Monthly Archives: February 2015

Five Reasons a Master’s Degree is Valuable at Any Career Stage

By Dawn Doty

I recently completed my master’s degree at JHU and wrote about the experience for my firm’s blog. Folks at JHU thought it might be interesting for regular readers of the career blog, too, so I updated the post.

Over the past 3.5 years, I took one class at a time, year-round, to complete my degree while working full-time. I often was asked, “Why are you getting a master’s degree now?” It’s a legitimate question. I’m a VP/Partner at Linhart PR and have had a nearly three-decade career in public relations. What could a degree give me that “real world” experience had not already provided?

Here are five reasons I believe getting an advanced degree can be valuable…at any stage in your career:

  1. You can apply what you learn in school at work…every day: I studied persuasion theory with Miscally and applied it to how to encourage Moms to think differently about Crocs shoes. I researched online influencers for a Jeni’s ice cream project in Tracey Schroeder and Kelly Hur’s digital media class, which helped me learn to do something that at my level is tackled by junior colleagues. Bottom line: learning was relevant to my day-to-day career life.

     Given the vast changes that have taken place in the past five years in the communication industry, I’d argue that learning is more important now than ever before. The environment has required experienced pros to learn new skills. It’s an exciting time to be working in this industry and it requires more learning than ever before to stay competitive.

  1. An online degree is a great option for busy professionals: Think about how work gets done in the real world. Do you have conference calls frequently or write plans via Google docs that you edit and review with colleagues? Do you share/discuss substantive information over email? If you answered yes to these questions, this mirrors how you study in an online environment.

     In addition, I actually found the online learning environment freeing. It allows you to study when it fits your work and family schedule and it doesn’t require time on the road, gas in your tank, or a babysitter for your kids.

  1. Academic rigor is good for the mind: The ability to synthesize tons of data and argue a point of view regularly in a succinct two or three-page paper made me a better thinker and writer. The critical thinking skills you learn and apply consistently in graduate school are valuable ways to stretch your mind which ultimately sharpens your work.
  2. Are you craving work that you can’t (yet!) do in your current position? I’ve always wanted to work internationally. But I don’t. A public diplomacy class gave me the opportunity to analyze the American Corners program operated by the U.S. Department of State and interview people from all parts of the globe. While I craved getting As in school, the A+ I earned in Joan Mower’s class paled in comparison to simply being able to work on an interesting project beyond our U.S. borders.
  3. Personal goals have professional value: I told myself for years I wanted a master’s degree. It was a personal goal. As we take on more work and family responsibilities and focus on career growth, it is easy to put the brakes on personal goals that are time consuming outside of the office. That’s what I had done.

     I’m grateful to my husband and work partners for supporting my commitment to achieve this goal. It required me to reduce my community service commitments and to study on vacations in Croatia and Ireland. However, it rewarded me with the energy to continue to “lean in” to my career. I believe the personal goal I achieved will have professional value for decades to come.

JHU grads and students, what do you think? If you are still taking classes, what advice would you add? Most importantly, if you have resolved to start (or finish!) a degree program, as Nike would say, “Just do it!”

Dawn Doty/Vice President/Partner

Linhart Public Relations



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Ugh, You’re So Americanized

By Yumi Phillips

“Ugh, you’re so Americanized.”

My grandfather said this to me with a sneer that conveyed a bit of frustration and annoyance. It happened when I seemed to challenge his view on what we were discussing.


This was an “aha” moment for me.








Why? Well, in my mind, I was sharing a valid point to add to the conversation in a respectful manner. But to my grandfather, I’ve done the opposite of what traditional Japanese culture expects: obedience and respect to elders, especially to men who are the head of the household. I thought that I contributed maturely as a young adult to the discussion, but my grandfather was shocked that his youngest granddaughter not only disagreed with his opinion so openly but also that I even had my own opinion on the matter in the first place.

I doubt what happened is unique to me. Most people have probably have experienced some sort of generation gap, if you will. But I also think that it has something to do with my bicultural background, being raised in a Japanese household while growing up in the States. I am sometimes seen as too Americanized in Japan and too Japanese in the States. I’ve had more of these “aha” moments since that conversation with my grandfather, mainly in my professional life.

Picture 161

Let me give you an example.








I was raised to use the honorific title san (which means “Mr.” or “Ms.”) with anyone who is older and outside of my family. Therefore, in any professional settings, I assumed everyone would be addressed using a similar type of formality. So, I was a bit shocked when I learned that almost everyone at my work— including the president of the organization— is on a first-name basis.

I know that this is not the case in every workplace in the States. It depends on the office culture, the type of professional relationship you have with the person, etc. And I don’t call just anyone at work by his/her first name. I certainly use formality when it’s appropriate, especially for the first correspondence or meeting and with certain respected individuals. I was just shocked at first because it’s almost unthinkable in the Japanese society to address your co-worker let alone your boss by his/her first name.

At any rate, it definitely took a while for me to address people with doctorate degrees—particularly college deans, university presidents, and former congresspersons, among others— by their first names, even when they requested it. I’m used to it by now; but along the way, there have been other “aha” moments. And every time it happens, I think about what happened with my grandfather many years ago. Then, I remind myself to consider how my reactions are perceived and what’s culturally appropriate in the situation.

I now feel that I’m more conscious of my surroundings and more able to place myself in other people’s shoes. And it’s a great asset to be able to understand cultural differences and know how to be adaptable—or so I’m told. What are your thoughts?

Yumi Phillips is the associate program officer of Health Policy Educational Programs and Fellowships at the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences. She is also the deputy director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health Policy Fellows program. Before joining the IOM, Yumi was an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Fellow at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yumi received her BS in biology from the University of Maryland, College Park, and her MA in communication from the Johns Hopkins University.






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