By Sam Morros, public relations student at MRU
“If you’d asked me five years ago, … I probably never would have thought I’d be this involved in elections,” says executive advisor Jeannine Dryden on her ever-evolving role at the City of Calgary. On any given day she might brief her boss for a meeting with Calgary city council, pen a letter bound for the provincial government or offer communications advice to City management; in a public-facing position, the work of a professional communicator is never done. Working with the City, Dryden has had the chance to experience many dimensions of municipal government, leading her to a passion she couldn’t have anticipated – elections.
During Dryden’s time as a student communications advisor for the City of Calgary, a few key things happened: a school board election, and the launch of a new online census-taking program. Designing the city-wide communications for these events, she says, is where she got her first taste of the democratic process in Calgary. Since then, she’s taken it even further, playing a big part in Calgarian elections. Notably, she highlights her role in the creation of political candidate profiles, accessible to anyone on the City of Calgary’s website for the first time. She’s even taken her passion for democracy overseas, serving as an observer on behalf of the Canadian government during an election in Ukraine. She stresses the importance of clear communication in democracy, “[We’re] trying to make sure that everyone has [the same] opportunities.”
Politically minded communication students and professionals alike may be interested in following a path like Dryden’s. So, where did it all begin? For Jeannine, it was all about writing. “Whatever I ended up doing,” she shares, “I wanted writing to be a part of it.”
Her journey started at Calgary’s SAIT school, studying journalism. Here, she learned about writing, advertising, editorial layouts and more. A master’s degree in professional communication, from Victoria’s Royal Roads University, tied it all together, giving her the skills necessary to manage the ever-changing demands of her job. Working as a public servant has its own rewards, though. For Dryden, it’s all about doing work that she can be proud of.
Like Dryden, a student of communication may discover their passion when they least expect it. Dryden encourages communications students to learn as much as they can about the various possible opportunities in public relations, because there are many. “You never know how things are going to come up and how they’re going to peak your interests.”