This fall, the Department of Communication held its annual Alumni of Distinction dinner, and the spotlight shone bright on recent graduates from the Communications Leadership program.
The first was Tongtong Qu, a Masters in Digital Media (MCDM) graduate from 2020, who landed the Outstanding Early Career Award for her achievements at work, and her unwavering commitment to the public good.
Tongtong’s early career has certainly been impressive: she currently works as a Social Media Insights Manager at Amazon and previously worked at SAP Concur as a Digital Marketing Manager.
An international student herself, she understands the challenges and supports international students in the program. As a Comm Lead Alumni Volunteer, she hosted multiple events during the pandemic. And she led a team of volunteers to create a comprehensive international student guide book that is a beacon of support for international students, unlike anything else available on campus.
“As a child, I was instilled with the values of humbleness, kindness, selflessness and uprightness, which I hold dear,” Tongtong reflected in her acceptance speech. “But as I have evolved into a young professional, I have understood that we also need to be fearless, be open minded and compassionate.”
Her journey is a testament to the power of communication to create positive change.
The second Comm Lead award-winner of the night was Cohort 18’s Ryan Quigtar, who received the prestigious Communications Leader award. As Ekin noted in her introduction, the award is for an alum who embodies the core values of our program: Creativity, Leadership, Story and Community. Ryan’s work, both before and after graduation, exemplifies what we mean by Communication Leadership!
He graduated in 2021 with a Masters in Communities and Network (MCCN) degree, is the executive director at Renton Innovation Zone Partnership. His leadership on the Skyway Resource Center during the Covid 19 pandemic was recently profiled in Seattle Times as an example of citizen action during moments of crisis.
He brought that same creative response to our program, playing a crucial role in establishing the Communication Leadership Consultancy, which was started to provide pro-bono support to community-based organizations during the pandemic. The Consultancy has continued in the years that followed, serving close to 200 clients thus far. But it never would have gotten off the ground without the courage and commitment of Ryan and the other founders.
“Setting a goal and not knowing everything, but having the confidence to be able to follow through and make something happen, I take pride in that,” Ryan said in the midst of an inspiring speech. “I think when we work with community members, folks who are vulnerable who come to you asking for help, your ability to say something and follow through on what you said. That’s how you build trust, that’s how you build relationships.”
Ryan’s dedication to community-driven change, and the conviction with which he engages with the world, are truly an inspiration. His story offers a playbook for how to leverage a flexible graduate school program like ours to have the kind of impact you want in the communities you care about.