Rachel Taschenberger, CCT 2006

Undergraduate Institution and Major: Bucknell University: Anthropology major and Philosophy minor

Area of focus in CCT: I focused my coursework on media and cultural studies, including critical analysis of historical and contemporary popular culture; visual communication; persuasion; how the internet impacts privacy and personal agency; First Amendment issues; and studies of art, music, and body image. Whenever possible, I centered my class projects on media as a tool for cultural influence, motivations that drive media content creation, and social implications of this messaging.

What did you do before CCT? I entered CCT right after graduating from college.

What activities did you participate in during CCT? I worked in the Office of Graduate Admissions and was a Teaching Assistant for Visiting Assistant Professor Michael Coventry.

Why did you choose CCT? I was drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of the CCT program and the flexibility to create my own path to pursue my interests and goals.

What are you doing now? Where are you based? After moving back to the Washington, D.C. area, I spent five years as Editor and Content Developer at Born Free USA, working to protect wildlife in their natural habitats. Today, I’m the Director of Branding, Content, and Sponsorship at SOS Children’s Villages USA, an international child protection nonprofit. I guide messaging strategy and donor journeys, oversee the child sponsorship program, and write and edit content to inspire fundraising support for children and families around the world.

What aspects of CCT have helped guide your career path? I chose to write a thesis in my final semester of CCT–and the freedom to select a topic and develop my research interests became the first defining step in my career. My thesis explored the messaging strategies of two prominent animal advocacy organizations. Delving into this research sparked an academic and personal epiphany; I finally realized that I could combine my professional interest in communication strategy with my lifelong concern for animal protection. After CCT, I attended Penn State, where I earned a Ph.D. in Mass Communications with a focus in Strategic Communications. In my coursework and dissertation, I continued my research into how animal advocacy organizations can use strategic communications to motivate people to help animals. My career goal after graduation was to join a nonprofit and utilize my communications training to advance meaningful causes.