Graduating Student Sharlyn Monillas Tells Us About Her Time in CMNS

October 04, 2022

School of Communication student Sharlyn Monillas is graduating in two days with a Communication major and a Publishing minor. She currently works at a Jewish non-profit as a Social Media Specialist, a job she obtained with the help of her three-term co-op experience. She's also involved in both the worship band and youth ministry at her church. When Sharlyn is not working or volunteering, you can find her hanging out with friends, watching movies, or singing.

We sat down with Sharlyn to chat about her experience in the School of Communication.

You're graduating on Thursday! How do you feel about the upcoming convocation?

It feels unreal! It's crazy to think that four years ago I was struggling to get into university and did not have the self-confidence to believe in myself. And yet here I am today about to walk the stage and graduate! The ups and downs I've experienced in the past four years (not to mention completing my degree during a pandemic) has helped me grow so much, not just as a student but as a person. I wouldn't trade anything for this experience.

How are you planning to celebrate graduating?

I will be celebrating with my family and friends and eating lots of good food! I also hope to take a graduation trip next year to either Japan or Mexico.

During your time at SFU, you majored in Communication and minored in Publishing. What was the most rewarding aspect of each?

Taking on a CMNS major and Publishing minor was so rewarding and beneficial. I loved being a CMNS major because I learned new perspectives and critical approaches to view the world. We, as passive audience members, often take in information blindly, so being a CMNS major really made me question why things are the way they are. CMNS has also helped me navigate this digital world we now live in.

On the other hand, being a Publishing minor is where I learned most of my technical skills. I took really cool classes, where I studied digital marketing, event management, publication design, magazine publishing, and more! I learned how to use Adobe and even created my own website, which helped me land my current job.

Overall, taking both programs was the perfect combination to prepare me for a career in media and communications!

You were an active member in the SFU community (Events Director of HerCampus, Event Coordinator for Peak Frequency, etc.). What made you get involved? Would you recommend new SFU students to do the same?

I love getting involved, and joining clubs is the best way to do so. Not only did it break me out of my shell, but it also helped me gain the skills and background I needed for future jobs. I also made so many friends from these clubs. They became my support system all throughout my undergrad. I truly recommend new students to join clubs, get involved in student associations, and to just put themselves out there. It's so worth it!

Tell us about your three successful co-op terms.

I was lucky enough to have experienced three diverse work terms. I started off as a Communications and Development Assistant at a non-profit that worked with vulnerable families. This is where I built the foundation of my skillset. I learned how to use Canva and Mailchimp and also gained experience in project management and team collaboration. I also fell in love with the non-profit sector and working at a place where stall well-being and helping others were priorities.

I then took on a Marketing Specialist position at a small mortgage start-up, where I experienced the corporate aspect of marketing. Because I was on a marketing team of one, I learned how to work independently, how to be self-sufficient, and how to be more confident. I even learned a thing or two about buying a home in BC.

I ended my co-op journey by working for SFU at Career and Volunteer Services as a Communications and Engagement Strategist. I put my event management and leadership skills to use by assisting with online workshops, co-leading a panel, and hosting a video series through conducting online interviews. Through this final co-op job, I learned how to take initiative to be the leader I am today.

Now, I'm putting all these learned skills that I wouldn't have if not for my co-op experience to use. I highly recommend all students to try co-op and take advantage of what it can offer.

What were your favourite CMNS courses?

While I thoroughly enjoyed most of my CMNS classes, two that stood out were CMNS 221 (Media and Popular Cultures) taught by Nicole Stewart and CMNS 323 (Cultural Dimensions in Advertising) taught by Jodi Baker. CMNS 221 gave me the theoretical framework and foundation to conduct critical analysis. And because it did touch on popular topics and current trends, doing the assignments were a lot of fun since I got to write about one of my favourite reality TV shows, America's Got Talent. I also loved having Nicole as a professor, as she always brought so much energy and enthusiasm into the course.

CMNS 323 is no stranger to most Communication students, as it's one of the most recommended courses, solely for its eye-opening content and amazing professor. Jodi always provided so much entertainment and relevant information. I took this class during the pandemic, and Jodi was super flexible, which also made it easier to navigate the course.

I loved the structure and content of both classes. We're lucky to have such awesome professors here in the School of Communication.

How have your CMNS skills helped with the success of your involvement in the different clubs?

One of my biggest takeaways from being a CMNS major is learning how to approach and understand a situation from different perspectives. In CMNS we often had to apply theoretical frameworks onto discourse and conduct all kinds of analyses. Whether it be a reading, video, social media post, movie, or TV show, I learned how to analyze a subject through different lenses. This skill has helped me in my club involvement because I can adapt to the perspective and situation of the club more easily. Whether I was conducting events or managing a social media account, I was able to take the vision and turn it into a palpable goal. CMNS taught me to become more observant, introspective, and understanding.

What have you learned about yourself during your time as an undergrad?

I learned to embrace my extroverted-ness and my love for people. I never considered myself outgoing before. It wasn't until I started joining clubs that I learned to use my people skills as an advantage to make others feel comfortable and accepted. I also learned that while it's good to take on multiple commitments, it can be overwhelming and, at times, straining on your mental health. I experienced burnout multiple times and have learned now to give myself permission to rest.

I also learned that success is subjective. It can mean something different to everyone. Having a 4.0 GPA can indicate success, sure, but so can a B in a class you struggled in. Graduating is successful and great but so is getting help for your mental health. I've learned to take pride in my achievements and will continue to celebrate my successes no matter how small or big they may be.

What are your aspirations after graduation?

As I transition from a student to a working gal, I am hoping to continue my position for a year to help me get settled. I love working for a non-profit and definitely see myself continuing in this work. If not at my current organization, then another who deals with things I'm passionate about. I would love to one day work at an organization that helps human trafficking victims or one that contributes to BIPOC and LGBT communities. I would also love to start my own event planning comany. I have such a passion for creating spaces and moments for people to gather. 

What advice do you have for current CMNS students?

Get involved! It's so rewarding! Not only do you gain career-related experience, but you also gain community and personal growth. Most of my most rewarding experiences came from club moments. Some of my favourite memories during undergrad where the times my teammates and I went for late night food trips after an event or a club meeting. Go to Clubs Day, career fairs, and events. Find something that interests you and take the opportunity to get involved.


Is there something you wish you know now that you wish you would've known at the start of your degree?

At the start, you often think you don't know how you're going to complete all your assignments, or you think you're never going to graduate. That's surely what I thought. Doubt has impacted my mental health over the years, so I wish I would've known not to doubt myself at the beginning of my undergrad journey. I wish I would've known then that I would get through it. As I move forward in my career, I am going to try to steer away from self-doubt and believe in myself a little bit more.

What has been your favourite SFU memory?

One of my favourite memories comes from performing at the 2019 SFU's Got Talent. It was a talent showcase hosted by the SFU Peak Frequency Club (which I was a part of) and SFSS. While I never took home the cash prize, I loved the experience of performing at SFU. At one point the crowd had begun to sing with me, which was crazy. It had also helped plan the event, so to see and be a part of its success with my friends was very rewarding.