Name: Karah Vanderwarker
Major: Communication and Media
Hometown: Latham, NY
Graduation Year: 2019
Favorite Girl Scout Cookie: Thin Mints
5 Things You Might Not Know About Karah:
- My birthday is also my parents’ anniversary.
- I was involved in music and theater in high school. If I had to choose, I’d say my favorite roles were Chava in Fiddler on the Roof and Alice in You Can’t Take it With You.
- I’m really interested in crime and criminal justice and if I wasn’t doing communications I’d love to get into forensic science.
- I’m addicted to coffee (not for the caffeine, I genuinely enjoy the taste). I drink it black on a daily basis but pumpkin iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts is my seasonal guilty pleasure.
- The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of year. All of the lights and music are so fun and festive that I can’t help but be in a good mood.
How have your experiences at Naz challenged your expectations about what college would be like?
I always pictured college as being a really cold, unwelcoming place where you were just a number going to huge lecture halls with strangers who had no interest in getting to know you. I thought it would be hard to get help if I needed it and I just hoped I’d be able to keep up with everything. Coming to Naz completely changed that perception. Everyone is really friendly and I’ve learned a lot from people outside of my department that I’ve taken back and applied to my work in communications. For example, a paper I wrote last year on interpersonal communication was influenced by what I learned about how people generally interact from a friend in the sociology department. Also, the vast majority of classes here are in small classrooms with professors who make an effort to get to know you and want you to succeed. There’s a lot of student presentation and class discussion involved so you’re always thinking and never stuck in a giant lecture hall listening to someone drone on for ninety minutes. I know from friends at different schools that this isn’t the experience at every college and I really can’t imagine myself being happy at a school without those features.
How has your time at Naz sparked your life’s work?
I liked English in high school but once I came to Naz I realized that it was the writing aspect of it that I was really passionate about and I now know I want that to be a large part of my life moving forward. There is some overlap between communications and English but English majors focus more on literature and the careers surrounding that while communication majors deal more with careers such as public relations, journalism, and various types of marketing that focus on writing and the ways it can be integrated over multiple media platforms. Naz has given me numerous chances through coursework and outside opportunities to really explore this passion and sharpen my skills. One of the most useful things has been learning how to tailor my personal writing style to different platforms, constraints, and rhetorical situations in my media studies and written and visual rhetoric courses.
What are the benefits of participating in the communication and media program at Nazareth College?
Nazareth’s communication program is great because it provides the academic benefits of a small school along with all of the career benefits of living in a big city. We have incredible access to all of the media events, internship opportunities, and resources in the city of Rochester. On campus, I know all of my professors and advisors personally and they all really care about my success as a student and as a person. They’re very committed to helping my classmates and I experience and be exposed to as many different ideas and concepts as we can during our time here.
What communications experiences have you had?
Over the summer, I got the chance to be a contributor for Nazareth’s Connections magazine. I was asked to write a short news piece about the Farash Foundation’s endowment gift for The March to Witness Hope, a trip that gives student leaders, professors, and community members from Nazareth and Hobart William Smith Colleges the opportunity to study the Holocaust on location in Germany and Poland for nine days with the help of scholars, survivors, and native guides. It was a great way to practice not only the steps of the research process, but the interview process and the process of going back and forth with an editor as well. Next semester, I’m taking a project management class where we’ll be getting hands on experience working with local groups and businesses which I’m very excited for. I’m also secretary of the Nazareth Communication Society and we as a club are working to promote some events that provide students with an opportunity to refine their skills and learn more about the discipline. Right now, we’re in the process of planning a trip to NYC where we’ll get the chance to tour some agencies and network with young media professionals.
What is your advice for incoming freshman in your department?
First of all, I would definitely say be aware that there is real work involved in being in communications and don’t let what other people say discourage you. I feel like sometimes there’s this stigma surrounding communications that we don’t do “real work” and all we do is sit on Facebook or tweet all day which is very far from the truth. Also, don’t limit yourself! The field of communications is huge and now is the time to try everything and see what you like and what you don’t. Even if you think you want a career in marketing communications, take a class that deals with public relations or digital media. The skills you learn are applicable across almost every area and you may find you really like something you never thought you would.
What is your favorite thing about being a comm/media student at Naz?
Like I said previously, communications is a very broad field full of a lot of different opportunities. Many of the other schools I considered made students pick a sub-segment so instead of having a general communications major, their degree would be specifically in public relations or journalism. I really didn’t want to limit myself like that since I do have a lot of interests in the field so I love that Naz offers a program that’s more of an overview. At the same time, as part of our program we pick a praxis strand or specialization so we have a little more experience in an area of communications that we’re especially interested in. I think this is a really great compromise, especially since we can still take classes from specializations aside from the one we select. Nazareth’s communication program has given me the freedom to explore my passions while also given me the opportunities to develop my professional expertise.