Leadership practice in communications

Lew MacDonald is wearing dark rimmed glasses and a white collared shirt. He has a full bear and dark hair.

This story is part of a series highlighting students from the Master of Arts in Professional Communication program.


I’m currently the coordinator of campaigns and communications for the BC Nurses’ Union, where I’ve worked for the past 11 years. Most of my career has focused on issues-based campaigns as well as political campaigns targeted at external audiences.  

I heard good things years ago about the residency experience from some of the first Master of Arts in Professional Communications program participants. That planted the seed. Then, when my daughter became older and more independent, I felt like I had the time to devote to the program while continuing to work full time.   

I’m in the process of turning a page, looking inward, and focusing more on my leadership practice and fostering effective internal communications within teams and organizations that are doing the work. 


My program highlights 

New Skills & Perspectives 

I’m further developing my communication allyship and helping to challenge settler colonial positionalities in a way that furthers processes of decolonization and supports Indigenous resurgence and nationhood. 

I was surprised by how much I learned about myself in Dr. Patrick O’Neill’s PCOM645 course – Organizational Design, Communication and Knowledge Management. Since taking the course, I’ve re-framed my own leadership practice and have since developed a clear organizational vision that guides how I approach my day-to-day work.    

Research Paper 

I began the program on the thesis track and later opted for the research paper track. I’ve been studying responses to the toxic drug crisis as a discursive formation to better understand how social stigma operates to continuously marginalize victims of prohibition (commonly referred to as people who use drugs). 

Program Support 

 I experienced significant mental health challenges soon after beginning the program five years ago, and my journey has involved extended leaves and many course extensions. I will be eternally grateful for the support and patience of Dr. Virginia McKendry, who stood by me in the darkest moments. 


To new students, my advice is don’t be afraid to push yourself and take risks. You’ll be learning a lot in a graduate program, but you are in the driver’s seat and you should know where you want to go. And don’t fear failure! Yes, your work will be evaluated, but all the faculty and staff at RRU only want to see you succeed, and I know from experience that they will go out of their way to support you if the going gets tough. 


Learn more about the Master of Arts in Professional Communication program.