Opportunities at UMSL help communication graduate Drew Dubis discover his career path

by | May 11, 2020

Dubis tried out four other majors and spent time at two other universities before deciding on public relations with the help of faculty members at UMSL.
Drew Dubis

Spring graduate Drew Dubis is completing his degree in communication with minors in digital marketing and Spanish and certificates in public relations and media production. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Drew Dubis has been in a reflective mood as he winds down his final days as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

The current stay-at-home guidelines have also left Dubis with extra time to think, especially about the past six years – from the time he graduated high school with few ideas about what he wanted for his future to today, when he’s wrapping up his degree in communication, minors in digital marketing and Spanish and certificates in public relations and media production.

Along the way, he tried out different majors and twice transferred colleges. He also enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard. Every step helped lead him here, where he’s set to hit the job market after completing a co-op with the Employee Experience team at Emerson.

“It’s crazy how things happen in life,” Dubis said. “Things fall into place kind of how they’re supposed to.”

Dubis is the first to credit the connections he made and the support and opportunities he received after arriving at UMSL in 2017 for making that true.

Taking advantage of opportunities

He was also proactive about making those opportunities. He approached Associate Teaching Professor Shannon Ahrndt during his first semester on campus and let her know about his skills in photography and video production – skills learned with the help of a friend he met at his previous stop at West Virginia University. He offered to make a recruitment video for the department, which Ahrndt helped facilitate.

It was during one of the recording sessions for that video that Dubis met Associate Teaching Professor Jill Alexander and got to talking to her about public relations. She told him about her own career before teaching and the merits of UMSL’s certificate program.

“I honestly probably wouldn’t have even considered doing anything PR-related or even realized the entire scope of what public relations was if I didn’t meet Professor Alexander,” Dubis said.

What he discovered was a career that seemed to rest right at the intersection of his interests in business and storytelling – using creative techniques to bring exposure to organizations, people, products and services.

He was among the founding members when Alexander launched the UMSL chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America.

Dubis had social media-related internships at CN Video Production and MARSfarm, a St. Louis-based Ed-Tech startup that kept him on as communication director for more than a year while he was still a student.

The only reason he left was because Alexander alerted him to the opportunity at Emerson.

“I got that job through Jill pretty much because a person at Emerson – somebody I work with currently – reached out to her because she was an UMSL grad and said, “We really need this slot filled. Do you know anybody?’” Dubis said. “They went and had coffee, and Jill said, ‘I know somebody that’d be good for this role.’”

He enjoyed working at MARSfarm, helping a small organization get off the ground. But the chance to work for a Fortune 500 company, producing content shared with more than 60,000 employees, was too good to pass up.

Dubis expects the experience to pay dividends when he takes the next step on his career path. He’s hoping to land a longer-term job at a digital marketing, public relations or advertising agency.

“All these great opportunities, I don’t think I would have gotten at a university like West Virginia with 40,000 students,” Dubis said. “I could have, but it would have been a lot harder. I’d have had to go knock on a lot more doors.”

Finding his way

Dubis had done quite a bit of knocking already as he tried to figure out what he wanted to do after graduating from high school at Chaminade College Preparatory School in 2014.

At the time he felt like a black sheep among his classmates who seemed to have a lot more ideas. After considering at least a dozen schools, Dubis enrolled at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, but couldn’t decide on a major, first trying philosophy with the thought of one day going to law school, then sociology, then political science.

Nothing stuck, and Dubis said family issues eventually brought him back home, where he took a year off from his studies.

He wound up moving to Morgantown, West Virginia, over the summer of 2016 to live with his aunt and uncle and work in the restaurant and bar they owned. He liked the town enough that he decided to stick around and enroll the local university, starting out in business but ultimately settling on communication.

Dubis also joined the National Guard, wanting to challenge himself and figuring it could help him pay for his education.

After a full year at West Virginia University, Dubis decided to move back home with his grandmother’s health in decline. Transferring National Guard units proved more challenging than transferring his credits at UMSL, thanks to the help of Sylvia Harris, assistant director of academic advising and student services.

“I think the greatest thing that she did if I could sum it up in one sentence is that Sylvia made my experience at UMSL completely painless,” he said.

He eventually found a placement as a transportation specialist at a unit stationed in north St. Louis County where he works one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer to meet his commitments.

Ready for success

Dubis’ ability to juggle all those responsibilities is one more reason Alexander is so confident about his future prospects.

“I am extremely proud of all of Drew’s accomplishments,” she said. “He is a hardworking, committed young man who any employer will be able to count on. He is not afraid to learn new skills, and seeks advice and input when he needs it. We are proud to send him off into the world beyond UMSL and sad to see him leave at the same time.

“I personally look forward to watching his career blossom.”

As for Dubis, he’s grateful everything has worked out the way it has.

“It’s been a long time coming clearly,” Dubis said. “I started this journey in 2014. So I am glad to finish it. I’m glad I’m finishing it at UMSL. I’m glad I didn’t rush anything. I’m glad I took my time to figure out exactly what I needed to do because I feel 100 percent confident, with my degree and everything I’ve learned and all the experiences I’ve had, that I can go out and be successful.”

Click below to see the recruitment video Drew Dubis created for the Department of Communication and Media in 2018.

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik