M.A. graduate Nigel Holderby reflects on her professional journey with the American Red Cross and the significance of earning an advanced degree in communication
Author: Nigel Holderby, ’14
I still have the email Dr. Curt Gilstrap sent me in May 2013 that says I was accepted into the accelerated master’s program in Communication at Drury.
I saved it because sometimes I still have to pinch myself; the dream of continuing my education had always been just that, a dream. I graduated from MSU in 1996 with a bachelor’s in Housing and Interior Design, but never knew what I really wanted to be when I grew up. I loved being creative but could never see myself doing that as my career, and I have still never actually worked in the design field.
Over the last 15 years I have been a mother, a manager, and a business owner. And while all those things have been rewarding, I actually found my passion while serving as a volunteer. I sent the first tweet, sharing the location of the Red Cross shelter, within an hour after the devastating tornado in Joplin, Mo. That was May 22, 2011, and on Sept. 23 that same year, I accepted a paid position as the Regional Communication Officer for the American Red Cross in southern Missouri. I finally knew what I wanted to be.
During the first two years of my career I learned not only how to tell the Red Cross story, but I became a public affairs instructor teaching others how to tell the story as well. I found myself training Red Cross volunteers how to write press releases and do media interviews. I jumped right in and grew the online presence of the organization through Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and blogging. It was something that seemed to come very naturally to me and I was in love with this new direction and the work I was doing. As part of the National Red Cross Advanced Public Affairs team, I began deploying to other areas of the country to help with national media efforts after large disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and statewide floods in Illinois.
- Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication at Drury?
- How has your study of communication enhanced your professional work and activities?
I began to recognize that if I were to try and advance in my career, eventually someone was going to question my credentials. I had never doubted that I was able to do my job, nor had I questioned my ability to teach others. But I have never been one to sit still so I decided I needed the paper, the degree; ultimately, the credentials. And that’s where I was wrong.
In one year, I learned more about public affairs and communication than I could ever have thought possible. In that same time I also learned about myself and what I am capable of accomplishing. I made lifelong friends and grew my professional network along the way. At the end of the program, I also got the piece of paper. A piece of paper, which I am now and will forever, be proud to hang on the wall because it’s way more than just credentials.
The knowledge I gained during the M.A. program at Drury has prepared me for today and for my future. Each hour spent in the classroom and all the late nights and thousands of words typed will always be some of the best investments I have ever made. I can honestly say my time at Drury is what has prepared me to step into a new level professionally. So a special thanks to the Drury Professors who believed in me, encouraged me, and who continue to challenge me professionally.