By Jeff Willadsen, WSU Global Campus Senior Writer
To Shaniqua Manning, life is a journey. It’s a chance to discover unexplored avenues, learn new things, and encounter challenges and opportunities along the way.
In May 2019, one of Manning’s life goals was successfully achieved as she graduated from Washington State University with a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, earned entirely online through WSU’s Global Campus.
“My experience earning my master’s degree online with WSU was instrumental to getting me where I am today,” said Manning. “After years of hard work, I’m so happy to get that diploma. It’s been a real journey, and I’ve learned a lot.”
Manning, originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., earned her bachelor’s in broadcast journalism from Howard University in Washington DC. She started her career interning at CNN and landed her first job as a reporter at DC’s NewsChannel 8. She later worked as a reporter and news anchor in North Carolina before relocating to the Pacific Northwest in 2005.
For nearly 10 years, Manning worked as an evening news anchor at Northwest Cable News and Seattle’s KING 5 station.
In 2013, the company that owned both TV stations was bought out. The following year, Manning was informed that her contract as a news anchor would not be renewed. She would have a year to find a new job.
“I had always wanted to go back to school, I just didn’t know for what,” said Manning. “In that moment, when I found out my contract wasn’t renewed, I knew it was time to explore a new chapter of my life. Graduate school was going to be a part of that.”
Manning made the decision to switch gears from broadcast journalism and pursue a second career in communication and public relations. Though she had acquired communication skills as a journalist, she felt she needed to retool her skillset as she began the transition to a new career field.
“Even though switching careers and going back to school is a scary thing, it really gave me the motivation I needed to get out of my comfort zone and grow. It definitely worked out for me in the end,” said Manning.
By this time in her life, Manning was married with three children, and planned to work while pursuing her graduate degree.
“With my busy lifestyle, career and being a parent, I knew that going to school online was the only realistic option for me.”
Manning began an exhaustive search for the right graduate degree for her, looking at online degree programs across the country. When she came across the strategic communication master’s program, she knew WSU by reputation, especially the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.
“The Murrow College has an outstanding reputation amongst the media community in the Pacific Northwest. I knew WSU grads working in the business, and I got the impression that Murrow degrees were of the highest quality,” said Manning. “When I saw the StratCom degree at WSU, I pretty much immediately felt confident that it was the right program for me. After all I’d heard, I knew I couldn’t go wrong.”
Manning enrolled in the online strategic communication master’s program in 2014, beginning her journey to graduation.
“Juggling grad school, a new job, and being a parent was extremely challenging at times, but it was worth it in the end,” she said. “To get through it, I had a lot of support from my family along the way.”
According to Manning, outstanding faculty members were also a contributing factor in her success. She specifically recognized Rebecca Cooney, a WSU Murrow College clinical associate professor and recent winner of the Oaks Academic Technology Award, as having helped her significantly along the way.
“Rebecca was great, just outstanding,” said Manning. “She always made her lessons engaging and impactful, and I learned a lot from her. Most of all, I could tell she really cared about my success, which meant a lot to me.”
A lot of what Manning learned in the strategic communication program has been useful in her current job working in communication and public relations. The skills she picked up in multimedia production and crisis communication have been particularly valuable, she said.
“I learned so much that I still use today in my current job,” said Manning. “It made me a stronger professional and helped me smoothly transition into my new career path. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to go into communication, public relations or marketing.”
Currently, Manning works at Boeing, leading communications for the Boeing 747 and 767 airplane programs. She began working at Boeing while completing her master’s degree.
According to Manning, being a Coug has become a big part of her life, especially since her daughter made the decision to attend WSU as an animal science major on the Pullman campus.
“Since my daughter’s a Coug now as well, I guess it kind of runs in the family,” said Manning. “She’s really enjoying her WSU experience too.”
In celebration of the end of her graduate school journey, Manning travelled to Pullman to participate in spring commencement. She attended the Global Campus graduation reception, meeting fellow online students and professors in person, including Rebecca Cooney.
She held her graduation cap high as she walked across the stage during a 2019 spring commencement ceremony.
“Being able to walk in commencement and celebrate this milestone in my life was the perfect ending to my experience at WSU,” she said. “I know that I’ve accomplished something, made a positive difference in my life, and set a good example for my kids. It’s just a great feeling.”