Juice Boxes & Barbies: My degree in Communications



Communications alum, Alexandra Lemley ’10, kayaking the Potomac River in front of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Most of my friends at Shepherd changed their major at least once, took the five to six year route when graduating. Me? I never once listed myself as undecided or changed programs. My four years flew by faster than any other period in my life. And why is that? Three reasons- the people, the culture, and the communications department.

I remember scrappy 17- year- old me shuffling into White Hall, that back classroom by the first floor ladies room? Ya, I remember the day that well. Rocking my American Eagle best- so high school- and watching as my freshman orientation peers thought aloud and openly discussed what major they should declare and weighed the pros and cons of the different curriculums.

I sat in the back room and scrawled out Mass Communications- Print Journalism faster than as if I was writing out my first name. (P.S.- that may date me. Print journalism was still a minor my freshman year.)

I knew what I wanted and my love for the communications and media world had only just begun.

There were the classes with Kevin where we discussed how Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz were the same plot (mind blown!) and the mock ad campaigns with Monica where, as a born and raised West Virginian, I actually learned for the first time the horrors of mountaintop removal.

Sure, I learned how to build a website, I got to create some awesome artwork when developing my own graphic novel, and I was able to work with an entire staff as managing editor of The Picket but what I took away from the communications department went deeper than that. I learned to never pigeon hole myself. I thought of writing as my forte and I’d never get into the design or technology side of media but the blessing and a curse of small liberal arts school- sometimes the only classes available that semester are ones that make you uncomfortable.

And how uncomfortable I was. I didn’t have any intention of learning single cam film editing, I didn’t need to know about demographics for advertising pitches, but thank God the communication department knew what I needed to be a well-rounded media professional.

Now I sit as Chief Operating Officer of a start-up media platform, Sweet Lemon Magazine, since 2011, and I am nearing the three year anniversary of me working at POLITICO, the #1 read newspaper on Capitol Hill, as an advertising professional.

I will say though, the best thing about being a Shepherd “Comm Kid” is running down to the Knutti basement during finals week to collaborate with your classmates, who I found, in my case, were always far more brilliant than I. And while the accounting students and business departments were taking cumulative multiple choice exams, we were creating real life, applicable projects that not only entertained us but expanded our thought process.

Let’s not forget the professors though. The personal  lengths the communications professors took to teach us: Monica- bringing us juice boxes and snacks when trying to reach an looming deadline or another professor offering up his own home as a movie set for single cam production.

The department was a community where everyone was on a first name basis and if your radio show started at two, you went to the studio at noon to hang out and catch up with everyone beforehand.

Living and working in Washington, DC, at a major news outlet, there are a lot of zombies around. People who think that their cause and their job is the most important because, I mean really, we all came to Washington to “do good”. But these people with the stuffy demeanor and all too serious mentality, I feel bad for them. They see the world in black and white and that everyone has a specific place. Because of Shepherd and my communications background, I learned the world is mine to soak up and learn every ounce of whatever I want; be it creating a graphic novel with Barbie dolls or writing the next great American classic.

Maybe the Barbies can BE in the next great American classic.

By Alexandra Lemley class of 2010