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Communication Studies - Masters

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Merritt Engel MA '01

President/Principal, Merrigan & Co.

Tell us about yourself:

I started the Communication Studies program immediately upon graduation, making me the youngest student to start the program (age 20). I specialize in messaging and strategy for nonprofits, and this year I purchased the agency I’ve been with for 18 years, Merrigan & Co. I also teach Communication and Technology for Nonprofits at Rockhurst University. 

How do you use communication in your role on a daily basis?

I believe absolutely everything that succeeds or fails within an organization is due to communication, both negatively and positively. My job is centered around creating communication strategies that cultivate the donor relationship. In our testing, we have found that effective communication with donors (in message, channel and pace) yields a stronger bond between organization and donor (and greater funds).  So many of the theories and tenets that I learned in the program have borne out time and time again among my clients and within my agency. 

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How has the Masters in Communication studies changed you?

In addition to making numerous professional connections and personal friendships, the program has forever changed my perspective on how to get things done! Communication studies principles have helped me manage change, plan succession strategies, provide subordinate feedback, write website copy and email, the list goes on.    

What is your favorite memory from your time at KU Edwards?

I enjoyed all of it, but I remember the group projects most fondly. The intellectual discourse, the marriage of communication studies theories and the presentation to the larger group was a powerful experience on so many levels. My classmates came from different professional backgrounds and organizational sizes, further enriching the learning experience.

Anything else you would like to share with the Communication Studies Community and prospective students?

You won’t regret doing the degree. It’s manageable, and you can set the pace. I am also very proud this is a KU degree. 

Shawn Scheffler MA '04

Manager, Virtual Classroom, H&R Block

Tell us about yourself: 
The usual, 48-year old, 3 children, 2 dogs, 2 cats.  Recently remarried on 12-13-14 to the perfect partner, coworker, companion, and travel buddy. Just back from honeymoon to Peru and Machu Pichu for a bucket list trip of a lifetime. 

How do you use communication in your role on a daily basis? 
To virtually and situationally lead a team of 8 supervisors and 256 Virtual Instructors in 50 states requires communication to guide, develop, and lead at a distance, many times without direct power or influence. Standing up, promoting, and building a brand around a new training delivery media, the Virtual Classroom, relies a lot upon the communication standards of purpose, audience, strategy, symbol use,  org and gender coms, etc.

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How has the Masters in Communication studies changed you?
I aspire to intelligence. I relish the right word over any word.  I no longer have the luxury of conversing with sound bites, but desire discursive penetration as Tracy Russo and Robert Rowland taught us to do. In a generation of text, twitter feeds, and webcams this change, this aspiration, tends to bring dismissal and belittlement… but there’s always hope that KU Communication Studies graduates will redefine the course of human events away from idiocracy.

What is your favorite memory from your time at KU Edwards?
The small moments. If there’s something I’ve learned in the long hours, days, and… years that we were together as citizens of this university, it’s that the big amount of time is really made up of significant small amounts of time… made bigger by what we paid attention to, what we shared, and what we created in that small… moment.

It’s the small moment when each of us received a letter accepting us into the Master’s program at KU, and the big moment when the tuition bill arrived the next day.

It’s the seemingly insignificant moment when we applied for financial assistance, and the significantly larger moment when we realized how much and how long it would take to pay off that loan… after interest, and deferral, and late charges, and—did I say interest?

The small moment when we met a new classmate and the big BIG moment when we were thrust into a group project together.

The small moment when we enrolled in our final class and the big moment when the classmates surrounding us are known by a different name—friends.

It’s the small moment we spent huddled around a television at the Edwards Campus when two towers came down, and the big moment when fear, awe, anger, and sadness seemed they would hold forever.

It’s the small moment when we lost our sense of security, and the big moment when all of us found a new definition of hero.

Anything else you would like to share with the Communication Studies Community and prospective students?
Don’t rush through this degree. Take your time. Pay attention to great instructors, generate meaning for yourself, practice your craft, and try to prove Kenneth Burke wrong by using symbols, not abusing them.

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Jennifer Keleher-Price
Academic Success Coach