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Like Mother, Like Daughter: Inspiration Begets Inspiration

As Jessie Pagliari (MSC ’20) was studying communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she often called her mom, Rose Pagliari (MSC ’19), as she walked home from class.

From interpersonal interaction to the mother/daughter dyad, Jessie wanted to share what she was learning—and communication was a topic they were both interested in and loved to discuss.

While Jessie was earning her undergraduate degree, Rose was a few decades into her sales career. A high-level position at an IT services company kept her busy managing a portfolio of high-impact clients, supporting their training and learning initiatives by hiring talent for their IT projects. Whenever she saw Northwestern credentials listed on a résumé, she always took time to interview the applicant. “I knew there was probably something special about that person.”

One weekend in 2018 when Jessie returned home for a quick visit (she had graduated and was working at a media company in a business development role), she found her mother writing a paper as part of prework for admission to Northwestern’s MS in Communication program.

“I had been afraid to apply and didn’t tell many people,” says Rose. “I had worked all these years and accomplished all these things. I could think of a million reasons why I shouldn’t apply, but a voice in my head just kept saying, ‘Keep going. You have to be part of this.’ I wanted to become stronger, smarter, and better. I wanted to be able to share what I learned with other people.”

Rose says her inspiration to return to school had come from her daughter – although Jessie didn’t realize it at the time. “As a parent, to learn from you child is an amazing moment,” Rose says. We spend our whole lives teaching them…and then they turn around and teach us.”

Soon, the phone calls after class started again. But this time it was Rose calling Jessie to share what she was learning: from behavior discussions of high self-monitors vs. low self-monitors to the impacts of working globally and cross-border communication differences.

For Rose, the program was answering questions that had lingered for years. She finally understood why change initiatives sometimes failed, why some people were promoted when they lacked necessary skills, and the impact of assigning overly aggressive goals—and she was excited to share with Jessie what she was discovering.

The more she heard about her mother’s classroom experiences, the more Jessie realized that an MS in Communication might be a valuable tool for her, too. Only a few years into her career, she wanted leadership, persuasion, and communication skills that would set her apart.

“My mom was learning unique things that were directly applicable to the situations I faced as an enterprise salesperson,” says Jessie, who had moved to a role with LinkedIn Learning as a mid-market relationship manager. “She inspired me to want to learn the things she was learning—and to pursue a graduate degree in communication. It was a full-circle moment: inspiration begets inspiration.” 

One year after her mother, Jessie took the leap and enrolled, beginning the MS in Communication program in Fall 2019. “I was so excited for her during the application process,” says Rose. “I knew she had so much to offer. As I took these courses and reflected on my career, I kept thinking, ‘If I only knew then what I know now.’ I’m so happy she has that opportunity.”

Jessie says it’s been helpful to talk to her mom about what she’s learning and compare it to what Rose learned a year earlier. 

“I was pleasantly surprised by the corporate application aspects,” says Jessie. “Once we hear a theory and it resonates, our professors encourage us to try it when it makes sense. If it doesn’t feel like it fits, then challenge it.”

In one class, for example, students are guided through the steps of building their own leadership stories. Jessie enjoyed the process so much that she decided to try it out, sharing the concept with her manager. From there, Jessie led her team through a three-hour storytelling workshop. “It was awesome to learn it and then teach it back to see how much other people loved and enjoyed it, too,” she says.

In the past year, while Jessie has been working and studying, Rose has been reflecting on what she learned and the confidence the program gave her. Last July, to re-focus, she decided to resign from her high-level sales position. “I have all these resources and knowledge now,” she says. “I can do whatever I put my mind to. Now I just want to think about what that is.”

After she graduated in 2019, Rose combined the lessons she learned in one of her MS in Communication courses with her own research and presented at an ATD Chicagoland Chapter Conference about the power of networks. She loved the experience so much that she plans to continue sharing her knowledge this way in the future. “Your network truly determines the opportunities that cross your desk,” she says. “There are small things you can do to increase the power of your network. I want to share that with people.”