NAU alumna and successful professional Michelle “Shelly” Talsma Everson returns to NAU to pursue a master’s degree in Communication.
NAU alumna, Michelle “Shelly” Talsma Everson, BS Journalism and Public Relations, ’08, is pursuing an online Master of Arts in Communication. With this degree, she hopes to gain new skills for her already successful career as a freelance writer, PR professional, and managing editor at Eculeus Group Publishing, which produces six hyperlocal monthly newspapers in North Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Peoria, in addition to a kids’ publication. She took a moment to answer some questions about NAU and her career.
You received your bachelor’s degrees at NAU. What brought you back to NAU?
So, my first time around, I came to NAU fresh out of high school and had the traditional on-campus college experience. I chose it because the School of Communication was just opening its new-at-the-time building, and there were plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning. Also, I received a lot of scholarships and financial aid. Now, I’m back as a mid-career professional choosing an online program because I work full-time in Phoenix. I look forward to seeing how I do in a college class, given I graduated 13 years ago!
Can you describe your career for us?
I am the editor of a family of newspapers in the North Valley (north of the Phoenix metro area). I am also a freelance writer and do PR when I can, with a specialization in nonprofits. My background on the journalism side is mainly in print—magazines and newspapers—and on the PR side, I tend to specialize in nonprofits and small businesses.
How will the online Master of Arts in Communication degree help you with your career?
I hope this degree will not only help me polish some of the skills I already have but also help me learn new ones. Eventually, I’d like to use it to maybe teach journalism or PR at the high school or college level. But that’s down the road.
How are you able to juggle the work, home, and education balance?
I honestly have a hard time balancing it all! But, when I do it successfully—I take it day by day—it’s because I have a lot of help and am learning better time management skills. My son, though, always comes first, so that helps set the tone for everything else.
What are your current career and life goals and how has your NAU experience helped prepare you to reach those goals?
My goal has always been—even when I was in college the first time around—to be a journalist and a mom. I have been successful at both, and it’s because of the skills acquired at NAU. Now that my son is 11 and I’m beginning my master’s, I’m not sure honestly! More of being successful in this industry, maybe teaching? I do have NAU to thank for my son as well, in a roundabout way! I met his dad at NAU—and some of my best friends.
Has being Latinx informed any of your choices or impacted your education or career? Do you have any advice for other Latinx students?
A small portion of the scholarships I received for my bachelor’s degrees were based on being a high-achieving Hispanic student, so that helped! I also had the opportunity to do an impactful summer program before my freshman year that helped me orient to college life. Otherwise, in my opinion, no matter your ethnicity, hard work and dedication to giving back to communities that you are a part of (whatever they are) is important.
What does it mean to you to be a first-gen student? Advice for others?
Neither of the parents that raised me achieved college degrees, so I consider myself first-generation (even though other family members have degrees). It was definitely eye-opening! I had to seek advice on a lot of things myself and carve my own path. My advice is to utilize the tools in front of you: the career center, advisers, friends, family, etc. And, when it’s hard, realize it’ll be worth it.
What has been most challenging for you? How did you handle it?
During my bachelor’s degrees, I was navigating a lot of the world on my own, so that was hard. I handled it with support from family and loved ones and creating a family of choice, many that I met at NAU. I’m grateful for them to this day.
Now, I think the challenge will be making time to get classwork done. I’m handling it by—fingers crossed—having good time management skills and pacing myself.
What work are you most proud of at NAU and in your career?
I was on the NAU school newspaper and radio station, so I was proud of that. It led to other opportunities. Since graduation, I have done everything from helping to launch magazines to nonprofit PR, all of which I am grateful for. My accomplishment that means the most is my favorite “Little Lumberjack,” my son, who is a pre-teen and forced to visit campus every so often with me when we go to Flagstaff.
What have you enjoyed most about NAU?
As a college kid during my bachelor’s, I loved the “small town” feel and the hands-on opportunities. Now, I appreciate the flexibility of the online environment.
Any closing thoughts? I’m so grateful I had such an amazing experience earning my bachelor’s degrees, and I’m looking forward to earning my master’s, too!