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Q&A with Recent Master’s Graduate Lily Crosby (MS C&I ’21)

Lily Crosby was drawn to strategic communications after working for the Appalachia Service Project (ASP), a housing non-profit that works with people in Central Appalachia. She returned to school to improve those skills, graduating in May 2021 with her master’s degree in Communication and Information with the concentration in public relations.

Crosby wants to use her enhanced public relations and strategic communication skills to serve the community through nonprofit organizations.

What has it been like juggling an internship while attending graduate school? Do you have any time management tips?

Juggling an internship while in grad school has been one of the greatest lessons in time management. It teaches you the importance of planning, being organized and always staying on top of deadlines. My advice for future students is to always keep a calendar with meetings, deadlines, class schedules, work schedules, etc. It is impossible to keep up with everything going on in your head. You will thank yourself later if you keep everything organized together in one place.

What made you decide to pursue your master’s degree at UT?

In 2017, I earned by bachelor’s degree in sociology at ETSU. After graduating, I joined a fellowship program and had the incredible opportunity to work for Appalachia Service Project (ASP), a nonprofit that builds and repairs homes for people living in sub-standard housing across Central Appalachia. Working with people in such desperate need evoked a desire in me to bridge the gap between privileged and underserved people in society. As a member of the Advancement team working in donor communication, I was able to invite people into our mission and create change simply by sharing stories and bringing together people with resources and people with need.

While I enjoyed my work at ASP, I knew I needed to go back to school to gain more knowledge and skills about how to strategically communicate. My goal has always been to serve in community relations for a national nonprofit, and earning my degree in Public Relations at UT has been a great step toward that aim.

What has been your favorite part of your time at UT?

My favorite part about my time at UT has been the friendships. I have made many lifelong friends here in CCI.

What is it like to be in graduate school during a pandemic?

Moving from in-person classes to virtual learning halfway through my second semester of graduate school was something I never could have planned for. While the professors were incredibly gracious and helpful throughout the transition, it was really hard to go from seeing everyone face-to-face to being on Zoom. While I am thankful for the safety measures that were taken, at times it was difficult to feel connected and remember why I was doing this work. I am grateful for the early bonds created in my cohort during our first semester. The unending support of peers, faculty and staff made all the difference throughout the pandemic.

What are your future career goals?

My goal is to eventually work for a national nonprofit doing research-based strategy building and community impact analysis. I want to work toward understanding the root of systemic problems, helping to build up better systems and structures to support underserved people in society.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation I am planning to work two internships over the summer in Knoxville while searching for full-time employment. I will be interning with UT in their ADPR department and with United Way of Greater Knoxville doing Branding and Messaging.