Dr. Rebecca Snarski is a core faculty member in Capella University’s School of Business and Technology. She was recently awarded Capella’s Harold Abel Award for Distinguished Faculty, which recognizes her extensive contributions to Capella University, its faculty, and its students. In this interview, she answers 10 questions about her work and interests.
Q. Please share a bit about your background and how you came to Capella.
A. I earned my bachelor’s in public relations from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. From there I worked in several large companies, including AMC Theaters, General Motors, and General Dynamics. But I really wanted a master’s. I was working full-time and didn’t want to have to drive to school and sit in a classroom, so I looked online for a program that would be more like independent study. I found Capella, which was still a young school at the time. It fit my needs perfectly. I finished my master’s in communication and technology in 11 months. The dean of technology at the time was my mentor, and he asked me to develop a communications class. I did, and then I got my PhD, and 15 years later, I’m still here!
Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?
A. I love how I get to bookend the MBA program. I work with the new, first-time master’s students, and I work with near graduates at the end of their degree program. I get to see how they develop and grow. And, of course, I love working from home.
Q. Why did you go into your field?
A. When I started in PR, I did a lot of promos, and I liked it. I also liked communications, writing, training, and teaching. From my very first job as a 16-year-old waitress, I’ve ended up doing training in every single job. It’s just a natural fit for me.
Q. What industry trends are you seeing that will affect professionals in the next few years?
A. In communications, it’s the continuation of everything being automated. We used to fear that, or think it would prevent us from communicating. But we actually communicate more now with the advent of texting and social media. But we still have to work on learning to make it more useful. People have to be lifelong learners to be good communicators.
Q. What is the single biggest challenge facing your field right now?
A. The biggest challenge that I see for my students, and those entering business, is truly understanding how important research, communication, and lifelong learning are. Today, technology is growing so fast that one cannot stop learning after getting a degree. Professionals always need to be seeking out new information and new ideas to stay abreast of the state of the art in their field. This means they need to be active consumers of information—knowing what to read, how to find good information, and how to judge that it’s credible.
People also underestimate how important communication is. Specifically, it’s important to know the extent to which how you communicate influences how you are perceived. Right or wrong, people can and do “judge a book by its cover” every day. How a person talks and writes tells people about them, and it reflects on their credibility. Thus, the challenge becomes learning ways to present oneself better, both in writing and in person.
Q. How do you stay on top of what employers are looking for? How do you keep your industry skills and knowledge up to date?
A. At Capella, we’re scholar-practitioners. We have the ability and resources to read and do research, but we’re also out practicing in the field. I need to know what employers want in order to share that with my students. I read up on trends in my field daily, following business and communications happenings.
I also do some freelance writing to use my communication and writing skills and see what the employers are looking for. I also get to read all the amazing research our students do. I get to learn on the job, and I love that.
Q. You were recently awarded the Harold Abel award. Tell us about that.
A. I’m not going to lie—I loved it! It’s exciting to be recognized. The award is about going above and beyond to improve the Capella experience for the students and the university. It means I’m making a difference, and I’m noticed.
Q. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
A. There are two pieces of advice. The first came from my mother when I was looking for work just out of college. She said, “You’ve always loved to write. Can’t you find something doing that?” So I began looking for writing work and soon became a technical writer.
The second piece came from an AMC Theater manager, who said, “Even if you don’t like your job, you’re being paid to do it, so do it to the best of your ability.” That came in handy at the start of my working life.
Q. What do you like to do when you’re not working?
A. Kayaking, fishing, swimming, travel, watching fishing and shark shows on TV, reading, and writing.
Q. Coffee, tea or soda?
A. Tea, Earl Grey, hot—just like Captain Picard.
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