Written by Ben Sheard
Michigan State University alumna Julia Lemke discovered her passion for communication when she worked as a buyer for creative commodities in the purchasing department at the university.
“I worked with people all over the university," she says. “That really exposed me to a lot of different types of people working in marketing and communications. They inspired me to take that next step in my career.”
From then on, Lemke knew that she wanted to work in communication and immediately began building upon her work experience through further education.
Around this time, MSU founded its Strategic Communication M.A. program, and Lemke eagerly joined as one of its first students.
Part of what brought me to StratCom was that I wanted to rebrand myself and that was a way of really connecting the different pieces of all that I have done and making it make sense.
While initially wary that her lack of a communication background would be a disadvantage, Lemke quickly learned it was no impediment to her further education. In fact, it proved to be a helpful perspective.
“I think it makes the program that much richer to have people from all different backgrounds,” she says. “You’re working with these people, learning from them and they’re learning for you.
“There is not just one right way to enter the program. Once you get there, you figure it out with everyone who starts alongside you.”
Not long after enrolling the program Lemke moved to Los Angeles where she began working as a marketing assistant position in a construction, development and management company.
“When I interviewed, I really think StratCom made me stand out,” she says. “It really helped me to solidify who I am as a professional and as an academic.”
From there, Lemke transitioned into her current role at SteelCraft, an outdoor urban eatery in the Los Angeles area. Unlike shopping malls, where tenants rent locations from unseen developers, SteelCraft’s tenants are hand-selected for each location.
This personalized approach involves building up the SteelCraft community and telling the unique stories of each of its tenants. And that’s where Lemke comes in – she handles all the marketing, communications and PR for the SteelCraft project. This ranges from building promotional content for each tenant, to community engagement on social media.
While social media was originally something Lemke had little experience with, she said that she acquired the knowledge to quickly utilize the platforms in her work.
“This program has given me a way to work with social media more mindfully,” Lemke says. “I can go in with material I have learned in the course work that I am studying right now.”
One of the goals of the program is to provide students with the latest communication theories, strategies and tools they can utilize to embark on the next phase of their carriers. Lemke has utilized this extensive knowledge base to embark fully on a career path where she found her passions and her talents.
She says she is excited to continue to hone her knowledge on communication technique while building up the SteelCraft community as it continues to grow.
“I think you have to trust that Michigan State faculty and staff are going to set you up for success,” Lemke says.