Department of Communication Studies

Tara Ely

Tara Ely

If someone says “aviation,” you may think of pilots or engineering. Ask Tara Ely what she thinks of, and she’ll tell you “communication.”

With a master’s degree in hand, Tara unfortunately struggled to find work due to the economy. She took a temporary job at the Des Moines International Airport. When a full-time position finally opened up, Tara was able to beat out nearly 300 applicants. “I credit my work experience and communication background for this,” she says.

Today, Tara is pursuing a career in Aviation Management at the Des Moines International Airport. She has implemented social media programs, written articles for the organization’s newsletter, and has worked with Public Relations and Marketing on various projects. In addition to the commercial airport, Tara works at Elliot Aviaiton. “Working there helps me understand the private-side of an airport, which is very different from the commercial side”

Exploring many areas of the aviation industry may stem from her time as a Communication Studies graduate student at UNI. “UNI was different because I feel I was given individual attention to develop my skills quickly. I got to take the classes I was interested in, and was given the freedom to pursue research projects that aligned with my passions.”

Even though a full-time master’s student typically takes two years to complete coursework, Tara says a rich educational experience can happen in that timeframe if students take ownership of their studies. “Get a mentor,” she urges. “Graduate school is great, but it can also be a challenging time. Mentors encourage you and let you know that what you are feeling is normal. “

Tara is thankful for Dr. April Chatham-Carpenter’s mentorship while at UNI. This connection gave Tara the chance to travel with April and her family to Beijing to present her research paper. She also traveled to Shanghai and stayed with Dr. Joyce Chen. “This experience of presenting and traveling helped me to see that learning takes place beyond the borders of the Cedar Falls campus.”

Indeed, Tara can provide proof that communication is found just about anywhere.