Alumni Spotlight: Vicki Klopsch (OMC '03)

Vicki Klopsch attended what would by 2007 be the College of Communication, when it was still known as the Department of Communication. Known as a "Double Demon"*, Klopsch has leveraged her education in both Communication Studies and Organizational and Multicultural Communication to help in roles with numerous nonprofit organizations over the years. She currently works in education at Scripps College in Southern California, where she passes her knowledge and experience on to new generations of students.

You earned your undergrad in Communication Studies ('99) before coming back for graduate work in Organizational and Multicultural Communication ('03). What about your undergraduate experience brought you back to graduate school? 

I don't think I realized it at the time, but after I finished my undergrad degree and worked for while, I missed the learning. In considering graduate school, I kept coming back to my communication studies courses on presentation and small group communication. During my first few years working full-time, I witnessed first-hand how relevant all that was in the workplace. It made me curious to learn more. Once I decided on organizational communication as a track, a subject I still often describe as the liberal arts version of an MBA, I knew DePaul would be the right place for me. I wanted more of the classes I had begun as an undergrad. 

What do you remember most about studying in what was then the Department of Communication?

I remember my team presenting on cultural influences in Switzerland. I remember developing a crisis communication plan. I remember writing, and writing, and writing... But what I remember most vividly is the reason why I went back to my alma mater for another degree. I knew it would be a chance to study with Lexa Murphy. She pushed me to understand organizational systems, a skill that has helped me advance rather quickly in my career. Lexa was an inspiration to me as an undergrad and a role model for me in grad school. I am thankful for her independent thinking and encouraging us to do the same.

Were there any benefits in taking a few years off between your undergraduate and graduate work?

Working in career services now, I frequently recommend to students to take some time off before graduate school, particularly if they're on a traditional job track. There's value in "growing up" a little on the job, in learning the nuances of organizational politics, and benefiting from the experience of supervisors and peers. You can't learn that in a classroom. Because of the work experience I had under my belt, I was able to participate in my graduate school classes on a much higher level. The conversation was deeper - it really hit home. And at DePaul, I fit in; we were all working and going to school.

Before landing in the career you have now with Scripps College, you had a varied career in various institutions communication divisions in Chicago. How did your education help you navigate through the roles you held?

I am proud of my degrees in communication. You can still find books on leadership, public speaking, organizational culture, human and intercultural communication in my office. When I look back at my career and the various organizations I've had the privilege of working for, I see that it was my study of communication that opened all those doors.

In child welfare, it was showing sensitivity to cultural differences and understanding small group dynamics; at Chicago Children's Museum, it was about understanding our mission and purpose and selling that to potential sponsors. When I came back to work for DePaul, it was about listening to alumni and engaging them in managing their own volunteer program.

Now, in managing career services at Scripps College, it's about building a strong team who can engage our students in competitive, comprehensive services. I don't always do things by the book. My classes at DePaul taught me to take time to learn the system in place, yet not be afraid to see if there's a more effective way to manage it. I believe in my strengths and know that they reach broadly across industries; I choose to pursue the ones I'm passionate about. That's the bonus a degree in communication offers.

How does the academic background you have in Communication specifically translate into the work you now do for Scripps?

Academically speaking, I did well in most of my classes at DePaul. I did especially well in my Communication classes. But that's not what I consider success. I actually learned in those classes. I credit compliments on my ability to write strong reports to the course Writing for Social Scientists. Qualitative and quantitative research gave me a competitive advantage in programmatic metrics and outcomes. Power in language raised my awareness of how we use our words. The list goes on and on, and while I may not have realized it sitting in the classroom, I am the professional I am today because of what I learned at DePaul.

As an alum no longer living in the City of Chicago, how do you maintain a feeling of connection to the College of Communication, DePaul University and your fellow alumni?

I've earned two degrees from DePaul and worked as staff and adjunct faculty. The next logical step for me was to be as active as an alumna as I could be. I moved to Southern California without any connections, so when I learned that we had the largest alumni group outside of Chicago, I went on a mission to find them! I immediately got involved in the Southern California alumni chapter and worked with Alumni Relations to increase the number of alumni events. But my connection to DePaul is about more than my personal history, it's about the stories I hear from others.

 * DePaul's affectionate and tongue-in-cheek term - referencing our sports programs' Blue Demons - for alum who earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees with the university.