Caren Weintraub: Communications Director

"Sociology really helps me think critically about who I’m trying to communicate with and where they’re coming from."

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Caren Weintraub

Director of Communications

UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Major: Sociology, emphasis in Social Service

Graduation: 1997

First-generation transfer student and sociology major Caren (Tyack) Weintraub discovered a passion for communications and turned it into a career at her alma mater as communications director for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Weintraub, her husband and her two children have lived in Davis since 2004 and she has been working on campus since 2006. She is pursuing her master’s degree in communication.

What do you do at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences?

“I oversee communications for the college, specifically the dean’s office. I oversee a creative team of writers and we do everything from publication creation and management to strategic and crisis communications. I write the dean’s speeches and manage strategic communication planning for the college. I develop communication plans, oversee web content and provide consultative support for departments, centers and institutes. Food, agriculture and the environment are topics I feel passionate about, so it’s easy to tell those stories.”

How did your time at Davis prepare you for your job?

“A lot of communicators, when they hear that I was a sociology major, think, ‘Oh, that’s not really a connected path,’ but I completely disagree. So much of communication focuses on understanding your audience and knowing who to target and how. Sociology really helps me think critically about who I’m trying to communicate with and where they’re coming from—the political, religious, social, and economic sides of how they’re feeling. Understanding the culture of a group helps me create the message that is going to be most effective for my audience and for me. If you don’t understand your audience, then you won’t communicate as effectively with them.”

Are there any specific courses you found helpful?

“I took a strategic communication course, which taught me how to create a communication plan for a company, organization, department, or campaign and it’s a tool I have used for the last ten years. I’ve also found courses in crisis communication and ethics to be particularly useful, too.”

Any advice for current students?

“Definitely understand the resources that are available on campus and take the time to seek them out. It’s OK to ask for help, it’s OK to ask for support. I tried to do it solo and it was hard.

“I also think that there’s a lot of value in getting a job or traveling first instead of going directly to graduate school. Life experiences will help you narrow down your focus. Then, once you have a better idea of your interests, consider grad school.”

Any advice for aspiring communicators?

“If you have an area of interest you enjoy, start looking at those fields as an option. If it’s science and research, then look at nonprofits, government organizations or companies that value and support scientific innovation and policy and start tailoring your writing towards them.

“Sometimes, to gain additional experience, you’ve got to do it on your own time. I volunteered my time for a couple of non-profit organizations and slowly built up my resume by putting together communication plans so that when the time came for me to apply for the communication specialist position at Undergraduate Admissions, I had a body of work I could add to my portfolio. I’m not saying spend all your time doing pro bono work, but it’s a great way to get experience and support an organization you care about at the same time.”

— Noah Pflueger-Peters (B.A., English, ’17)