About Nicole Anderson: Nicole Anderson is an Instructor at Salt Lake Community College, where she teaches numerous courses in the Communication Department, including classes in intercultural communication, business communication, brand strategy, and technical writing. She is also a prolific freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications. She has also designed multiple organizations’ websites and optimized their web content. Ms. Anderson earned her Associate Degree in History from Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from the University of Utah, and her Master in Strategic Communication from Westminster College.

Interview Questions

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

[Nicole Anderson] I am a Utah native, communication professional, and freelance writer. I hold a master’s degree in Strategic Communications from Westminster College, a Bachelor of Science from the University of Utah in environmental studies with a minor in history along with an Associates of Art degree in history from Salt Lake Community College.

I have taught at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) since 2015 in the Communication Department. I teach public speaking, intercultural communication, and business communication where I include concepts such as visual communication, brand strategy, technical writing, and non-fiction writing. I also teach concurrent enrollment classes for students in high school. I present a six-week lecture and hands-on environmental and nature writing course for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Utah.

In my free time, I work as a freelance writer and editor for several different publications. Some of my essays and writing collections have appeared in Airboating Magazine, Breathing Stories – which was developed and delivered to state legislators to educate them about the growing air quality problem — Gateway Magazine, I love Youtah, The Coalition to Keep the Lake Great — which was utilized by the Army Corp of Engineers and some local legislators to protect and educate citizens about wetland habitat in Bear River Bay — New West News, and Utah Stories, among others.

During my time in the MSC program, I had the opportunity to participate in an international communication strategic project with Westminster College and Peruvian Hearts, a non-profit organization where their team focused on website design, branding, and marketing. I am a former volunteer member of the Nature Conservancy’s Speaker’s Bureau.

Certificates I hold:

  • Utah Master Naturalist in wetlands
  • Forests of the World from Project Learning Tree
  • Online Teaching from SLCC
  • Service Learning Professional Development from SLCC

Presentations & Documentaries:

  • American Water Resource Association in 2011
  • The Utah Society for Environmental Education Conference in 2011
  • Evaporating Shorelines produced by Backlight Pictures, LLC

[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?

[Nicole Anderson] I had graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and in all honesty, it was difficult to find a job that would pay the bills. I wanted something that I knew would separate me from the rest of the pack. I started looking into a degree in communications. Ultimately, I wanted a degree that I could combine with my undergraduate training in environmental studies, which would provide me new ways to communicate to lay persons about the importance of change, collaboration, and thinking outside-the-box. When searching online programs, I came across the Master of Strategic Communication degree that Westminster College offered. I liked what it had to offer as it focused on strategic public relations, communication and culture, and integrated marketing communication. Most of all, it required a capstone project that allowed students to participate with an organization in another country (Peru). This program not only provided me with the knowledge I needed but also provided me the hands-on skills to work with clients in real-world scenarios and allowed me to give back to the community.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of your experience completing the curriculum for this program?

[Nicole Anderson] The Strategic Communication program at Westminster was the first of its kind; it was basically a combination of a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Public Communication. I was part of the program’s first cohort. It was created to build leaders in the business world and to lead those who would normally graduate in either of these programs through an integrated course of study that emphasizes organizational leadership and strategic internal and external-facing communication.

The program takes place within 18-months, during which there are five separate semesters. During each semester myself and my cohort worked with clients individually and as a team. We were to complete a large-scale, research-driven project that the client would implement within the business. Both individual projects and the team projects were rewarding and challenging as the program pushed us out of our comfort zone a little further each semester. The individual projects were great as we were able to choose a project that fit with our overall goals.

As with rolling out any new program it had a few bumps in the road; however, the coaches and faculty were always there to help and guide me with what I needed to do. The program recently celebrated five years of success and is providing people with the leadership skills needed to work and thrive in a world that desperately needs strategic thinkers.

Our cohort had seven people in it with five professors who serve as coaches and mentors. We all met the first weekend (usually Friday night for dinner and all day Saturday) of each unit. We spent the entire day and evening together learning, listening to lectures, planning out team projects, and in general working out a plan to move through the rest of the unit or sequence as needed. We wouldn’t meet again until the end of the unit for a final exam or presentation.

I completed projects for Healthy Relationships Utah, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, and Airboating Magazine where I wrote a comprehensive five-part story on the history and importance of Gladesmen in the Everglades.

I learned skills to navigate larger scale projects and focused on project management, leadership, technical writing, research, teamwork, cultural interaction and sensitivities.

[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?

[Nicole Anderson] I was concerned that an online/hybrid course may present difficulties reaching out to faculty if I had a question; however, it was just the opposite. The professors and the class cohort were all highly available, and most of the time would answer an email or text message within a couple hours if not minutes. If you needed more guidance, you could schedule a meeting with the professor either in person or via telephone or Google Hangout. This worked great and it was so helpful when you had a question or needed help to understand a concept.

Each sequence was taught by a different member of the faculty and focused on one of the following areas.

  1. Rhetoric and Strategic Public Relations
  2. Visual Communication and Brand Strategy
  3. Organizational Communication and Culture
  4. Integrated Marketing Communication
  5. Instructional Design and the Strategic Communication Capstone

Each of the sequence areas taught a concept and strategy. We focused on each area during our one-day residency.

[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?

[Nicole Anderson] My experience working with Peruvian Hearts on our international trip was truly life-changing. Prior to the trip we met with Danny Dodson, Executive Director and Treasurer for the United States branch of Peruvian Hearts, to learn what the program needed, their goals for the future, how they saw the organization, the roots and history of the organization, and how we could help. During the last sequence as a team the entire cohort worked on the final capstone project that led up to our international trip to Peru to meet Danny Dodson and the girls of Peruvian Hearts. We created new brochures, flyers, buttons, and all other marketing tools the organization would need to fundraise in the future. We also created a new website that features the girls, the mission of the organization and its progress.

We worked with Peruvian Hearts as a team, collaborating in person and on Google Hangouts multiple times. We also communicated regularly through email and phone with Danny Dodson. We also discussed the goals of Peruvian Hearts with Anna Dodson, the Founder of the organization. Each member of our cohort chose a specific portion of the project to work on and finish within the overall guidelines. Our faculty advisor supported me, as well as the team, as I completed research and work.

I had chosen to help design the new website and hadn’t done this before, so it was all new to me. I was completely out of my comfort zone. My advisor assisted me as I learned website design, coding, marketing and branding, color theory, and the meaning and importance of logos into the current design. Our cohort delivered the entire package of marketing products and information to the Peruvian Hearts Organization on our international trip to Cusco, Peru. Several of us helped create and format a short documentary video with the students (girls) of Peruvian Hearts that is available online and utilized as a fundraising tool at events.

Once we completed our final project, we boarded a plane not as strangers but as a team and flew to Lima, Peru. We spent the night there and then boarded another plane to Cusco, where I would experience some altitude sickness. Coming from Utah, this was unexpected and a bit of a surprise to me. The folks at Peruvian Hearts took great care of me and in a few days, I acclimated to the high altitude of Cusco. We spent several days in Cusco, exploring the historical town and churches, but we also had the opportunity to meet with the girls and go see some of their homes where they grew up. First-hand we saw the poverty and the challenges these girls face in everyday life. We also met with some of their mothers who greeted us with tears in their eyes thanking us for providing their daughters with an opportunity for a better education. We saw Machu Piccu, Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuamán, and the Sacred Valley and they were all amazing but the most amazing and life-changing thing I did on this trip besides gain a healthy respect and love for oxygen was to meet the girls of Peruvian Hearts. They have forever changed the way I look at education and love.

[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?

[Nicole Anderson] Overall, the five sequences all intertwined with each other creating a well-rounded curriculum. The Rhetoric and Strategic Public Relations portion was the first sequence in the program and my first introduction to rhetoric. It was incredibly interesting as I learned what rhetoric is and how it functions in our everyday lives. For me, it was helpful as I was able to plan my writing in a more detailed way. It helped me understand the ideas of others, why emotions are attached to certain thoughts, and most importantly how to better take into consideration the opinions of others and how others took in my opinions and expressed thoughts or comments.

The Visual Communication and Brand Strategy came next and it was fascinating. As a team we learned why color matters. I had a basic idea of this from other studies; however, this sequence gave me an opportunity to take into consideration how color changes in brands, what colors say to you in a marketing world, and how to help clients choose the proper color for their organizations whether in the United States or internationally.

Organizational Communication and Culture was probably for me the most intensive sequence. While I was in the program, I had just begun my writing career and had been published so I thought I was a decent writer. I thought wrong, or at least my professor in charge of this sequence thought. She was part of the first group of professors and has since retired so many up-and-coming students won’t get the luxury of experience with her. Throughout the entire program you had to pass the class with an “A” and if you didn’t have an “A,” then you would be encouraged to rewrite your paper. At the time, I was frustrated with this member of the faculty. However, after a conversation with her where she explained to me that “if she didn’t see the potential in me to become a great writer, she wouldn’t waste her time marking up my papers” I had a new perspective on why she pushed me so hard. In the end, I passed her sequence and was proud of my achievement. I have found that as I teach others and grade their writing, I utilize the skills that I learned from this faculty member the most.

The Instructional Design and the Strategic Communication Capstone project was a great sequence. It was the sequence that was the most out of my comfort zone since I chose to help design the website for Peruvian Hearts; however, I learned so much about website design, marketing, collaboration, and color theory during this sequence. It gave me the tools I needed to advance my career and I have designed several websites since I graduated. This portion of the program also pushed me out of my personal comfort zone as I was able to travel to Peru, somewhere I haven’t been before, and which was my first real experience traveling internationally.

[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?

[Nicole Anderson] My advice for up-and-coming students who choose to take part in Westminster College’s Master of Strategic Communication program is to think about why you want to earn a master’s degree. Really think about it. What direction do you want to go and why do you want to go there? I personally believe that my choice in programs changed me for the better. I am still in contact with most of the professors in my cohort and many of my fellow cohort members, many of whom continue to push me out of my comfort zone and encourage me to grow within the business and academic world. This program was created for working professionals in the business world and is an accelerated program, which is great; however, if you don’t have the time to devote to it or a good support system in place that could present a few challenges. Regardless of what institution you choose, make sure you are realistic about your availability of time and the outcome you desire.

Thank you, Nicole Anderson, for your insight into Westminster College’s Master of Strategic Communication program!