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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Was Grad School Worth It?

I dragged my feet for years before I applied to grad school. I felt that I'd made one mistake already and didn't want to make a second, more expensive mistake. At Millikin for my bachelor's degree, I started as a Music Education major and quickly realized that I wasn't cut out for a life of practicing scales and sonatas on my oboe... so I jumped ship for the Chemistry department with a Spanish minor.

It was a mismatch, but I was afraid of being rudderless and undecided. In high school, I only knew music and science, so if the former didn't work for a career then the latter would have to. I also became a Resident Assistant and then my Chemistry faculty insisted that I study abroad. I worked in higher ed administration for a few years after college, then fell into a career in Public Relations and Social Media.

Nobody has ever been able to remember that I studied Chemistry. Not while I was in college and not in the 20 years since we graduated.

When I finally decided to go for my Master's, I found a new program in Digital Arts and Media at DePaul and jumped in for a year. I thought that since I had never formally studied communication or marketing, that I should shore up my on the job education with a degree. Ten thousand dollars later, my professors used case studies from account work I'd lived through in class and I realized that I was in the wrong program.

I also did some soul searching. Where in communications could I find opportunities to teach, do big problem solving and make the world a better place?

Health care.

I found another new program - a Master's in Health Communication at Northwestern. One year of Saturdays and the chance to dive in to an entirely new client-base or career path at the end.

I loved nearly every minute of grad school. The people in my cohort, the professors at Northwestern and the endorphins from deeply studying new topics.

A group of people in graduation caps and purple gowns on stage.
Northwestern MSHC- Class of 2015

Then the promised career opportunities weren't there.

The most interesting jobs in health communication require a different set of degrees than I'd invested in. If I could time travel to mid-90s, I would pick nursing for undergrad instead of chemistry. Here and there I've applied some ideas to client work, but working in the field of health communication has been nearly impossible.

I evaluated my skills and started designing retreats and workshops. My latest is a goal setting workshop. One that I prototyped with friends, adjusted and now I'm taking it to New York.

After sharing the agenda with a friend from grad school, she said, "you used all of the theories of behavior change we studied!" I built a workshop that helps people... identify barriers to behavior change, imagine what life will be like with different habits, make a plan to change behaviors and reach goals and share the plan with other people for accountability.

The education I received at Northwestern is now so deeply ingrained in my design process, that I'm using my Master's without realizing it.

Please join me for The Brunch Club in New York where we'll be applying behavior change theories to your goals.

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