My Kid Can’t Do Anything. Now What?

Convincing my parents of the value of moving cross-country to pursue higher education proved difficult. Two proud, blue-collar Tennesseans raised me. The concept of college felt daunting enough for them. The thought of their daughter—gasp—becoming a northerner seemed even more terrifying.

“Are you sure you don’t want to attend a state school?” I remember my mom pleading. “Tennessee offers just as much as Minnesota, and getting to you in an emergency will be easier.”

By the time I packed my bags into the trunk of my car, my parents still shook with fear. I demanded to move thirteen hours away, and I didn’t know how to drive on the interstate, pay taxes, or shop for appropriate groceries.

Here I am with that car. I eventually learned to drive it.

Halfway through that first September, though I subsisted on the most Dr. Pepper and Top Ramen ever consumed by a human, I found success in my new home. I was learning by doing. For many other students and me, active learning is the most effective way to integrate into any new circumstance, and it’s done successfully here in the MEL.

Through the implementation of hands-on workshops, practitioner-professors, strategic course curricula, and internships, students in the communications department learn the skills they’ll need for triumphs in their future careers. A great example of this concept comes from Ashley Chiappetta, a former University of Northwestern — St. Paul student.

Ashley Chiappetta, Former UNW Student.

Ashley took full advantage of offered opportunities during her time at UNW. She accepted an internship in New York City, which led to her eventual employment at the New York Post. She took her practical skills into new territory when she joined the workforce. With her education from the communications department, she landed a job at a social media marketing and music management firm in Nashville, Tennessee, called Crowd Surf. There, she replicated the process of learning by doing—just as she did in her UNW years.

“Northwestern taught me to seek the connections I needed to create the life I have...”

In many ways, I have an experience similar to Ashley’s. Though I lacked knowledge about the world of communications before enrolling at UNW, I’ve earned credit through an internship at a magazine called Stroll: World Golf VillageIn the classroom, I’ve created large-scale events, revamped marketing campaigns for real businesses, and made connections that will bring immeasurable value to my working life. As a result, I truly feel prepared for graduation.

MEL Students Creating an Ad in Public Relations Workshop.

This August will mark my fifth year as a Twin Cities resident. Since moving here, I’ve learned a lot. It wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t always hard. But by having the ability to learn by doing, trying, and (sometimes) failing, I’ve created a life that I love. Parents, it’s hard to do, but let your student learn by doing. It will be well worth it.

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