Getting back into a student frame of mind after many years away from the classroom was challenging, but MScom4 member Armin Lutz says the program gave him a unique educational and network experience that continues to yield benefits two years later. Lutz is Vice Director and Head of Communications and Advertising for Debrunner Acifer, a St. Gallen-based national materials distributor specializing in steel, metal, water supply and tools for industry, building and craftsmanship with 15 sales stores and 23 offices in Switzerland.
“I read about MScom in the newspaper when the program was just being launched and had wanted to be part of MScom1, but because of my career, it wasn’t possible at that time for me to enroll,” said Lutz. “I come from the practical side of communications, having first worked as a chemical laboratory Assistant before moving into product management and then managing an advertising agency. I wanted the academic background to back up my practical experience, and it was important to me to get the latest knowledge in the field of communications.”
When the time was right, Lutz chose MScom because “it was the only educational program available that could give me the education I wanted.”
"I really wanted to learn something and was committed to spending the time and money to learn it, and it struck me that it was best for me to be in a program where I could continue working, but have a separation from work so that I could really concentrate,” he explained. “MScom, by being in Lugano, provided the right amount of distance from St. Gallen, allowing me to continue working and still concentrate on my studies.”
Group spirit continues
Lutz expected MScom to deliver a superior educational experience, but he says he’s received much more.
“MScom was one of the best times of my life. I learned so much in the program, but in addition to the excellent education I received, I gained a lot from the group spirit of our MScom4 class and of the diploma project team I was on,” he explained. “Our research project on reputation management for the government of Liechtenstein had such a cohesive team from the start, and this gave us an easy start. Also interesting was the fact that our team was so well-rounded. We had members from marketing, journalism and government, and we all became good friends and still are in touch two years later.”
That research project went on to earn the International Association of Business Communicators’ prestigious Gold Quill Award and the Institute for Public Relations’ Silver Ruler of Measurement Award.
Winning wasn’t the important thing, though. The important thing was that we were doing something absolutely new and influencing the reputation of a country,” Lutz said. “The real highlight associated with the research project was the actual work: the research, the discussions and the team spirit we achieved. The awards were just a nice addition to a really great, hands-on MScom research experience.”
Self-discipline is key
Committing a quarter of every month to an educational program calls on one’s self-discipline, Lutz said.
“I’m used to working independently, so self-discipline wasn’t a problem for me, but I can see how it was challenging for some other students. My priority when I was in Lugano was studying and participating in class, and my priority when I was in St. Gallen was work,” he explained. “Also, I tended to some of my work responsibilities during MScom lunch breaks and in the evenings. You just have to set your priorities and stay with them.”
Lutz was also pleased that the program was English-based.
“I had good English knowledge to begin with, but it improved through MScom. It was interesting for me to do the whole program in English. If it had been in German, I still would have enrolled, but we wouldn’t have had all the great lecturers that afforded by an English-based program,” he said. “For me, the most challenging aspect was all the theory. Getting into an academic mindset after years away from school, and sitting there for whole days and listening and discussing is challenging. It really requires you to make a transition, but I got used to it quickly.”
MScom already is yielding tangible benefits in his professional life.
“I know that management in our company really appreciated that I did the MScom program, and I know it helped build my professional credibility because I was promoted to Vice Director and Head of Communications and Advertising after completing MScom,” said Lutz, who has been with the company for six years.
“Based on what I learned in MScom, I have a big book of projects I want to carry out at work, like sponsoring projects for business to business. Of course, you can’t change the world in two years, but there are so many good things that can be achieved professionally,” he said.
Text based on interview carried out in July 2005.