Rowen SearsSeptember 1, 2020
Rowen Sears works for GEHA, a federally-focused benefits provider based in Lee’s Summit, MO. With a focus in digital communications and social media, he leverages various digital mediums to create conversations around multiple facets of health and wellness including mental, emotional, physical and financial health. Growing digital communities is work that he has done since graduating from Truman. When he’s not researching digital strategy trends, he can be found spending time in the sky pursing his private pilot license.
What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?
I graduated in May 2016, with a concentration in Journalism.
What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?
I was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon and worked for TMN-TV (formerly News 36) as an anchor and reporter. I also worked for Detours Magazine in events and publicity. I also worked with the Multicultural Affairs Center (now the Center for Diversity & Inclusion).
Did you go to grad school? If so, where? Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait? Why?
I did not go to grad school, but I did enroll in flight school. Furthering my education is still an option that I haven’t closed the door on.
What was your first job after graduation?
My first job out of college was for a Microsoft partner. I was the entire digital marketing/communications department.
What work do you do/What are you doing now?
I currently work in marketing for GEHA (Government Employees Health Association), a federal benefits provider based in Lee’s Summit, MO. My role consists of both internal and external communications, with a heavy focus in digital strategy, social media and health and wellness communications. 2019 was a big year for GEHA, we entered into a partnership with the Kansas City Chiefs, my favorite NFL team. I also work with various young professional organizations around the greater Kansas City area.
How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?
My COMM education gave me the practical foundation needed to navigate in a variety of work settings. Being able to think critically and logically through situations is a must, especially when working in marketing or public relations like I do.
Another competitive advantage that my COMM education afforded me was learning how to build interpersonal relationships through meaningful exchanges. I’ve found this to be critical in my professional career.
Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?
Oral Interpretation, it was the one class I took with the late Dr. Weitz. He had such a passion for teaching that course. While I initially found the study of prose uninteresting, I’m grateful to Dr. Weitz for opening my eyes to a different critical perspective. Discovering how the meaning of the message can be affected by its delivery is a lesson that I have carried throughout my time at Truman and into my professional career.
What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?
My greatest accomplishment honestly is graduating, that’s certainly what my dad would say. However, during my time at Truman, I started anchoring News 36 a week after I got hired. Being able to immediately jump into something I wanted to do was exhilarating. I’m also proud of the relationships I built during my time at Truman, I have great mentors to fall back on and lifelong friendships thanks to my COMM education.
Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?
Truman gives students the opportunity to immerse themselves in various fields of study very early on. I anchored the news the first semester of my freshman year. Being able to get hands-on experience allowed me to develop an appreciation for that line of work early on. Truman also affords every student the opportunity to connect with their professors. This was an attribute that I loved from my first tour of Truman during the summer of 2010.
What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?
Truman students should absolutely take Publication Design. It’s a course that I’ve found was fundamental in landing the marketing role I have today (Thanks, Prof. Krause). Also, take advantage of your professor’s office hours. Some of my best learning moments came from spending time with my professors, and you’ll gain additional perspective on how to approach your courses.
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?
Be open to learning as much as you can. Every situation is an opportunity to sharpen your skill-set or pick up a new one. In my line of work, I get to be creative and analytical. I have the opportunity to explain how and why digital campaigns work or fail. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, don’t limit your thinking. Your idea may be the missing piece someone is looking for.
What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?
Am I allowed to say Thursday nights at the Dukum Inn? (Editor’s note: Sure. Why not?) In all seriousness, I miss the ability to roam around Barnett and converse with various faculty members. It was always a treat to spend 30-60 minutes with a professor.
What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?
“The Department of Communication: The major no one knows and everyone needs.” (Editor’s note: We like this one!)
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 would name my course “Getting to know you: An Examination of Interpersonal Communication inside and outside the workplace.” I would take pieces of Oral Interpretation from Dr. Weitz and Business and Professional Communication from Prof. Collins to create my course. I’d cap the roster at no more than fifteen, to really allow students to build relationships with me and with each other.
What did we not ask that you think is important for people to know?
Build your LinkedIn profile early and start making connections. Having a strong network is important. Don’t be afraid to fail. Each failure is a stepping stone to your eventual success. Be honest and humble, especially humble. The sooner you can lay your pride down, the sooner you can begin to grow and flourish.
If you would like to learn more of Rowen’s story, you can follow him on LinkedIn.