Grad Profile: Tara MacKinnon (2011/12)

Today's Loyalist PR graduate profile features Tara MacKinnon (2011/12) who is now employed as a Communications Assistant with the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) in Ottawa.

Prior to enrolling the Post-Graduate Public Relations Program at Loyalist College, Tara completed a diploma in Recreation and Leisure Services at Loyalist College (2005), and a diploma in Health and Fitness Promotion at Loyalist College (2006).

Loyalist PR: What made you decide to enroll in the Post-Graduate Public Relations Program at Loyalist College?

Tara MacKinnon: I decided to take the Loyalist PR program after I spent over a year looking for a job in my field with no luck. A good friend of mine recommended the program, and it was a perfect match.

The Loyalist PR program offered the unique skills and experience I needed to have a door open for me. Knowing there were no tests/exams in the program [the program is completely project-based] and a one-year, action-packed program made the decision easier as I was returning to school.

Loyalist PR: How did Loyalist PR help prepare you for your current position as Communications Assistant with the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) in Ottawa?

Tara: There are more ways than I can remember that the Loyalist PR program helped me in my career. Almost every day of my internship with the CPC (which led me to my job today) I had to smile. Almost everything we studied in the program has happened, and I've had a hand in it all.

Let me name a few things I studied that I've now used on the job: crisis management skills, the pleasures of media monitoring, using and understanding social media, setting up focus groups and research, creating presentations and PowerPoints. My employer is currently paying for my co-workers to learn the EXACT same techniques and programs as I learned in my Digital Media classes in Loyalist PR.

I also use my confident writing skills every day, and was a part of a national media conference to release a new campaign in Montreal. This was neat; it was the first time the CPC ever had a campaign of this size and impact.

Those are just a few of the skills I've used, and I smile to myself every day. Loyalist PR taught me exactly what I needed to know to get a job on one of the best sports communications teams in Canada.

Loyalist PR: What are some of the highlights of your year in Loyalist PR?

Tara: I think my favourite day of the year was our trip to Toronto in early October. Seeing Strombo [CBC's George Stroumboulopoulos] was great. Kerry [Professor/Program Coordinator] has  great relationship with him and his team. They really made us feel like we were at home.

The second annual United Way Truckload sale was brilliant too. It was the first time we were able to see everyone's "true colours" and how their personality works as part of a 30-person team.

Loyalist PR: Any words of advice for future Loyalist PR students?

Tara: If you know what you want, go for it. I went into the program with the goal of interning with either the Canadian Olympic Committee or the Canadian Paralympic Committee. That was it, nothing else would do. It was my passion, and I went for it. I just kept going for it; it took time, but it happened. Remember: never lose sight of your goals!

Being a student opens doors that may not open for you otherwise. Keep that in mind, try to get involved with the different areas of the college, and out in the community.  I didn't realize this until near the end of the program, but take a look at the other programs Loyalist has to offer. Now think, "How will they relate to me in my career path?" Then go network with them. You never know where a connection with a fellow student or faculty member may take you.

Also, get a tutor for the Digital Design classes if you need one; it will help take some of the stress out of your life!

Loyalist PR: Thanks, Tara - we wish you all the best as you continue along your exciting career path!