Amanda (Goeser) LustgraafJuly 3, 2018
Amanda Lustgraaf is the Marketing Communication Coordinator with Midtown Crossing, working closely with retailers to ensure their individual success, developing marketing initiatives to advance the neighborhood and leading the coordination of 150+ events in Turner Park. She was previously part of the marketing team for RED Development at Shadow Lake Towne Center.
Amanda is also involved in the community as a Teammates Mentor and is the Nebraska Secretary/Treasurer of the local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). She was recently honored as the 2016 PRSA Nebraska Newcomer of the Year. Amanda holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Bachelor of Arts in Public Communication from Truman State University.
What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?
I graduated in May 2011 with a concentration in public communication.
What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?
I was a news reporter at The Index, a features reporter at Detours, a member and president of the Ad & PR Club, a member of Lambda Pi Eta, as well as a member and officer in the National Communication Association Student Club (NCASC).
Did you go to grad school? If so, where? Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait? Why?
Yes – I graduated in May 2017 from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a Masters of Business Administration. I worked for three years before going back to school part-time. By working for several years before attending grad school, I was able to get my career started and understand my strengths and limitations. I came to realize that, while my communication/PR skills were strong, I was lacking the business acumen needed to set me apart from my peers.
Prior to Truman, I hadn’t given much thought to grad school. Many of my classmates were going on to grad school immediately following completion of their bachelor’s degree and while I knew that I wasn’t ready then, I set a personal goal for myself to go on to grad school later.
What was your first job after graduation?
Fun story — I was actually offered my first job on graduation day, in full cap and gown. I had split off from my family and was walking in to Baldwin Hall to begin lining up with the other graduates when my phone rang. I was offered the job right then and there! It was the best possible way to celebrate the end of my time at Truman.
My first job was marketing coordinator for a shopping center just outside Omaha: Shadow Lake Towne Center. My primary responsibilities were 1) keeping the center’s website, social media channels, and database up-to-date and engaging; 2) organizing and promoting events; and 3) representing the center in the community. I worked with an awesome team that was all about helping me be successful in my first “real” job after college. They even had a cake made for my first anniversary on the job!
What work do you do/What are you doing now?
For almost five years now, I have been doing marketing and communication for Midtown Crossing, a mixed-use development (or “neighborhood,” as we like to call it) in Omaha. What I love most about my job is simply the variety. As a small but mighty in-house team of two, we tackle marketing and promotions, media relations, event planning, social media, community relations, etc. – all with the goal of increasing awareness of the neighborhood as a whole, as well as the individual components (i.e. residential apartments and condos, a slate of more than 150 events and individual retailers).
One of my favorite projects to date is the Turner Park Night Market, which brought in 20,000 people in its inaugural year and activated our neighborhood in a whole new way. My role spanned the project from pitching it to my superior and creating a plan for the event, to building a brand from the ground up, to execution and evaluation.
How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?
My Truman education has helped a great deal, both at work and in the completion of my masters degree. Also, it has made me a more well-rounded individual. When asked about the liberal arts difference, I like to say that I know a little bit about a lot of things (i.e. art history, literature, world religions, Spanish, etc.) – so much more than just communication.
Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?
I don’t recall disliking any classes… other than biology, but I still haven’t gotten to the grateful stage with that yet!
What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?
Maybe not the greatest, but easily one of my proudest accomplishments at Truman involved Dr. Self’s Communication Theory class. Upperclassmen had always warned that it was one of the more difficult classes in the program, and I really wanted to maintain my 4.0 in COMM classes. I had worked hard all semester and was going into the final with an 89%. Long story short, I made an appointment to review my previous tests in Dr. Self’s office the week before and poured through every question as though my life depended on it… for several hours. Then, I met up with my good friend and classmate Kelly for an hours-long study party in Pickler Library. We made flashcards and quizzed each other every which way… again, for several hours. It all paid off when I not only rocked the final but got an email from Dr. Self that I had aced the final.
As a news reporter for The Index, I wrote a news article each week. In one of the last issues of my freshman year, my byline appeared on the front page! My mom saved that issue and recently dusted it off for me.
During my second year, I got to intern in the University Public Relations Office and help write, design and distribute the weekly campus newsletter; write an article for the alumni magazine; and help with general PR tasks like sending news releases. As a funny side note… it was only 8 years ago, but all of the news releases were sent by fax machine!
Finally, I’m really proud of the fact that I was able to graduate in three years. For those of you concerned with graduating four years, it can definitely be accomplished at Truman. Between a nice supply of credits earned in high school and some meticulous scheduling, I was able to pull it off in six semesters.
Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?
It sounds cheesy, but Truman really is a special place. Everyone at Truman is there to learn (…and make friends!). Friends who went to other universities talked about sitting in lecture halls with hundreds of people, while I never had a class with more than 40 people. My classes (especially in the COMM department) were taught by really talented professors who always had an open-door policy and welcomed conversation, questions or assistance. Finally, Truman is known for having higher academic standards – and my experiences echo that. Arriving at Truman, I found myself perfectly “average” (in terms of ACT scores, GPA/class rank and involvement in extra-curriculars), which constantly pushed me to that next level.
What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?
The first “must” is to write. I got involved with The Index as a news reporter three weeks into my freshman year and can never overstate what I gained from the experience. Not only did I get a lot more comfortable with my writing (and writing on deadline for that matter), I also got a lot more comfortable with receiving feedback on my writing. Even though I’m not a journalist now, I understand how journalists work, what their goals are and how I can work with them to obtain coverage for my organization.
The second “must” is internships. Internships in Kirksville are limited, so be prepared to take advantage of the summers to get at least one or two internships. In my experience, my first internship led to my second and third internships – and ultimately my first job. It doesn’t always work out quite like that, but internships really are the best way to apply what you’re learning in the COMM department and prepare yourself for future success.
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?
Even while you’re in college, keep tabs on what’s happening in the industry. One of the easiest ways to do so is to join the email lists of some of the big industry websites like PRDaily, AdWeek, PRSA, etc.
Same idea goes for the city you’re planning to work in after graduation. Skim the headlines of the day or week for that city and get to know what’s happening, who the players are, what the issues are, etc.
What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?
What could be better than living a few minutes away (at most!) from all of your friends?!
What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?
I’ll have to think on that! (editor’s question: Is that the tag line or a plea for more time?)
If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?
I’d teach Marketing for Communicators. In the academic setting, marketing and communication are approached and taught completely separately, but in a work setting, many entry level roles intertwine the two. I think introducing COMM students to some of the marketing concepts would be helpful to complement their communication knowledge. For what it’s worth, I also think there should be a Communication for Marketers class taught in the School of Business.
What did we not ask that you think is important for people to know?
I loved my time at Truman and you will too!