The Great Communicator

 August 21, 2015

Ronald Reagan as Radio Announcer, 1934-37

As the 2016 presidential election season heats up, you may get the chance to hear worshipful references to Ronald Reagan as the Great Communicator from some of the candidates. (Keeping track of those can be fun.) But you don’t need to launch a Hollywood career, get elected Governor of California, or take office as President of the United States to earn your own reputation as a great communicator. Strategies abound for building a slick communication portfolio as the new academic year gets underway. Brylcreem optional.

Leverage your passion for politics. Duke’s Office of News and Communications seeks graduate students to lend their voices to a project revolving around the 2016 election. Selected students will contribute one or two blog posts a month on an election-related topic of their choice, such as a candidate or an overlooked issue. The blog posts will be part of an active website that will include videos, podcasts, news clips, Twitter chats, and other forms of media about the election. The website will launch in October 2015 and will run through the 2016 election. Confirmed writers needed by mid-September. Interested? Contact Keith Lawrence, executive director of News and Communications.

Make yourself media-savvy. What would you do if a reporter called you to talk about your research? How can you gain visibility for your scholarship through an op-ed? Could your Twitter feed position you as an expert in your field? Answer these questions and more at three upcoming workshops led by the experts at the Office of News and Communications, sponsored by The Graduate School’s Professional Development Series.

  • Writing Op-Ed Articles (September 10, 12:00–2:00 p.m.)
  • Talking to Reporters (September 16, 12:00–2:00 p.m.)
  • Social Media for Scholars (September 22, 12:00–2:00 p.m.)

Learn from faculty experts. The Forum for Scholars and Publics organizes events that draw Duke faculty and their scholarship into discourse and debate with pressing topics. Find out how your research can make a real-world impact and connect with faculty who’ve done it.

Share science discoveries with the public. Elsevier has recently launched STM Digest, a project to connect cutting-edge science with the potential for great social impact with audiences outside the academy. They’re looking for early-career researchers who want to build their communication portfolios.

Write for this blog. Whether you want to gain some experience with informational interviews by writing a profile for our alumni series, share a professional development experience (like Harrison Russin and Jordan Schermerhorn), or spread the word about a resource or tool (like Abbie Langston), we’re always looking for guest bloggers. You can even blog about blogging, like Emily Roberts. Get started with an email to

Strategies like these can help you win one, or many, for the Gipper—and yourself—as the fall semester gets started.


(Photo credit: Speeches and Debates of Ronald Reagan from Wikipedia)


Melissa Bostrom, Ph.D.
Melissa Bostrom, Ph.D.

Assistant Dean, Graduate Student Professional Development

Melissa ensures that all Graduate School students can identify and develop transferable skills to prepare them for the full range of career opportunities open to master's- and Ph.D.-prepared professionals. She is Managing Editor of the blog.