While many professionals enroll in graduate school with the aim of a bigger paycheck or a different job, not many do it to feed a never-ending hunger for knowledge. Christina Milanowski, social media director and account supervisor at Maccabee Public Relations, has always made knowledge a priority and is working toward her M.B.C. while sustaining her love of learning at the same time.
Milanowski’s interest in communications and public relations found its roots in an initial appeal to business at the beginning of her undergraduate experience at the University of Minnesota. “The psychology of consumers, making business decisions...I’ve always been fascinated by consumer promotion, public relations and marketing, so I found my way to the PR program and it was just a perfect fit.”
Post-graduation, Milanowski interned at the National Arbitration Forum to gain public relations experience, despite a lack of interest in law. The internship led to a position as a communication specialist. She led social media efforts, created a blog for the company and headed all external communications, including several crisis scenarios. “It was that breadth of experience I was looking for.”
Somewhere during this time, Milanowski realized her career lacked a desired infusion of education. After three years at her first job, she changed roles to account executive at Maccabee, a boutique public relations agency in Minneapolis’ warehouse district. The novel work environment was a welcome change, but she soon began looking at master’s programs to fulfill her yearning for knowledge.
Milanowski wanted a program that was local and in-person; St. Thomas fulfilled these criteria and more. “There are a lot of people working in the business and teaching. It felt like it was the right hands-on type of learning that I could bring back to the workplace the next day.” The flexibility of working full-time and taking evening classes was another draw to the program, as well as studying communications and business at the same time. “I sit next to MBA students in class but sometimes my classes are tailored to people like me who have more of a marketing frame of mind than engineering or accounting.”
Fellow M.B.C. classmate Joel Morse met Milanowski in a communications law class in 2011. “People tend to kind of gravitate towards her a little bit. It’s not that she is a big outspoken leader in any way, it’s just that she’s intelligent and she brings very interesting ideas and angles to things that we’re discussing,” Morse says.
Sabera Kapasi, another of Milanowski’s classmates, describes her in a positive light as well. “I admire her openness to new ideas and ways of thinking,” Kapasi says. “I know she worked harder than most of my classmates and was a critical thinker.”
Student by night, PR professional by day, Milanowski’s current focus as social media director is helping Maccabee’s clients get smart on social. She coaches them in inbound marketing, bestowing knowledge of LinkedIn or blogging in addition to the traditional tweets and Facebook updates. Milanowski consults with most of the agency’s clients, which have ranged from Gold’n Plump Chicken to RBA Consulting. “We have clients in a lot of different industries, so we can bring our PR and social media marketing recommendations to different industries and learn from different industries.” For Milanowski, constantly learning about different things is perfect for the way her mind works.
Milanowski recently received recognition for her hard work from the Minnesota chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), which honored her with the 2012 Young Professional award at the 35th annual Minnesota PRSA Classics Awards last March. She has been a PRSA member for more than seven years and volunteers as a co-chair on the Membership Committee.
Morse thinks Milanowski’s sincerity contributes to her success in PR. “She’s a listener and I think she understands that putting out a message for someone in PR, a lot of times you have to be very good at listening to understand where you’re going to go with that sort of thing and I think that comes through in her personality.”
Outside of class, work and PRSA, Milanowski lives a self-ascribed “urban hippie” lifestyle–she loves to recycle, bike as much as she can and take the bus to work. She also enjoys spending time with her husband and the newest addition to their family–an adopted puppy named Ayza.
Armed with positivity, intellectual curiosity and a can-do attitude, Milanowski will graduate in May 2015, but continue to learn even after. She’s happy at Maccabee, where the founder of the agency, Paul Maccabee, has taught her how to balance work and life, and given her a new perspective on both. Yet she hopes to continue to get smarter and smarter in the field of PR. “I want to continue to learn and do well–and not get bored.”