Meet Newhouse Alumna Nichole Allem



Nichole Allem ‘10 wasn’t planning on graduate school back in 2007, but then Newhouse came along and changed her world by introducing her to the unique Public Diplomacy program at Syracuse University. Her experience with Newhouse Public Relations and Maxwell International Relations has led the Ohio native to Washington, D.C., where she is living a dream she never knew she had, not to mention passing the White House every day on her way to work.

Q: Why did you choose Newhouse?

A: The stars aligned, and Newhouse found me. I had applied and was accepted into Newhouse for my undergrad studies but decided to go a different route. A few years later, Newhouse followed up and sent me a packet of information about their graduate programs, featuring a new one called “Public Diplomacy”. This was the first I had heard about the Public Diplomacy (PD) program, but it was love at first sight as it blended two of my passions: communications and international affairs. I had not been planning to pursue a master’s degree at that time, but I took a leap of faith, scrambled to take the GRE’s, and applied to the program. I ultimately chose Newhouse not only because of the PD program, but because of its fantastic reputation as a leading communications school.

NicholeQ: What do you think about the Newhouse Public Diplomacy program?

A: I think their decision to make it a dual-degree program from two of the top schools in their industries made it very appealing – I got the best of both worlds. I had the privilege to learn from incredibly engaging professors in both Newhouse and Maxwell via the Public Diplomacy program.  Additionally, my fellow classmates in both schools were amazing, and came with a variety of backgrounds and interests.  It kept classes interesting!  Looking back, I’m struck by the high caliber of students who attend Syracuse and the professors who teach there, and I’m so grateful to be part of that alumni network.  Those are relationships I will carry with me throughout the years.

Q: How did you know Public Diplomacy was for you?

A: When I was an undergrad I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. I was in the “Communications Across Cultures” program and on a study tour in London when I had my first “aha!” moment. I remember talking to one of my professors on the tube about our program and saying, “I think I want to do this as a profession. Is there a way to do that?” I knew I wanted to get into intercultural communications, but didn’t know there was a field of study called public diplomacy until Newhouse sent me the packet.  Once on campus, I was surrounded by classmates who were committed to international affairs and wanted to make a career in communicating across cultures. I was relieved to have a “this is it” moment when the program started, and I never lost that feeling.

Q: How did Newhouse help to get you where you are now?

A: Bootcamp was a very intense experience, especially the News Writing and Reporting class.  But thanks to Bootcamp, I will always value the basic tenants we were drilled on: paying attention to detail, always being accurate, double-checking sources, and meeting deadlines.  Beyond that class, any number of the classes we took in the Public Diplomacy program (whether public relations theory, research, or management) all come in handy in my profession. Most recently, Graphic Design has proven useful in my current job. I’ve been designing one-pagers, and being the one in the office knowledgeable in Adobe software and basic design tenets has been really valuable to the team.

Q: What is your favorite part about being a Senior Advisor for Public Affairs with the U.S. Department of State?

A: What I love is that no matter your interest (whether environmental issues, religious freedom, or a certain country/region), you can find a place in the State Department that meets your passion. I’ve had such a fantastic time working on a variety of issues in my time at the State Department as a public diplomacy officer, and now as public affairs advisor for an office that deals with international disability rights. This new role is an amazing opportunity to grow as a young professional and to continue to sharpen my communications skills. Being able to marry international affairs and communications on a daily basis is a dream job.

Q: What is your favorite Newhouse memory?

A: I worked at the Tully Center for Free Speech as a Graduate Research Assistant for the first year of my two-year Master’s program. I loved that role! I honed my event management, public speaking and research skills.  I also had the opportunity to do advertising for events and initiatives, including a 500-person film event featuring actor Alan Alda and director Rod Lurie. So much of what I learned from that experience I apply daily in my current work. Working with Barbara Fought, who was the director of the Tully Center at the time, was a wonderful experience.

Q: Do you have any advice for Newhouse students?

A: First, while you’re on campus, get involved in organizations that you can get excited about, and try to have a leadership role in them. Potential employers like to see that you are willing to step up and take a voluntary leadership role and hone you leadership skills. You’ll also build lasting relationships with your peers and supervisors.

I also encourage students to do something they would not normally pursue. I co-authored a chapter in a book with a professor in Maxwell. If you had told me years ago that I would research and co-author a chapter in a book, I would have laughed it off.  I learned a lot from that experience and am proud to have a copy of that book on my bookshelf!

Finally, once you graduate and land a job, keep cultivating outside hobbies. You never know where those hobbies will take you. I coach a masters swim team, and that keeps me balanced and constantly honing new skills that I am able to use in the office and on the pool deck.