MSU alumna Andrea Poole was promoted to Vice President at Martin Waymire, a public policy communications company located in Lansing, Michigan. Poole received both her Bachelor of Arts degree (English 2007) and her Master of Arts degree (Public Relations 2009) from Michigan State University. We recently caught up with Poole and asked about her new position, MSU experiences, and any advice she has for students.
What are the responsibilities of your new position?
In my current role as Vice President for Martin Waymire, I lead communication strategy and manage day-to-day projects for several of the firm’s major clients. I oversee social media strategy and paid digital media campaigns across all our clients, from large corporations to statewide associations. I manage hundreds of thousands of dollars in digital advertising spending for statewide and national campaigns, delivering results across all major digital platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google AdWords.
How did your MSU education help prepare you for your career? My time as an English major helped me strengthen my writing skills, which I’ve found to be invaluable in my professional career. Writing is one of those things that takes time and practice to perfect, and I’m grateful that my studies gave me the opportunity to learn and grow this skill. The PR master’s program helped me understand public relations theory and the research process, which has helped me to be a better practitioner overall.
Why did you choose to come to MSU?
I’m a born-and-raised Michigander, so when my dad’s job relocated our family to Colorado when I was in high school, it was a tough transition. I applied to Michigan State University and the University of Colorado – Boulder and chose the mitten over the mountains. I was accepted into MSU’s Honors College with a scholarship that put both schools around the same price, even though I was paying out-of-state tuition for MSU. It was tough being so far away from my family for a few years, but I’m very glad I made the move back to Michigan.
What should students take advantage of while they attend MSU?
Take classes outside your major. Not every course you take needs to apply directly to what you think you want to do for the rest of your life. One of my favorite classes at MSU was an introductory class on Greek mythology — not applicable at all to what I do every day, but I loved it.
Take classes that challenge you. I took a couple creative writing courses that I thought I’d nail, but it turned out I wasn’t a great creative writer. I could analyze novels or 18th century poetry all day, but when it came to telling my own stories, I was often left staring at a blank page. Those classes taught me how to choose words carefully and helped me tighten up my writing.
And no, it’s not all about classes. Take advantage of the hundreds of student groups on campus. Get involved in something that you’re doing because you love it, not just because it looks good on your resume.
Did you have any internships and/or study away or abroad programs that influenced your career and/or life?
Outside of Martin Waymire, I work for Varsity Vocals, an organization that provides programming for high school and college a cappella groups. Our flagship tournament, the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA), is the same tournament featured in the movie Pitch Perfect.
I’ve been working with the organization for more than 10 years. When I was at Michigan State, I sang with an a cappella group that competed in the tournament. After graduating, I wanted to stay connected to music in some small way, so I asked the organizers of the tournament how I could help. At the time, the high school level of the tournament, the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA), was very small, holding only a few shows each year. I signed on to help grow the tournament.
Over the past few years, thanks in large part to the commercial success of Pitch Perfect, The Sing-Off, and Pentatonix, the tournament has grown exponentially. More than 200 high school groups are competing in the ICHSA this year at 30 events around the country. Even though it’s not my day job, I still manage the tournament and a team of regional producers who run each event. It never feels like an extra burden though, because it’s something I love.
Did you have any mentors at MSU that you would like to mention?
As a graduate student at MSU, I worked as an alumni relations coordinator at MSU’s College of Communication Arts & Sciences, where I organized and promoted alumni and donor initiatives, events and award programs at the college and university level. I worked closely with the dean’s office staff, including Janet Lillie, who at the time was the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education (she is now the Assistant Vice President for Community Relations with MSU’s Governmental Affairs), and Cara Boeff, who was the college’s Director of Development. Both were wonderful mentors to me, and we’ve stayed in touch since I left the college.
What advice do you have for new graduates entering the workforce?
- Your network is gold. Show up, get involved, volunteer. The connections you make and grow will serve you throughout your career.
- Do good work, always. Don’t cut corners. Your work is the foundation of your reputation.
- You may feel like you don’t know anything, but you bring a unique perspective to the work environment. Be adventurous — suggest the crazy idea. But be ready to compromise.