This page is dedicated to the stories of our alumni. Many people ask, “What can you do with a COMM degree?” Because, “What can’t you do with a COMM degree,” is not a satisfying answer, we developed this page to showcase what our alumni are doing now.
This week, we feature JoAnn Shull
JoAnn Shull lives and works in Columbia, MO with her husband, Kyle and three children, Luke (5), Isaac (3) and Clare (4 months). When not working or chasing around littles, she enjoys cooking, reading, listening to podcasts, and scrapbooking. She hopes one day to get a good night’s sleep and eat a full meal uninterrupted. Until then, she’s enjoying the hectic life of being a working mom, even if it’s giving her a few grey hairs.
What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?
What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?
I was involved primarily at the Catholic Newman Center, helping to lead several retreats and also was involved with music ministry. I held leadership positions in Alpha Phi Omega and Omicron Delta Kappa. I worked on campus at the Child Development Center and as a desk assistant in the Language & Literature Office. In my senior year, I was also a student ambassador which ultimately led me to my first job in the Admissions Office.
Did you go to grad school? If so, where? Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait? Why?
I did, but not right away. I ultimately ended up completing my Masters in Theological Studies from Quincy University in 2012.
I waited to go to graduate school – and even took a few non-degree seeking graduate courses in Communication at Mizzou – because I knew I wanted an advanced degree, but wasn’t sure what path interested me most. I’m glad I spent a few years working so that I could discern where to place my time. I completed my master’s program over a three year period while still working full-time and planning a wedding – not a path for the faint of heart! Going to school while working full-time was difficult, but also rewarding as I was able to put what I was learning to immediate use.
What was your first job after graduation?
After graduating, I stayed in Kirksville and spent a year working in the Admissions Office as an Admissions Counselor. I traveled a bit to schools in northeast Missouri and also worked on the first team to start Summer Orientation. The staff then was amazingly supportive and helped to teach me the ropes in my first “real” job.
What work do you do/What are you doing now?
One of my favorite aspects of my job in the Admissions Office was talking with students who desired involvement in a faith community while in college. College is more than just a time to learn some facts – it’s a place where you decide what you want out of life and the skills that will make your dream a reality. For many students, that includes a spiritual life. Talking about my experiences and ways that these prospective students could explore their faith as adults was very fulfilling for me. So, I decided to do just that full-time at the Catholic ministry at Mizzou.
I have been working for 11 years at the St. Thomas More Newman Center in Columbia, MO, first as the Assistant Director of Campus Ministry and now as the Development Director. My job now is to form relationships with the alumni and parents to bring them into our mission to the college students.
In my “spare time,” I serve on the Alumni Board of the Catholic Newman Center at Truman coordinating their fundraising program. Also, my husband started a dental practice in July 2018 and I run all branding and marketing efforts for the practice.
How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?
Every time I have taken a job since graduating, I have felt completely unprepared for the position. I don’t think these feelings were just fear of the unknown as I haven’t had any formal training in the three career paths that have brought me to where I am now! However, when I reflect on why I was hired and why I have been successful in what I’ve done, it comes back to my Liberal Arts education.
I can say that I don’t remember many of the facts that I learned in my coursework. What was engrained in me, however, was the critical thinking skills and evaluative tools that help me to break down problems or conflicts to see truth, patterns, and commonalities.
Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?
I suppose to rephrase the question a bit, the class that about killed me was Rhetoric of Women’s Rights. I enjoyed the professor and the class discussion, but it was a class with very high expectations. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard for an A in my life!
As a part of the coursework, we were supposed to take an academic article that we had been assigned in class and refute the point of the writer. The article I chose was one where I disagreed with the author’s point of view entirely, but couldn’t quite place my finger on why. Through the course of the semester, I worked hard to discern how logic and theory could guide my argument instead of my feelings on the topic. I spent so much time in research, revisions, and time with the professor who poked SO MANY holes in my initial drafts. In the end, I was incredibly proud of the final product.
Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?
When I worked in the Admissions Office, I would always ask students what kind of environment they wanted. Did they imagine themselves at a big school where game days took over their weekends and where they had huge lecture classes? For me, that’s something that was never appealing to me. I loved that my largest class was the health requirement and it had 80 people. All of my major courses had maybe 30 people, and often much less. I really enjoyed that my professors knew my name and cared about my success as a student and as a person.
What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?
During my senior year, I coordinated a state-wide conference of Catholic students. Between picking a site, choosing speakers, coordinating the advertising and registration process, and even preparing the meals, it was a huge undertaking. It was very satisfying to see almost 100 students (in the days before social media) from across the state gather in one place.
What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?
Get a minor or two in something that really interests you, even if you think it’s not a marketable trait. Many COMM majors end up in a communications position, but many others end up working in fields that interest them that aren’t directly related to communications. Even if your degree doesn’t directly apply to your career path, the skills you learn as a COMM major help set you up for success. An extra minor will give you additional knowledge that will expand your horizons.
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?
I’m entering my fourth year in fundraising. Development is hard work! But it’s also a lot of fun. Find a mentor and seek out opportunities to grow. Remember that, as a COMM major, you have one step up on those who may struggle to write or design materials that engage people. Communicating with people is the keystone to many careers – including development – and a COMM education at Truman will prepare you well for the future.
What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?
Cheap rent! All jokes about small towns aside, I miss tight knit campus community and feeling like I could get anywhere in less than 10 minutes. Now working with college students on a much larger campus, it’s amazing how much time they spend commuting from place to place. I’m glad I was able to spend my time on a beautiful campus surrounded by great friends that are still with me today.
What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?
“Learn. Analyze. Create something new.”
If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?
If I could teach a class, it would probably be on Special Events. Communication is a huge part of planning an event and having the skills to complete different types of events from start to finish is a valuable skill in many industries.
What did we not ask that you think is important for people to know?
At Truman, you will graduate with a well-rounded education and the critical thinking skills to be valuable in any number of fields. You are only limited by your creativity and passions – use what you have learned to show your employers what a valuable asset you are to their team. Or, branch out on your own and start a business – you have the skills to do it!
If you would like to learn more of JoAnn’s story or you want to learn more about the Department of Communication, contact us!
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Read about more COMM alumni here!