Class of: 2005 (BA); 2012 (MA)
Bio: Laura Owen is the assistant director of the Center for Health & Wellness at Emerson College, where she is also responsible for health education programming and promotion on campus. Laura attended Emerson College for both her undergraduate degree in marketing communication (2005) and her master’s degree in health communication (2012). Her tenure on campus has given her an understanding of the culture of the Emerson community, which offers her a unique perspective in relating to student issues.
As a professional in college health, Laura has taken many strides to further her career, including achieving her Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) certification and has developed and implemented an innovative marijuana education program at Emerson. She is a member of the Alcohol and Other Drug Task Force, Orientation Steering Committee, Mental Health Initiative and is the staff advisor to Emerson Best Buddies. Laura is the recipient of the 2017 American College Health Association’s New Professionals National Award, and has presented at several national conferences. Laura’s colleagues admire her strong work ethic and desire to assist students; her dedication, passion, and poise; and her commitment to utilizing evidence-based practices.
Laura grew up in a New Hampshire, loves to dance and is running her first ever Boston Marathon in April to raise money for suicide prevention.
Describe your work in a few sentences:
As the Assistant Director of the Center for Health and Wellness, I help manage the student health clinic and work towards creating a healthier Emerson College campus through health education and promotion. Each day is different but it is always about supporting student health, wellness and success. I talk to students about their sleep, nutrition, exercise, mental health, self-care, sex and the list goes on. One of my favorite areas to educate student on is alcohol and other drugs. Just this year, we implemented mandatory alcohol education for all incoming Emerson students and are developing more support for students who identify in recovery from substances. I also really enjoy collaborating with other departments to create campus-wide initiatives around wellness, mental health and suicide prevention. Suicide prevention is very close to heart.
What sparked your transition from marketing communication to specializing in Health Communication?:
Communication is at the heart of who we are as human beings. It took me a few years after undergrad to figure out how I wanted to use my communication skills. While I love the creativity and psychology of marketing communication, I wanted also tap into my passion for health and helping others. I even started working in a hospital and considered getting my master degree in public health. Health communication focuses on creating messages and campaigns that change people’s health behaviors, which is very rewarding. Health communication recognizes the importance of prevention and the need to use theory. College health is a unique population because many students are growing and learning how to take care of themselves on their own for the first time, and I want to help them be successful. My daily work focuses a lot on college students’ perception, risk, social norms, emotions and uncertainty in health behavior. Emerson’s health communication graduate program was a perfect fit for me. It built on my existing knowledge of communication and taught me how to inform and influence other’s health decisions.
It’s awesome that you’re a “double lion” with two degrees at Emerson! How did Emerson (via experience and/or faculty and staff influence) help shape you as a communication professional?:
Emerson has been a safe, supportive place to grow and figure out what brings me fulfillment. Personally and professionally, I have felt encouraged, accepted and challenged by faculty and staff. I transferred into Emerson my junior year. I didn’t live on campus but I still felt like I was a part of the Emerson community. My professors were some of the brightest and best in their field but they connected with each student very personally. Many of the staff and faculty knew me very well by the time I graduated and helped me grow. Not only did I learn information and theory, but I learned how to navigate the professional world. I appreciate how Emerson prepared me for realistic challenges and how to handle failure. I know what it’s like to feel lost and unsure of your path in college and it’s so helpful to know that your faculty and staff are there to help your figure it out. I wouldn’t be here without their support, advice and safe space.
What self-care advice do you often impart to students balancing career plans and life outside of classes?:
Self-care is so important and it looks different for everyone. When I talk about self-care, I encourage students to stay connected and balanced. Connectedness could be with friends, family, nature, spirituality or something else but it helps students reduce stress and loneliness. For balance, I encourage students not to overcommit themselves, take breaks and make sure to do things that bring them joy. I organize an event twice a year called the Self-Care Fair to remind students how important it is and share information about support resources on campus. Self-care could be sleeping enough, managing depression, finding a job or internship, eating a vegetable or practicing meditation- we all need to take care of ourselves and do not feel guilty for doing it!
What does representation for womxn in this field mean to you?:
Women have a stronger and stronger place and voice in health communication. I would not be here without the guidance, direction, leadership and strength of many other women in communication and health care, especially my current supervisor Jane Powers. Not only has she taught be about college health, she has shown me how to be an effective leader, mentor, an independent thinker and a brave woman. Learning from and working with strong women has been inspirational and it is my responsibility to lift up other women in this field.
What piece of advice would you offer a senior about to embark on a career as a marketer in education or healthcare?:
For marketing or healthcare, understanding people’s motivations, perceived risks and barriers are key in influencing or changing behavior. Listen to your audience or patient. Once you understand these things about your audience, it makes it a lot easier. My general advice is to stop defining success by other’s people definition. Everyone has a different path- it maybe curvy at times, it may be straight at times, you even might feel like you can’t find the path- that is 100% OK. Keep going- it is YOUR path and you are important. Jodie Foster said, “This path does not belong to your parents, your teachers, your leaders, or your lovers. Your path is your character defining itself more and more everyday like a photograph coming into focus.” It takes time and self-love. Like my advice to students about self-care, remember to stay connected, balanced and do something that brings you joy.