Since graduating from Northeastern in 2016 with a master’s degree in Corporate and Organizational Communication, Kathleen Anderson has become a published author, blogger, and fitness expert. Her planner is covered with different events—from meetings to networking to traveling. And now with her recently published book, “Sweaty Hugs,” Anderson explores the free fitness phenomenon and how it’s changing the world. Yet never in her wildest dreams did she expect to be here.
Anderson came to Northeastern from Scotland, where she received a bachelor’s degree in film, media, and marketing from Stirling University in 2012, before deciding to pursue a career in advertising. While she liked her job, she knew she could learn more, so Anderson started looking at graduate degrees. She wanted to experience living in another country and liked the idea of being in Boston.
“I heard such good things about the university from the people I knew in the states,” Anderson says. “They were all like, ‘It’s a great university. Everybody gets jobs afterwards.’”
Coming to America, she was surprised at the culture shock. In particular, she didn’t expect such a strong language barrier. Anderson mentions a time when she bought new sneakers for running—calling them “trainers” instead of “sneakers.” Anderson explains, “I wore them and injured my foot because they were brand new. I went to the doctor and said my trainers injured me. He said, “Oh, you shouldn’t let your personal trainer do that to you.’ And I was like, ‘No, no, my shoe.’”
At Northeastern, Anderson enjoyed her classes and meeting students from different backgrounds and nationalities. She also loved Boston, noting Northeastern’s optimal location right in the heart of the city.
“I was always out and socializing, trying to meet people and embrace the culture of Boston. It’s part of the experience,” she says. “The degree is not the only reason you’re there. It’s important to take in your surroundings and not just the library.”
While searching on the website The Boston Calendar for different events, Anderson stumbled across November Project—a popular, free exercise group. She originally went to a 6:30 a.m. meet up and never looked back. Anderson enjoyed the benefits of getting in shape, but kept returning because of the people.
“It became my social group, my coach, and my community all in one,” she says. “It became a significant part of my life.”
For her capstone project, Anderson explored the communication strategy behind November Project. Focusing on brand ambassadors from their online community who genuinely love and promote the brand, Anderson interviewed more than 100 members of the Boston group, as well as core leaders of the movement. She discovered that for many people, including her, November Project changed their life—which inspired them to promote the brand as much as possible.
Working with the professors at Northeastern, Anderson also picked up essential industry knowledge she would not have learned otherwise.
“A lot of the professors had that knowledge of different industries, job interviews, and skills—certain stuff you can’t get out of a textbook,” she says. “People forget that a lot of professors haven’t been professors their whole life. They have a vast amount of experience, so just talking to them, you can learn so much.”
Anderson turned her capstone project into a published book with the help of her professors Dr. Carl Zangerl and Dr. Patricia Goodman. Impressed by her thesis, they encouraged her to take to publishing and, together, they created a plan for how she would develop a book, with Dr. Zangerl and Goodman keeping her in check over the following six weeks.
“It was their enthusiasm and encouragement that made me do it,” she says. “I’m so glad I have because now it’s my career.”
“Sweaty Hugs” was published in February, and now Anderson is busy promoting it. She is currently touring across England, participating in events sponsored by lululemon. In addition, Kathleen will exhibit “Sweaty Hugs” at a British fitness expo and deliver a TEDx talk in April. She may have the opportunity to tour the U.S. in the fall.
Anderson aims to empower people with her book. “If I can inspire one person to find a fitness movement, go alone, and make a new friend, I’ve done my job.”
She explains that she could not have been through this journey without her time at Northeastern.
“My degree has given me a career,” she says. “I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be doing this, but I’m so grateful I am. It changed my life.”