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Communication Studies - Masters

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Tara Saylor

1. Tell us about yourself.
I describe myself as "perpetually curious," because I'm the kind of person who loves learning new things. That runs the gambit from scuba diving to the chemistry of cooking. I am a transplant to Kansas City, and I am deeply appreciative of the welcoming and generous professional community here. I currently work in corporate communications, with a background in copywriting and direct response advertising. I’m also the current president of the Kansas City chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (KC IABC).

2. What made you want to come back for a Master’s degree, and why one in Communication specifically?
I decided to come back for a Master's degree in organizational communication because I found myself missing a structured approach to learning. So much of what I was learning was driven by necessity--how do I get this spreadsheet to do what I want? How do I learn this new software-- that I wanted a chance to step back and look at the big picture of the professional field of communications. I looked at several programs, and communication studies was the best fit for both my interests and where I am in my career. I came to class with 10+ years of experience in marketing, advertising and corporate communication, so I wanted something that would challenge me and encompass all of those areas. 

3. Why did you decide to come to KU Edwards for your Communication Studies Master’s degree?
I don't think I could have completed my degree without the flexibility and support of KU Edwards faculty and staff. I worked full-time while earning my degree, so evening classes and with recordings and accommodation for business travel were a must. I also liked their philosophy and approach to understanding the processes of communication, so finding an interesting program that was convenient was a winning combination. 

4. How do you use communication in your current job on a daily basis? How has your master's degree influenced your approach to communicating with others at work?
My organizational communication master's degree has led me to be more thoughtful in my understanding of human interactions at the office because I have more context for what is happening. For example, I know that change at the company will trigger sensemaking as people try to understand the impact of the change. I can create communications that reflect where they are in that process and help them understand the situational context more accurately. 

5. How has the master's degree experience changed you personally?
It gave me more confidence in my professional skills. I am able to draw on theory and data to support my recommendations and decisions. 

6. What is your favorite memory from your time at KU Edwards?
I really enjoyed the in-class discussions, because my classmates came from such different professional backgrounds and were focused on different areas of research. It brought interesting perspectives to the conversations. We had people who came from a hospitality background and people who spent their careers in the military. We had people who were coming back to school after years of working and people who were pursuing a Ph.D. It all led to great conversations! 

7. What did you enjoy most about the diversity of your classmates?
The chance to learn from them and see the world from their perspectives. 

8. How do you see your KU graduate degree helping you maintain and further grow your career into the future?
It has helped me build new skills and gain confidence in my knowledge, never bad things for career growth. It also helped me realize that I may enjoy aspects of communication that I had never considered before, which has given me some future career paths to explore – and I recently started a new job that allows me to apply my expanded communication insights to tackle the business and employee engagement challenges facing a complex, rapidly-growing organization.

9. Anything else you would like to share with working professionals regarding the value of this program?
Getting a degree is a commitment and takes work, but it was very worth it. There's a lot of flexibility in the program, so I was able to focus on the topics that were the most interesting to me. I can't say enough about the supportive environment within the program, which was important to me because of my job. Everyone wants you to succeed!

 

Spencer Cramer

1.Tell us about yourself.
By day, I work as a database administrator at an engineering firm, turning construction data into easily readable reports and presentations for various audiences. By night, I’m a published short story writer, working on my first feature-length screenplay. I volunteer with a non-profit publishing house in Kansas City, and my wife and I are expecting our first child later this year.

2. What made you want to come back for a master’s degree, and why one focused on organizational communication specifically?
While studying literature as an undergraduate, I explored different narrative devices that an author can use to influence the readers’ experience. I became interested in which persuasive techniques worked, which didn’t, and why. The KU Edwards communication program gives a “behind the scenes” perspective on communication, which helped me to understand why some messages are more effective than others.

3.Why did you decide to come to KU Edwards for your master’s degree?
KU Edwards offers a great schedule for mid-career graduate students. Afternoon/evening classes are easy to fit around my full-time work schedule, and online class meetings give extra flexibility to my busy schedule.

4.How do you use communication in your current job? How has your KU master’s degree influenced your approach to communicating with others at work?
My position asks me to communicate with a wide range of audiences throughout the day. I often find myself as a liaison, repackaging information from one department in a way that another department can understand. Not only has the KU master's program given me the skills to help others manage their daily communications, but it has also helped me to better understand how I can improve my own communication at work.

5. How has the master’s degree experience changed you personally?
I have a much better understanding of my relationship with the rest of the world. It’s an empowering feeling to identify some of the concepts we discuss in class being practiced in your daily life. My writing has improved tremendously as a result of the program – I’ve been able to add new depth and dimension to characters and situations, because I understand the motivations behind their communication.

6. What is your favorite memory from your time at KU Edwards?
I loved hearing the personal experiences of the other students in the class. Everyone has work stories (good and bad!), and it was fun to hear how similar or different other students’ experiences were from my own. The collaborative design of the classes made this a fun experience, and it was easy to make friends over the course of a class.

7. What did you enjoy most about the diversity of your classmates?
My classmates represented a wide demographic range, which made for interesting conversation. Each student brings their own life experiences to the group, and the students challenge each other to see things through a new perspective. The program helps you to identify and acknowledge different points of view, a skill that you can put into practice immediately at home and at work.

8. How do you see your KU graduate degree helping you grow your career?
Being able to communicate effectively with multiple audiences is a great benefit for my professional career. Not only am I able to communicate more effectively with my coworkers, but I understand the dynamics that drive communications between others. My organizational communication degree allows me to develop a clear, well-designed plan for my future, as well as the skills to achieve it.

9. Anything else you would like to share with working professionals regarding the value of this program?
The skills learned in the KU Edwards communication studies master's program open up endless possibilities for your professional career. Communication skills are universally applicable and very marketable. I highly recommend the program for anyone looking to further their career or make a career change.

 

Max Hobbs

1. Tell us about yourself. 
I grew up in Utah and Idaho. My wife and I have four boys, ages 4-15. We've lived in the Midwest for almost 15 years. As an undergraduate, I studied graphic design, advertising, and business. I've spent most of my career in marketing and business strategy, working in agencies, startups, consultancies, and large corporations. 

2. What made you want to come back for a master’s degree, and why one focused on organizational communication specifically?
I often thought about getting a graduate degree. At one point I pursued an MBA, but timing and other experiences made it hard to justify the investment. At one point I was working for a large company in Overland Park that offered tuition reimbursement. It seemed like something I should take advantage of. I was interested in organizational communication because it was highly relevant to my day-to-day work, and I felt it might provide a theoretical foundation for something I had only come to understand in practical terms, through my own observations. 

3. Why did you decide to come to KU Edwards for your master's degree?
I lived very close to the Edwards campus, the program requirements were feasible, and of course KU has a great reputation. All the pieces just seemed to come together. It all happened fairly quickly. 

4. How do you use your advanced organizational communication insights in your current job? How has your master's degree influenced your approach to communicating with others at work?
My career has always been about sharing ideas in effort to influence perceptions and behaviors. I’ve always been interested in the less obvious ways communication influences our decisions and relationships. I was accustomed to seeing the world through communication, but it was pretty abstract. I often didn't have sufficient language or insight to leverage it in a meaningful way. I am definitely more aware of principles and fundamentals of communication. I think I'm a lot more confident in my methods and approaches to my work. I realize as much as ever just how difficult effective communication actually is, but I also have a better sense for how critical it is. It's worth every effort.     

5. How has the master's degree experience changed you personally?
It took me a long time to get through my degree. My family and work life seemed to get more demanding all the time. I felt many times I might need to call it quits, but everyone in the program was so encouraging and accommodating. They wouldn't let me fail. I'm convinced there is tremendous value in accomplishing something big—seeing something through to the end. It was a very satisfying experience. I think it did a lot to improve my confidence as well. I also think it was good for my kids to see me finish something I started, especially something as important as a graduate degree.

6. What is your favorite memory from your time at KU Edwards?
The campus is right in my neighborhood. It was fun to spend so much time there, as opposed to just driving by. It felt like an integral part of my life for so many years; like it's part of my home. 

7.  What did you enjoy most about the diversity of your classmates?
I enjoyed being in school as an adult with lots of other things going on in my life. The social dynamic was very different than my undergraduate experience so many years ago. It always felt like a comfortable and respectful atmosphere to learn in.   

8. How do you see your KU graduate degree helping you grow your career?
I honestly don't know, but I like having options – and this degree and the ways of thinking it has taught me applies to so many different types of work and career. I feel like it's positioned me to consider a number of different directions going forward. My family and I are relocating back to Utah, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.

9. Anything else you would like to share with working professionals regarding the value of the program?
We have unlimited access to information in the world. There are plenty of ways to learn and study and develop. The value of a program like communication studies was, for me, the structured facilitation of concepts and sources. I like to explore and learn on my own, but I really appreciated being pushed and held accountable for progress, as well as the rich dialog of class discussions.

 

Chancee Craig

Tell us about yourself.
I am an adjunct professor in the Johnson County Community College Speech Department. I have over 20 years of teaching experience both at the college level and in corporate training.

Why did you decide to come to KU Edwards for a graduate certificate in workplace communication?
New federal level requirements for college instructors require that I now have over 18 credit hours within the field of study I teach (my Master’s degree is in a related field). The KU Edwards Communication Studies program allowed me to earn the communication credit hours I needed, while acquiring the workplace communication certificate credential along the way.

Why did you decide to come to KU Edwards for your graduate certificate in workplace communication?
The KU Edwards campus is close to my home and several of the classes offered are offered online, which was convenient for me given my teaching load and family commitments.

How do you use advanced organizational communication insights in your current job? How has your graduate certificate influenced your approach to communicating with others at work?
I teach public speaking and interpersonal communication. The KU Edwards certificate program provided me with new research-based insights, allowing me to provide even more detailed explanations to my students.

What is your favorite memory from your time at KU Edwards?
Engaging with my instructor, Dr. Angie Pastorek, and my classmates. I was also able to strengthen relationships with my co-workers who were enrolled in the program – we studied together, helped each other with research, and talked about how we could apply the research to our own teaching.

What did you enjoy most about the diversity of your classmates?
The classes I took had individuals from lots of different business backgrounds. I appreciated hearing their perspectives in relationship to organizational communication and how it applied to their lives both personally and professionally. It reminded me of my own time in the corporate world and helped me see additional applications for all that we were learning.

 

Chris Melvin

1. Tell us about yourself. 
I'm originally from Overland Park and decided to start my master's one semester after finishing my undergraduate degree in communication. I now work as a flood insurance underwriter assessing flood risk for homes and commercial properties. 

2. What made you want to come back for a master’s degree, and why one in communication specifically?
I had a passion for the communication discipline that was instilled in me throughout my undergraduate studies. I decided it was the right time in my life to pursue higher education, and I felt that a master's degree would help open potential opportunities, which it definitely did.  

3. Why did you decide to come to KU Edwards for your master's degree in organizational communication?
I knew the KU communication department has an excellent reputation locally and nationally, the location was perfect, and the cost was nice in comparison to other communication programs.  

4. How do you use your new advanced organizational communication insights in your current job? How has your graduate certificate influenced your approach to communicating with others at work?
I communicate daily with insurance agents regarding policy rating procedures for various flood loss exposures. My master’s degree in communication studies really strengthened my ability to communicate effectively with different audiences across multiple forms of communication - written, verbal, visual, etc. From simpler tasks, like crafting an explanatory email to an agent, to the more complex endeavors, such as collaborating on a large presentation, what I learned from the latest communication research continues to positively influence my personal effectiveness at work every day.

5. How has the master's degree experience changed you personally?
On a personal level, my master's in communication studies made me more conscientious of the subtler ways communication can affect relationships. After studying interpersonal communication theory, I developed a broader perspective for how communication can either foster or hinder healthy relationships both at work and in my personal life as well. 

6. What is your favorite memory from your time at KU Edwards?
After defending my comprehensive exam essays, I was told by four professors, who I greatly admire, that I received the honors distinction. Since I had just poured multiple months’ worth of energy into acquiring a deeper knowledge of organizational communication theory, hearing this news made me absolutely ecstatic. I will never forget that moment!

7. What did you enjoy most about the diversity of your classmates?
I loved that my classmates had very diverse working and personal backgrounds. It made for some riveting discussions. The diversity of my classmates really helped broaden the exploration of ideas, which made for an awesome class environment. 

8. How do you see you KU graduate degree helping you grow your career?
The research and writing skills I have acquired alone have been invaluable. A significant part of this degree's coursework consists of probing deeper into communication phenomena and asking important research questions. Now the phenomenon I explore is flood risk and asking the right questions is of the utmost importance before insuring a property. No matter where my career takes me, I am confident that both the knowledge and skills I have gained from this degree will help tremendously.

 

Michelle Reames

1. Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan and attended the University of Michigan for my bachelor’s degree. After graduating, I moved to Chicago for a few years and continued my career in higher education at Northwestern University’s Law School. In 2015, I decided to come to work at KU Edwards and have loved working here ever since! I am currently the Assistant Director of the Academic and Faculty Support Center at the Edwards Campus. 

2. What made you want to come back for a Master’s degree, and why one focused on organizational communication specifically? Why did you decide to come to KU Edwards for your master's degree in communication studies?
I joined KU Edwards in January 2015 as an academic advisor. One of the programs that I advised for was the communication studies master's program, and as I talked about it with prospective students, I became more and more intrigued with what a communication degree was really about, so I decided to take a class so that I could explain the program to my students more accurately. After that one class, I was hooked! I always knew that I wanted to pursue a master’s degree, but was unsure what in until that course.

4. How do you use advanced orgnizational communication insights in your current job? How has your master's degree influenced your approach to communicating with others at work?
An alumna of the program once told me that “absolutely everything that succeeds or fails within an organization is due to communication” - and I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Communication is the foundation of all aspects of my professional role and is the key element that has helped me succeed in what I do. My master’s degree has helped me take a step back and fully recognize all the communication elements contributing to the dynamics of a given situation, and how those dynamics are influencing the team or organization as a whole. This has allowed me to be more strategic in how I approach communication with different stakeholders, complex projects, and organizational change.

6. What is your favorite memory from your time at KU Edwards?
My favorite memory from my time in the program was the countless study sessions with fellow classmates at KU Edwards North – aka, Barley’s Brewhaus in Overland Park, just down the street from campus. These “study sessions” ranged in formality and productivity, but the discussions were so rich in content surrounding what we were learning in the classroom that it definitely stands out in my memory.

7. What did you enjoy most about the diversity of your classmates?
The classroom dynamics contributed greatly to my education. Bringing together individuals from such a wide variety of industries, interest areas, personal backgrounds, and stages in their career, brought a diversity of thought that enhanced the classroom discussions, enriched the course content, and heightened the overall classroom experience.

8. How do you see your KU graduate degree helping you grow your career?
My master's in communication studies has helped me to be a more well-rounded leader, team member, and colleague. My degree has already contributed greatly to my success and has helped me to excel with any task that comes my way, which has opened many doors for me. I feel that we often view communication as a “soft skill”, but by using communication as a strong foundation, I have been able to guide my career to fit my interest areas and strengths.

9. Anything else you would like to share with working professionals regarding the value of the program?
Sit in on a class, and I can promise you will be hooked!

 

Lindsey Welsch

Tell us about yourself.
I am 50 years old and have been a professor at Johnson County Community College for the past 15 years but an educator for 25 years.  I have a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and a master’s in education from UMKC. I am married with a 22 year-old stepson who attended KU and a 7 year-old first grader! I love to travel, swim and garden. 

How do you use communication in your role on a daily basis?
As a communication studies professor, I obviously use communication everyday with my students. The KU Workplace Communication Certificate program gave me a new level of insight to share with my students as they begin to develop their awareness about all the ways communication functions in their daily lives. I love helping them build the communication skills that help them become more effective communicators at home and at work. 

Why did you decide to come to KU Edwards for your graduate certificate in workplace communication?
I was in need of a few additional hours of graduate classes in communication studies. After looking at the program details online and meeting with Dr. Pastorek, I felt the KU Edwards campus and the Workplace Communication Certificate program met my needs for flexible learning and online-hybrid classes. 

What did you enjoy most about the diversity of your classmates?
I really loved the variety of students in our classes – they came from different industries, professions and jobs. We also varied in age – from our 20s to our 60s. Some were like me - just looking to pick up a few classes, and earn the certificate credential along the way. Others were working on the full master’s degree. Taking classes with such a diverse group of people with different personal backgrounds, industry experience and careers definitely enriched my learning related to the communication dynamics we all navigate at work. 

Anything else you would like to share with working professionals regarding the value of the program?
I’ve found great opportunity to apply the coursework not only to my current job, but to helping me create new career opportunities for myself as well. In fact, as a result of Dr. Pastorek’s encouragement I opened my own business, Linz Social Media Consulting - and I am happy to say that my first client is the KU Edwards Communication Studies Department! 

 


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Jennifer Keleher-Price
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