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Alumnus Spotlight: Rowena Winkler shares communication studies journey

Rowena Winkler once sat among the campus chatter, emerging herself into the world of arts and communications studies at TCNJ. From engaging with professors to navigating a wide variety of courses, she gained a strong foundation during her undergraduate years.

Photo credit: THsquared Photos

While at TCNJ, Winkler majored in communication studies with a focus on public communication and a health communication concentration. She minored in marketing as well as theatre and drama, and held internships at American Red Cross and Family Resource Network where she focused on non-profit public relations and communications. 

After graduating in 2008, she attended the University of Maryland where she received both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in communication studies. 

“I found myself being a rock star, pretty early in the game with grad school, and really I attest my time at TCNJ for that,” she shared in a Zoom interview. “I feel like TCNJ served me very well. I felt that I came [into graduate school] with strong writing skills and research background, which not everyone that goes straight through is able to do.”

Since leaving her role as a student in higher education, Winkler has ventured into a variety of fields, capitalizing on her expertise to create a career path that seamlessly blends academia, coaching and entrepreneurship. She is an affiliate professor in the online communications master’s program at Butler University. She also works with clients on résumé building and interview skills through the New York City based company Wanderlust Careers. 

Winkler has also dabbled in the career and life coaching world helping women find their authentic voices. She always had aspirations to be an entrepreneur, but it wasn’t until February 2021 when she started her own business as a women’s career and empowerment coach called Journey2Consciousness LLC that she pursued it. 

Reflecting on her undergraduate experience at TCNJ while discussing her current pursuits, Winkler reminisced about the influential faculty members who helped shape her academic trajectory. It was long-time adjunct professor Jacob Farbman whose public relations course nudged her toward the intricacies of public relations. 

Former professor Suzanne Carbonaro’s public speaking class laid the groundwork for mastering the art of effective communication for Winkler — a skill she champions in her current roles. Although Winkler was heavily involved in both the All College Theatre and the TCNJ Musical Theatre programs, she struggled with public speaking. 

“Communication is foundational to everything that we do, you can’t get anything done without solid communication,” she said.

Carbonaro helped hone her skills, which Winkler later leveraged to deliver a compelling TEDx talk titled “Finding the Answer to Authentic Alignment” in May 2022 about redefining success beyond conventional checkboxes, offering insights and research to navigate towards authenticity, fostering more joy in our lives. This experience not only showcased her growth but also highlighted her capacity to engage and inspire audiences. 

She also credits professor of communication studies and public health John Pollock for instilling critical thinking and research skills, further fueling her passion for communications based research. As he encouraged her to attend conferences like the Eastern Communication Association convention as an undergraduate, he helped to set her on a path of academic rigor that benefitted her future endeavors.

“He saw the potential in me and, you know, motivated and encouraged me to apply to graduate schools,” she said. “He was a huge resource in terms of where I went next after graduating.”

For Winkler, communication extends beyond the factual; it encompasses soft skills like empathy, leadership, adaptability and authenticity — essential elements for a strong foundation in communication. Networking, she added, is not just about professional connections but also about being authentically yourself. She advises students to leverage not just within networks but also faculty members, campus communities, clubs, and surrounding individuals.

“It’s so important because it helps people to see who you are as a human,” she said. “I know it’s scary, and for a lot of people, they don’t want to have to go around the room and shake hands and whatnot, but I firmly believe that you can get some of the best jobs just from the power of your network.”

– Riley Eisenbeil ’24


School of the Arts and Communication
Art and Interactive Multimedia Building
The College of New Jersey
P.O. Box 7718
2000 Pennington Rd.
Ewing, NJ 08628


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