Student & Alumni Experiences
Marissa Thiry, RD
Expected graduation year: 2020
The online Master of Science in Health Communication program at Boston University’s Metropolitan College is a perfect fit for my busy schedule. As a registered dietitian working in the food industry, I was looking for a master’s program that would not only work with my busy schedule, but also help me grow in my career in a very specialized and unique field. As a registered dietitian and nutrition specialist for North America at Taco Bell, I’m always looking for new ways to communicate science-heavy topics to the larger population in an authentic and relevant way. With only a handful of classes under my belt, BU has already taught me helpful strategies that I use daily, like how to communicate effectively to various audiences in various settings. I’m confident that completing this program will help me grow in my career in many ways and position myself as a nutrition communications expert in the field for years to come.
Why I chose the MSHC and how it has helped my career:
While clinical dietetics is an incredibly admirable and extremely important role, I always knew that my passion for nutrition lay outside the hospital walls. Early in my career as a registered dietitian, I somehow found my way to a nutrition communications role and later, into the food industry. When a colleague of mine mentioned the MSHC program at BU, I immediately knew that this program was a perfect fit. I live in California, miles away from campus, and work full-time, so an online program is ideal. One class at a time is a great pace for me, and I can take classes from the comfort of my own home on my own time. How do you beat that? I’ve since told other colleagues about the program and all have responded with interest (and maybe a little jealousy). I specifically remember one colleague responding, ‘You can get a master’s degree in that? Sign me up!
Expected graduation year: 2019
Why I chose the MSHC and how it has helped my career:
After losing my friend, Kristi, 28, to cancer, and with 25 years in sports marketing, broadcasting, and branding, I changed my career to combine my passion and skill to focus on health care. I lead the marketing arena for a 13-state region including market development, media, public relations, analytics, and patient experience. With no formal health care communications training, I applied my own thoughts and teachings on how to acquire patients. I knew I needed foundational knowledge to develop into a proper expert. I continuously researched the best programs for health care communications, and Boston University’s MSHC stood out every time. I chose based on the reputation of the University, expertise of the professors, and the detailed curriculum. Pursuing my master’s at BU has accentuated my reputation nationally as a health care communications leader and expert within this competitive health care market.
Graduation year: 2013
I completed the MS in Health Communications program in November, 2013. I really appreciated the flexibility of the program, as it helped me achieve a key aspiration of getting a master’s degree from the U.S.—all while looking after my children and continuing to work full-time first in Shanghai, China, and then in Bangkok, Thailand. Also, it took me three-plus years to complete the two-year program, and this allowed me to juggle around work and family commitments and excel at everything I did. While appearing for online exams was stressful from a time perspective, the luxury of appearing for exams with a person monitoring me with a webcam was truly impressive! And when the power failed, with one phone call we got it all sorted out and I could start again! I am so thankful to all the support I received from different stakeholders in the face of emergencies.
From a professional perspective, as a full-time nutritionist with PepsiCo first in the APAC region and China, and now in MENA, I learned a lot from the courses. The two-year program gave me great insights about the health status and consumer perception of health and healthy food in the U.S., and it helped me realize that consumers globally are the same when it comes to committing to healthy lifestyles and balanced diets. In addition, as I support nutrition claims and communication, I can have informed discussions about how nutrition communications could be leveraged on and offline with my business counterparts. I can also weigh in on the development of appropriate websites and content with relevant keywords. More importantly, my experience with consumers, food products, and claims combined with learnings from the courses has given me the confidence to support the business with a new way of doing things!
Victor H. John
Graduation year: 2016
I was enrolled in the MSHC program when I was hired as a field epidemiologist, a position that typically attracts MPH candidates and graduates. Because the job involved a lot of patient interaction, my academic background in health communication gave me a differential advantage.
Once I finished the program, I moved to D.C. and worked as a communications consultant for the federal government, which involved media relations, cybersecurity, health-related blog writing, website quality assurance, and various research projects. I certainly credit my MSHC degree for enabling my career change and advancements. I recently started a new job as an HIV Communications Specialist for a global nonprofit organization called FHI 360, where I support the CDC’s Act Against AIDS initiative. My work now includes event coordination, community engagement, social media content creation, and proposal writing.
I believe the MSHC degree opens more employment opportunities than an MPH. Recruiters might seek graduates of either degree for a variety of high-level positions in research and epidemiology, but they might find an MSHC grad better suited for a position as a social media strategist or a communications director.
I was drawn to BU’s MSHC program because I was working in the Boston area and I wanted to keep my full-time job while I completed the courses. The online nature allowed me to manage work and school life simultaneously.
I truly believe that I had more interaction with other students in the online HC program than in my four years of undergrad, when I was sitting next to other students in campus classrooms but never quite collaborating. Many of the health communication courses involve group projects that require students to work together despite schedule conflicts and time zone differences. The virtual classroom experience, and the conference calls with other students, prepared me for aspects of my current work such as coordinating large-scale webinars using different web conferencing platforms.
Students and alumni of BU’s health communication program are part of a very communal network. Many of us are connected through a Facebook group in which we post job openings and professional inquiries. When I needed quotes for a blog post and had a very tight deadline, for example, I submitted a request through that group and three other members immediately contributed useful material.