative research.
I received my B.A. in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Utah, where I was also a scholarship athlete on the Women’s Volleyball Team. Communications seemed a natural outgrowth of my focus on the social sciences, and I received my master’s in strategic communication from Westminster College in the fall of 2014. As a member of the inaugural cohort, I have been involved with the MSC program in some capacity continually since its launch.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose Westminster College’s Master of Strategic Communication?
[Danielle LeCourt] I have always been fascinated by human behavior and how we conduct ourselves in relation to each other and the world. After pursuing anthropology as an undergrad and gaining some real world experiences in research and community outreach, I began to zero in on communications as a potential field of study. Communications is a far-reaching field that has almost universal application, and I felt a graduate-level degree in the field would serve me in both a professional and interpersonal capacity.
I chose Westminster College’s Master of Strategic Communication because of its content and flexibility. At the time that I began the program, I had a full-time job and a six-month-old daughter. These two commitments made regular, scheduled participation in the classroom almost impossible, and the MSC program was structured in a way that better suited my needs. I was also confident that the rigor of the program was not compromised by its structure, and I was right in that assumption. My experience in the program was at once flexible and rigorous, and to date my participation in that program was the most profound education experience I’ve had in my life.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of your experience completing the curriculum for this program? What key concepts did the program emphasize, and how did the five specific content areas inform your learning outcomes? What skills and strategies did you learn in your classes, and how did you apply them to course assignments?
[Danielle LeCourt] The MSC program is both cumulative and iterative—while flexible, it isn’t for the faint of heart! The program is designed to build on itself, introducing concepts early then reiterating them throughout. While the course topics span the breadth of communications—rhetoric, visual communication, organizational communication, integrated marketing—the skills required to learn each topic have their own breadth—project management, research, analysis, briefing, and reporting are examples of skills required to complete each course.
Additionally, there is a tangible real-world element to the coursework, as most courses require at least one project be completed for an outside client. The work takes place on both an individual and team level as well, as each sequence has both individual and team deliverables. In the team project, many more “soft skills” are emphasized, including interpersonal communications, creative collaboration, and conflict resolution.
[MastersinCommunications.com] As a student of Westminster College’s online/hybrid program format, what were your experiences interacting with course faculty and peers both in and outside of classes? What learning technologies did this program use, and were they effective in helping you feel connected to your professors and class cohort?
[Danielle LeCourt] The program is positioned as a high-touch, low residency, hybrid model, so a blend of both on-campus and online delivery. Each sequence features an on-campus residency component where cohorts gather in person with their instructor and go over course content. Additionally, instructors communicate in a number of ways, including real-time virtual office hours, email, and LMS messaging. Much of the instruction takes place through iteration—instructors provide feedback on student work until the student demonstrates competency in the learning area.
Personally, I found the iterative nature of the instruction the most helpful. Rather than simply turning in an assignment and getting the grade you get, students were required to submit and re-submit until the desired result was achieved. This really pushed me to expand my skills and grow into the professional I am today. In fact, my workflow for my client work still resembles the work flow I used to have with my personal work in the program.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Westminster College’s program is unique in that it includes a fully funded international trip during which students work collaboratively on a field project for a non-profit or other organization. Could you describe your experiences on this trip, and what learning outcomes, professional connections, and hands-on experience you gained from it?
[Danielle LeCourt] The international trip was an opportunity to apply the skills we learned in the program in an international context. My cohort visited Cusco, Peru, and provided communication services to a US-based nonprofit seeking to empower Peruvian women. The stakes for our performance were high, as the recipients were counting on us to help expand and bolster their humanitarian efforts. Additionally, working in country with my team mates was a special experience that I will never forget.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Westminster College’s Master of Strategic Communication have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Danielle LeCourt] To thrive in today’s workforce, one has to be comfortable with change. Content and technologies are developing at breakneck speed, and professionals are forced to be more agile, discerning, and resourceful than ever before. I think this is what I loved most about this program—it focused more on process and approach than content. Yes, content instruction does take place, but really this program emphasizes building skills of agility and critical thought. I now have an approach, a way of thinking and coming at a problem or topic, that I never had before.
I have applied this strategic approach to areas far beyond just my career. Whether I’m taking on a writing project about a topic of which I know little or nothing, figuring out how to approach a conversation with my daughter, or finding new and inventive ways to budget, this program has informed not only who I am as a professional, but also who I am as a person. I have the confidence and framework to know that I can figure out anything I’m faced with. This isn’t to underemphasize the program’s impact on my career—I went from working as an outreach specialist at a university to owning my own business and teaching as an adjunct professor. I’ve also more than doubled my income in the years since graduating.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Westminster College’s Master of 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 is at Westminster College or another university?
[Danielle LeCourt] Graduate school is special. It’s a privilege enjoyed by a small percentage of the population, and it deserves everything that you have. Whether in the MSC program or not, you really get out of it what you put into it. If you’re wanting to stretch in terms of discipline, creativity, critical thinking, and professional skills, you’re the one who controls how far you go. Communication is a human skill, and I believe that as long as there are humans, communication will be a relevant field of study. It’s an area that many know and few are good at, and a graduate-level degree in communication will help you stand out in any organization, in any field.
Thank you, Danielle LeCourt, for your excellent insight into the field of communication and Westminster College’s Master of Strategic Communication program!