By “remaining open to possibilities”, Amy Thurlow, BPR ’89, has enjoyed a diverse career rich in education, work, and cultural experiences at home and abroad. Thurlow is now an associate professor and the former chair of the Department of Communication Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University (the Mount).
Born in Burlington, Vt., Thurlow moved to Canada and spent her high school years in Digby, N.S. before making her way to Halifax. When leaving high school she was unsure what she wanted for her future. Thurlow chose the public relations (PR) program at the Mount because she said, “It gives you skills that you can take anywhere.”
After graduating from the Mount’s PR program Thurlow found her passion – international development studies. She worked in PR for international development agencies doing communication work before deciding to get her MA in International Development.
Thurlow was able to apply her passion to Unicef, working full-time as an education communication coordinator before finding her love for travelling. “One can learn so much more from travelling than they can from in a classroom,” she said. Thurlow has travelled to Bogota, Columbia to work at the YMCA. She signed a contract with CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) in Dominica, participated in the India-Ontario Exchange for Canada World Youth, and has experienced Nepal.
Thurlow highly recommends traveling to any of her students. As she said, “It’s about putting yourself out of your comfort zone and understanding that people in the world see things differently.” During her work term in India she recalls visiting Rajasthan and seeing Jaipur, the palace city, where some of the James Bond movies were filmed. Thurlow said, “I got to see the castle in the lake from the movies and all I could think was that it’s real… It was a great experience that I would recommend to anyone.”
She discovered her love of teaching, specifically teaching adults, when she returned to Halifax and worked at the IWK Children’s Hospital in internal communication. She assisted in the merger of The Grace Maternity Hospital with the IWK by using facilitation training to help the staff from both hospitals transition. “The training helped the staff work together and merge the different cultures from both hospitals into one,” said Thurlow.
By chance, Thurlow stumbled across an ad in the local newspaper for a teaching position with Nova Scotia Community College in its diploma of public relations program. She stayed with the college for six years before returning to the Mount, now as an associate professor. She said, “I find teaching extremely rewarding and experience joy when former students come back to visit, happily settled into their careers years later.”
Thurlow is actively involved in both research and community organizations. Her research is mainly focused on identity construction but she has also published papers on organizational change and identity construction through language. This past spring at the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada conference she received the “Best Paper Award” in the business history division.
She was also recently awarded a grant with fellow Mount associate Alla Kushniryk to create visual mapping of two-way communication networks in social media. Thurlow said, “I’m excited as this research has never been done before and I can’t wait to see what we’re able to discover!” They are partnering with an analytic software team, located at Dalhousie and Ryerson universities, to try and build a visual model that maps whether a company using social media has a two-way flow or is information sharing.
When she’s not working, Thurlow said, “I enjoy spending time with my family.” She and her husband Paul have two children, a daughter and a son. The two met at the Mount during her time in the BPR program.
From her own personal experiences as a student in public relations and now as a professor, Thurlow shares this advice: “It’s important to stay interested in what you’re doing, follow your passion, keep learning and always be a student.”