Confessions of an M.S. Com. Student: Elizabeth Ketcham Kheder’s Top Five Takeaways

Hey, I’m Liz! I received my B.A. in Strategic Communication from Cornerstone University in 2018 and I will be graduating with my M.S. in Communication from GVSU this semester. I am currently the Graduate Assistant to the School of Communications and I am also the VP of Communication for the Graduate Communication Association. Upon graduating I will start a B.A. in Arabic Language and Linguistics at the International Open University. I also plan to pursue a Ph.D. in the future related to international communication. My current academic interests and research focus on women’s studies, Middle Eastern studies, Muslim studies, and media studies. Essentially, I care a lot about the way Middle Eastern and Muslim women are portrayed in various media today. But let’s talk about the M.S. Com. program that so many of us have benefitted from and love. Here are my five takeaways from my years in the program…

  1. Know why. Although graduate school is a lot of exploration and research, it is important to know why you’re in the program in the first place. Find what interests you. This is the best way to take advantage of all your classes. In almost every class that I took, even the elective, I always related the material back to my core interests and it made all the difference. It helped me think about my interests in new and innovative ways, it helped me settle on project topics, and it also made choosing my final research topic so much more simple.
  2. Make a friend. It’s important to have a key person or two in the program with whom you can journey through classes together. It makes those long nights of research and paper-writing so much easier when you can rant to someone who understands!
  3. Participate. First, go to class. I know it’s not always easy. We have lives. Sometimes we’re just burned out. But going to class not only means you are learning more but it also means you’re less anxious about what you’re missing. Second, speak up! Graduate classes are almost always formatted seminar-style. Don’t be the kid who never says anything…build rapport with your professors and peers by participating.
  4. Find your flow. Finding a process that works for you in research and writing is something that grad school forces you to do. My writing process has become very specific. I research and type up quotes as I go – I make sure I am citing as I go too because this saves time – and then once I have finished this process, I open a separate document and begin writing the body of my paper. Having my pre-prepared document of quotes/citations makes all the difference for me.
  5. Thank Alex. Alex is the king of the M.S. Com. program. A benevolent and sarcastic king. With his prompt email replies, quick solutions, and invaluable feedback, he really makes the program what it is. If you haven’t met Alex at Starbucks or encountered his yellow legal pad, I highly doubt that you are or ever were in the program.

Confessions of an M.S. Com. Student: Sam Elliott-Mosley’s Top Five Takeaways

Hi, I’m Sam! I received my Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from GVSU in 2017, and after taking a year off to focus on my career and plan some future goals, I will be graduating again this spring from the Master of Science in Communication program. I am the current president of the Graduate Communication Association and work at Spectrum Health as a project specialist. I have plans to continue to pursue higher education in the future through a doctoral program focused on Communication. Here are five takeaways from my years in the program:

  1. Find what you like. I know this is easier said than done, but take every new thing you learn into consideration for your path. Notice the materials you make connections with and seek out more. I took an interpersonal communication class from community college on a whim, when I was young and still undecided with what I wanted to do with my life. Curiosity can open you up to the life you’re meant to have. 
  2. Do the work. Read as much as you can, even if you don’t want to. Talk about what you read with someone (in class or otherwise). The more you read, study, and explore, the more you’ll be able to understand what you like – and what you don’t. Also, I’m not just talking about reading for your classes, reading for pleasure is part of what keeps me sane during the bustle of the semester.
    Currently reading: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
  3. Get cozy & appreciate yourself. I find coziness and comfort VITAL for success. Over time, I have tried to set up my ideal study space and make studying part of my self-care practice. It becomes so much easier to incorporate study into your life when it comes with soft pillows, multi-colored pens, and nice candles. Putting in the effort is hard enough, so you don’t need to be hard on yourself. Seek out and revel in delights, both large and small. Finally, pet all the dogs you have a chance to. 
  4. Ask questions. It’s okay to not know things, that’s why you’re here. Ask your professors, your classmates, your co-workers, anyone. Listen, discuss, ask more, repeat. 
  5. Do it for yourself. Although some people may face external pressures around attending college, I think I started to be most successful when I realized I wanted to do it for me. Education is expensive, so treat it like an all-you-can-eat-buffet. 

Confessions of an M.S. Com. Student: Jeannine Lane’s Top Five Takeaways

I’m Jeannine! After earning my B.A. in Communication Studies from Grand Valley in December 2018, I decided I wasn’t done learning and enrolled in GV’s M.S. Com. program, which I started in January 2019. I’m the Graduate Director of the Speech Lab, where I’ve found mentorship, opportunity, confidence, and a sense of passion that some people spend their entire lives searching for. In addition to my borderline unhealthy obsession with my job, I’m also the Vice President of the Graduate Communication Association here at Grand Valley! I’m graduating from the M.S. Com. program in December 2020, a date that is coming up far too quickly for my liking. Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned during my time in the program:

  1. Graduate school can be for everyone. I spent a long time believing that I wasn’t good enough for grad school. Once I started, though, I realized my program was a perfect fit for me and I’ve actually done much better than I did in undergrad! Don’t let fear and insecurity hold you back from getting what you want.
  2. If you love what you’re learning, it won’t feel like work. It’s no secret that graduate school is a lot of work, but my time in the program has flown by because I genuinely love my classes. Sharing classes with peers who love communication studies as much as I do has been a really empowering experience for me.
  3. Take advantage of your resources. As an undergraduate, I was usually too nervous to visit my professor’s office hours. Now, though, I know that faculty members are a wealth of knowledge, support, and experience. I make a conscious effort to build relationships with my professors and appreciate knowing that we trust and respect one another. 
  4. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. The first time I was assigned a writing response on a reading that may as well have been written in a foreign language, I was certain that I was doomed. It’s really not fun––and even a little scary––to feel like you’re in over your head. While anyone can throw their hands up and decide they aren’t smart enough, it takes grit to decide that you’ll read that article again and again until it makes sense (even if you have to Google every other word). 
  5. Take time to be proud of yourself. Grad school can be a whirlwind of homework, coffee, and (hopefully minimal) mental breakdowns. It’s so, so important that you take time to pat yourself on the back. Having a master’s degree is a special thing that no one can take away from you, and you deserve to celebrate your successes.

Dr. Corey Anton Publishes Article and Book Review

Congratulations to Dr. Corey Anton for his two latest publications! An article published in ETC: A Review of General Semantics, titled “Communication: the Act and Art of Taking-for-Granted” and a book review of “Cynic Satire” by Eric McLuhan, published in Explorations in Media Ecology.

“Communication: the Act and Art of Taking-for-Granted”

In this article, Dr. Anton questions the negative connotation in the popular usage of the expression “taken-for-granted.” He attempts to demonstrate a different meaning and usage of the term. He even goes as far as to say that “…it would seem impossible to not take-for-granted. Might it be that ‘taking-for-granted’ is the very essence of communication?”

The article can be found here.

Book review of “Cynic Satire”

McLuhan’s book is an overview of the history of Menippean satire. Anton’s review of it comes not long after Eric McLuhan’s death, making the book especially meaningful to those that loved him and studied his work. In Anton’s words, “This book will be hailed as one of his finest, a solid piece of erudition. It is lucid, meticulously researched and heuristically rich.”

For those that would like a copy of Anton’s book review, please email him directly. His contact info can be found here.

Communication Research and Practice Trends to Look for in 2020

Wondering what is on the horizon in the vast world of communication? With the new year upon us, it’s only natural to think about what 2020 might hold. Our faculty members, from various perspectives in the field, tuned in to let you know what trends they think you should expect this year. They assert that the study of technology in communication, the end of objectivity, a focus on corporate purpose, and environmental communication are all recent trends that will carry over into 2020. Read on to learn why.

The Study of Technology in Communication

Dr. Carl Brown, Communication Studies

Technology has permeated human communication. Letter writing has long been out of vogue and face-to-face communication, though still vital, seems to be going the way of the buffalo. In their stead, emails, social media, and video chat fill the interpersonal void. On one hand, technology mediated interactions remove some human elements of traditional communication. The ability to perceive and interpret nonverbal cues is, at best, reduced and, at worst, removed. On the other hand, technology allows interactions to take place that might otherwise not due to obstacles like distance or inconvenience. From professional positions to meaningful personal relationships, technology mediated communication has made the world a smaller place. This focus on virtual and mediated communication has prompted scholars to study the phenomenon by applying multiple and various approaches to communication research. Conversation analysts explore the differences and similarities between face to face and virtual communication, communication ethicists chart the ways in which honesty and open communication are, or are not, seen in this modern mode. Empirical researchers seek to identify predictors of successful mediated communication; interpretive researchers capture the essence of the experience of communicating through mediated channels, and; critical researchers look for ways to transform and expand access to communication. Regardless of the form of mediation or style of research applied to it, scholars are studying this modern communication in ways that ensure its transition from a trend to a staple of communication scholarship.

The End of “Objectivity”

Dr. Eric Harvey, Multimedia Journalism

For journalists and journalism scholars alike, the past 20 years has been a time of radical change. The thorough digitization of newsgathering, news publishing, and news consumption has occasioned significant changes in the fundamental tenets of journalistic practice. Print circulation has plummeted, online advertising is dominated by Google and Facebook, breaking news is often consumed on Twitter hours before a story is written, and new “disruptive” business models to reinvent the form seem to emerge weekly. Yet amid all the technological and economic change has emerged a significant, and promising, cultural shift. More diverse populations than ever before are using new technologies to make their voices heard, collaborate across continents, and, with data and documents, illustrate complex stories and hold those in power to account. Most compellingly, old school and new school journalists alike have come to the realization that the 20th century standard of “objective” reporting–always much more of an institutional mantra than an actual possibility–cannot meet the challenge of a 21st century world facing climate disaster, rising inequality, and a growing population who brands inconvenient truths as “fake news.” By preaching the gospel of objectivity, 20th century journalists established themselves as impartial arbiters of truth on par with scientists, which allowed journalism (and journalism education) to flourish in a society in which news consumption was mostly one-way. Yet even then, few practitioners actually believed such a goal was possible. Henry Luce, founder of Time magazine, once said, “Show me a man who thinks he’s objective and I’ll show you a liar.” Now, in a connected and curious world, journalists are abandoning what is now called the “view from nowhere,” that serves the economic and political elite more than citizens, for a model that is more open and honest. Instead of treating their profession as a rarefied skill, modern journalists are showing their hard work, both in their stories and on social media; collaborating with community members as fellow reporters and researchers; and contextualizing their stories with an ethically-informed worldview shared by their readers, listeners, and viewers. At a time of immense global change, journalism’s role is more important than ever. By merging traditional emphases on accuracy, timeliness, and fairness with newly honest, open, and forthright approaches, journalists will best position themselves to address the future.


Dr. Tim Penning, Advertising & Public Relations

One key trend in PR research and practice is the notion of “Purpose.” CCOs (Chief Communications Officers) are increasingly wrestling with the ideas that corporations can’t just be promoting their products and services. Companies have to have purpose, some larger societal vision for what they do and the impact they have not just on the bottom line but on society. This has been coming from related issues such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and other topics. What needs to be studied is the impact of articulating a broader social purpose. Does the purpose need to be related to the company in some way, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and gun control, or can it be about more general social issues, such as 84 Lumber and immigration? This affects other aspects of public relations, such as employee relations, in which employees often drive the purpose or chose where to work based on it; investor relations, given that many socially conscious mutual funds have merged; community relations, where in some cases business is seen as a better source of addressing issues than government, and consumer relations, since taking a stand can both win and lose customers.

Environmental Communication and the Anthropocene

Dr. Richard Besel, Communication Studies

For communication studies scholars, interest in environmental issues has grown steadily over that last few decades. In the early 1990s, “environmental communication” began to first appear in conference titles. Eventually, the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA) was founded in 2011. Today, environmental communication is recognized as an important topic worthy of academic attention. For example, the National Communication Association’s (NCA) magazine, Spectra, prominently displayed “Communication and the Environment” on its cover last March. Within this larger interest area of environmental communication, scholars have recently begun to consider a fairly new idea: the Anthropocene. At the 2019 NCA convention, there was a panel session on “Communication and Surviving in the Anthropocene.” Popularized by atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen, the Anthropocene is a proposed geological epoch when humans have a significant impact on the environment. Environmental communication scholars have an interest in several aspects of this new name and time: Are we really in a new geological epoch? How has the way we communicated about major environmental concerns, such as climate change, brought us to this point? Where do we go from here? Environmental communication concerns, such as those associated with understanding the Anthropocene, will likely maintain our scholarly focus for years to come.

So there you have it. Our experts have weighed in and now it’s your turn. Let us know what you think we should be looking for in 2020.

This post was co-authored by Drs. Brown, Harvey, Penning, and Besel.