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Once a Flyer, always a Flyer

Once a Flyer, always a Flyer

Cara Gfroerer '24 September 20, 2023

Many faculty members at the University of Dayton are passionate about their work, the University and their students. Some seem to have been on campus forever. For two members of the Department of Communication, that's nearly true.

Heather Parsons ’95 and Natasha Baker ’99 both attended UD as students and decided to stay and make careers as Flyers. Now they're helping students navigate campus using their own student experiences.

Heather Parsons '95 and Natasha Baker '99

When Parsons, the academic adviser for her department, initially arrived at UD, she felt a sense of belonging. She said the University's values of community and the fostering of meaningful connections aligned with her personal beliefs.

“At the end of the day, UD is home. I’m excited to go to work every day because of my students.” Parsons said. “I love seeing them grow and observing their successes. I know I’ve found my calling here.”

Parsons recently had a student who came to her questioning her major. Parsons thought back to when she was a student and how lost and confused she felt in choosing her own major. She asked the student an important question, “What makes you want to switch to education rather than communication?” The student responded that she wanted to be a mentor, and she felt it was her calling to teach children. Heather encouraged her to look into opportunities where she could mentor and continue to pursue her passion.

Parsons received her bachelor’s degree in communication management, master’s degree in communication and her doctorate in educational leadership, all from UD. Her experience as a UD student has given Parsons a deeper understanding of her students, and she is even referred to as the “Com Mom” by her students.

“My students are like my kids. I always want to be someone that can help.”

“My students are like my kids. I always want to be someone that can help,” Parsons said. “I can better understand my students because I experienced what it was like to be a student at UD.” 

Similarly, Baker shares her knowledge and experience with her students to help them succeed.

“You can learn a lot from books and in case studies, but it is so beneficial to learn from someone in the field,” Baker said. “I wanted to help students, especially since there wasn’t anyone else [at the time] in the communication department that had worked in public relations.”

After graduating from UD, Baker spent nearly 20 years in the PR field but stayed connected with the University. Now, she teaches several PR classes and serves as the adviser for Flyer PR, a student-run PR agency. In Flyer PR, students participate in projects, such as helping companies with campaigns, social media and marketing.

Students created social media accounts and marketing for a nonprofit local farm. The farm has been open for 130 years and they donate extra food to those in need for free. Not only were these students able to gain experience, but they were able to assist a good cause.

“I want my students to understand how different things will be when they work,” Baker said. “I want them to be prepared.”

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