City councilor by day, strategic communications student by night

When Jules Walters started the University of Oregon’s strategic communications master’s program in Portland, she hoped to find a career path after taking a break to raise kids. Now, when she’s not in class, Walters applies what she learns in her role as a city councilor for West Linn.

After graduating from University of San Francisco in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Walters went on to work in sales for a television station. She did some website building and social media management for people and organizations, while primarily raising her four kids.

But by the time she was ready to fully jump back into the working world, she realized she needed more education and a more robust network.

So she visited the White Stag Block to learn more about the UO Portland School of Journalism and Communication’s other master’s program, multimedia journalism. A panel of journalists from various publications were there talking about videos they had produced.

“I was really intrigued, and by the end of the day I decided I was really interested in the strategic communication side,” Walters said.

She talked to program director Donna Davis, associate professor of strategic communication, who said students could take classes from both the multimedia journalism and strategic communication programs.

“That’s when I was really sold,” Walters said.

Shortly after she applied, Walters started getting more involved in local politics, lobbying for different projects in West Linn. Someone mentioned she’d make a great candidate for city council, so Walters decided to run. Her term started in January.

Regina Lawrence, associate dean for the Portland program, said the strategic communication path blends well with Walter’s work.

“Jules is a wonderful example of how the students in our strategic communication program bring real-life experience into the classroom and translate what they learn in our program directly into building their careers,” Lawrence said.

Walters added that many topics covered in the program, such as advocacy and ways to clearly help constituents understand a platform, are supporting her work on the city council.

“If I don’t continue to be an elected official, I’m still interested in working in politics on the strategic communication side of campaigns, so this program is perfect for that,” Walters said.

Walters began working toward her degree with the 2020 graduating class, but since she’s been busy as a city councilor and the program is flexible to suit her schedule, she’s planning to graduate in 2021.

“Having this supportive, fun, interesting, diverse cohort has just been amazing,” Walters said.

She added that the ages of students in her program range from people in their 20s to those in their 40s, like her. 

“What Jules perfectly represents is a motivated professional who is looking to change her game in a way that makes her a leader in the field. In fact, she’s already a leader,” Davis said. “She brings interesting insights to our class discussions that make all of us better thinkers. Hopefully the program challenges her to think in new and innovative ways in her work (and life!) as well.”

By Emily Hoard, University Communications