The networking event that I chose to attend was entitled “Organizational Leadership: The Power of Communication”, sponsored by Canisius Graduate Admissions.  It took place in Grupp Fireside Lounge, located on the second floor of the Canisius student center. The event was presented by and centered around the Communication and Leadership Master’s program offered at Canisius. The way that this was set up was through a panel-styled discussion with three different alumni who had graduated from the program: Cecily Rodriguez, class of 2011, Nick Heidinger, class of 2008, and Michael Lee, class of 2010. In addition, Dr. Roseanne Hartman, the director of the Master’s program was also present.

The first portion dealt with what the Communication and Leadership program consists of, including the different classes, the application process, and, my personal favorite, different options to help with the financial aspect of the program. Next, there were the introductions of the three panelists. The audience learned that Cecily currently has her own business, Shift Happens LLC, which is a consulting firm that specializes in Human Resources and Organizational Development. Nick Heidinger currently works in Human Resources at ECMC. Michael Lee holds the position of Director of Research and Business Development at Evergreen Association of WNY, Inc.

After introductions had finished the rest of the time was spent on the panel discussion. Emily Gumkowski, who is currently enrolled in the Master’s program, asked questions ranging from different highlights of the program while they were enrolled to how their time spent at Canisius helped get them to where they are today, to why they love the career they are in currently. The variety of answers given were extremely helpful to the audience, which was mostly filled with college seniors contemplating the next step in their life.

Personally, I really loved meeting Cecily and hearing about her experiences and how she became her own boss, because I think that’s what a lot of people aspire to. It was nice to hear her talk about how she teaches classes at Canisius in addition to her profession, because I think that’s something I could potentially be interested in down the road. She also discussed issues with women in the workplace, the wage gap, and what she’s had to overcome to get where she is today. In my opinion, that one of the best parts of the panel.

I, personally, came into this panel with a unique perspective. I had actually already applied and been accepted to the Communication and Leadership program before attending this event. My main worries stemmed from whether or not going immediately following graduation was the right decision to make or if taking a year off would be beneficial. I’ve always been stressed about the whole notion that if you take time off, it’s that much more difficult to come back. So, when I asked them their opinions on it they mainly told me it varies with every person but that I shouldn’t be nervous about taking some time off because they had all done it and faced little to no difficulty in returning.

Lastly, I really enjoyed the question and answer section of this event, not only because I was able to voice my own concerns, but I was able to hear what others in the audience had to say as well. One particular question that I remember specifically was the debate over if an MBA might be viewed as more valuable in most organizations today. Throughout the entire panel each alumni joked about how going for your MBA is equivalent to selling your soul, but in all seriousness, when the question was asked they explained that, in their experience, just because an MBA might be the most common, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the better option. In fact, they attested to the fact that on a resume the Communication and Leadership degree is extremely unique, therefore intriguing the majority of employers and setting you apart from the sea of other applicants.

Honestly, going into this I wasn’t really sure if it was going to provide me with anything that I hadn’t heard before, but, in the end, it actually played a big role in the choice that I’ve now made about graduate school. I have decided to take a couple of years off and complete a year of service. I’m not sure I would’ve had the confidence to make that decision if I hadn’t heard the different stories from the panelists. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in this networking event and would definitely encourage any seniors contemplating graduate school to look into this program. While I might not be going right away, I know that I’ll be returning to Canisius soon enough to complete my Master’s in the Communication and Leadership program and based on the experiences of Cecily, Nick, and Michael, it’s nice to know that the best is yet to come.