Colleen Dolan

M.S. in Commerce 2010 (Marketing & Management Track), University of Virginia

B.A. in Psychology 2009, University of Virginia

After: MicroStrategy, Business Development Manager

Now: Gresham Smith, Public Relations Manager (Nashville, TN) 

Leveraging psychology with business

As an undergraduate who majored in psychology, I decided that studying human behavior would be most interesting to me applied in business, specifically in marketing. Bringing this background to the M.S. in Commerce gave me a unique perspective and allowed practical application of my undergraduate field of study. At the same time, a business degree made me a more marketable candidate in my job search.

Most memorable class: Brand Management

Professor Carrie Heilman's Brand Management class was the most compelling class I took during the program. I really enjoyed our marketing case studies, which were predominantly focused on consumer packaged goods, an area of marketing I was most interested in pursuing.

How do you think the M.S. in Commerce Program prepared you for the job you have now? 

I think public relations is really about what messages about a brand or product you are conveying to the public. PR helps craft the brand narrative. The strategy and brand marketing classes in the program were very helpful in providing an understanding of marketing strategy. Additionally, working on the agency side, I work in a consulting capacity. The integrated core classes provided much-needed business skills that help ensure I am always mapping communication strategy back to a bigger business objective, remain a good steward of client budget, and communicate with clients effectively to ensure strong relationships.

The value of Commerce Career Services

Commerce Career Services provided wonderful guidance, from interview preparation to resume review. The staff also does a fantastic job of attracting top recruiters and communicating about valuable company information sessions.

What makes the job great

My current job allows me to think creatively and strategically. In addition, my days are varied. I could be doing a myriad of tasks on any given day. A typical day might start with reading a scientific study and synopsized it for the team and client. Then I’ll call the client to discuss upcoming deliverables and timeline for an event sponsorship and experiential marketing activation we are pursuing with them. After that, I will update a document outlining our onsite messaging based on client discussion. I’ll then take a weekly call with one of our clients. Finally, I will take raw survey data, analyze it, and create reports to further build out an event recap report highlighting how an experience provided consumer education.

Advice for future students

Public relations is a rapidly changing field with lots of opportunity. Digital marketing has, of course, had a tremendous effect on the industry, so an interest in that is imperative. It's also a fast-paced work environment, so you've got to be flexible while also paying close attention to detail. The program’s focus on group work is also endlessly useful in the real world. You'll work with every personality under the sun, so it's beneficial to learn how to work with all different types of people with different strengths and communication styles early on.

Most memorable Global Immersion Experience? 

My most memorable experience on GIE was walking through the Wangfujing night market. I enjoyed all of my cultural experiences while in China—the dragon boats in Hong Kong, the Great Wall, the Bund—but I was mesmerized by the night market. I loved immersing myself in the sights and smells.

Favorite Charlottesville activity

I love to hike or head to a vineyard and spend the day outside.