Is the Combined Degree Program Right for You?

Did you know you could start working on your M.S. in Communications while you’re still an undergraduate? If you want to pursue a masters degree in the future, then the combined degree program may be right for you! The combined degree program can reduce total tuition costs and time spent on both degrees. These three students were asked interviewed regarding their experiences with the program. Find out if this program is right for you by reading these three testimonials from students currently in the program!

Grace Kiter

Grace Kiter is a communication studies major with a minor in ethics, culture, and society. Grace is in her first semester of the program, and expects to graduate within the next two years. Grace hopes to be able to teach communication courses at a community college and work as a communication specialist after graduation. She previously had an event planning internship at AmeriCorp last summer for the Michigan Community Service Commission. She currently works part time for MDOT as a student assistant. A random fun fact about Grace is that she hasn’t thrown up since she was 7 or 8 years old. Some campus resources she’s found helpful are the writing center and speech labs, as well as the recreation center.

What made you decide to do the combined degree program?

Dr. Anthony Spencer really encouraged me to join the program, but I appreciated that I could join as an undergraduate and get a sort of “head start” on the degree.

How is the program course load? 

The program course load, so far, has been manageable. I take two classes a week and I feel like the assignments and readings have been interesting and beneficial to me already.

Do you have advice for students considering the program?

My advice would be to do it. It is a really great program; the teachers, faculty, and fellow students make it a very fun and enjoyable experience.

Casey Johanson

Casey Johanson is a communication studies major in her second semester as a combined degree student, so she will graduate with her bachelor of science in April 2023 and complete her master of science next year. Casey hopes to become a book editor. She would also like to teach at a university or college after graduating. Casey works 30-40 hours a week and is involved in 10 hours of volunteer work. She also writes a few pieces a month for two online publications resulting from an internship last summer. When asked for a random fun fact Casey shared the hippos do not swim and instead they run and jump underwater!

What made you decide to do the combined degree program?

The combination of money and time saved was the biggest appeal to me! I’m also a little competitive so I wanted to be the first person in my family to earn a master’s degree.  

How is the program course load?

It’s pretty good, it’s definitely interesting to take advanced courses in such a broad field. It’s a reasonable amount of work and my classes feel more important than my undergrad courses have felt. 

Do you have advice for students considering the program?

Do it!! Who else has the opportunity to earn a masters in two years? 

The masters degree is usually completed in 3 years for a part-time student or 2 for a full-time student.

What campus resources have you found helpful in your time at GV?

The most helpful resource is honestly all of the different seating options in the library. I know it sounds silly but ever since I found my favorite spot at the library on the Allendale campus I spend most Saturday or Sunday afternoons camped out. Since I have two stepdaughters and a significant other at home it has been the only way I can successfully study! Other than that I have only used the writing center once on campus because a teacher required it for a grade, but I did get a lot more out of it than I expected. 

Riley Sweet

Riley Sweet will finish her first year in the program at the end of this semester with plans to graduate with her bachelor of science this upcoming April and next April she is set to graduate with her master of science in communications. Riley’s major is public relations and she aspires to work for a public relations firm or a company that promotes values she believes in such as REI. Riley currently works in the Speech Lab. Riley has an upcoming internship with an agency this summer. A fun fact about Riley is that she recently got into rock climbing and attends Vertical Earth, GV’s rock climbing club, when she can!

What made you decide to do the combined degree program? 

This program was very efficient monetarily as well as credits-wise for me to pursue. I had considered going further than a bachelor’s degree but wasn’t committed to something until I saw this program. I’m passionate about communications and research which are both present in this program, so a slightly expedited track just made sense for me. Even if I decide later on to get an additional masters degree in something else, I’ll have one which was completed early on in life and gives me a good head start.

How is the program course load? 

I find that it is manageable, but it’s really only manageable for me because I don’t have a minor and because my capstone was completed in my Junior year. If I had a minor, or if I had to complete my capstone while being in this program, I feel as though it would get very overwhelming. There is a lot of reading and bigger projects which take up a lot of time, versus many little assignments in undergrad. The program includes your senior year of undergrad, a time where there are a lot of moving parts and much of your future to think of. I found it was kind of hard to fully participate in undergrad activities and student extracurriculars because my grad classes are in the evening, a time when extracurriculars are typically scheduled. So there are some things that I have missed out on, and driving downtown each time can get a little annoying. 

Do you have advice for students considering the program? 

I would tell any student to look into it more when they are considering entering the program, it’s not right for everyone to get a masters degree and that’s okay. Resources like this blog and first hand experience are something that I wish I could have read when going into the program, just to learn more about what students think. Overarchingly, I feel that the combined degree program was the right ‘place’ for me, the professors love what they do and care about student learning. I don’t enjoy that grad classes are at night only, and that there is only one section available for most classes, but the participation among those classes is great to see and be a part of. 

For more information on pursuing a combined degree program you can request information from The Graduate School:

Talking Conference Experience with M.S. Student Brittany Bahl

M.S. Com student Brittany Bahl had the opportunity to attend and present at the Midwest Popular Culture Association 2021 Annual Conference. The conference took place in Minneapolis, MN, from October 8th-10th. We had a chance to catch up with Brittany regarding her first-time experience at the conference.

Brittany states, “it was a great experience, though a little different than it might have been normally because COVID was still a concern at that time and attendance was a lot lower than in previous years. Even so, I was still able to network with some people from other universities and got an opportunity to learn about what other kinds of research they were doing.”

Brittany presented a paper that has become the first chapter of her master’s thesis: “Prince Akeem’s Stolen Royal Oat: The Rhetoric and Legacy of Coming to America.” The paper she presented at the conference is a rhetorical analysis of the Coming to America film franchise, focusing on the rhetoric of toxic masculinity within the film, dealing with issues like representation, objectification, and consent. As a film analysis, it fits very well as a presentation piece for the MPCA. Bahl mentioned that “preparing for the presentation wasn’t too stressful, but I wasn’t sure what to expect (apart from a 15-minute time limit). The conference I attended was small, and most sessions had fewer than ten people in attendance. It was a lot less formal than I had anticipated, and it seemed everyone did what felt comfortable. Some presenters had detailed PowerPoint presentations, while others just stood up front and casually talked about their research for about 10-15 minutes.”

When discussing her interest in attending conferences such as MPCA/ACA, Brittany explained that submitting and presenting papers to conferences while in your master’s is “a good way to bulk up a C.V.” if a student is interested in pursuing a Ph.D. Since beginning the Program, Brittany has had the opportunity to present at two different conferences. She explained that “the process of submitting a paper wasn’t complicated once I found a conference with an open call for papers (CFP). The most difficult part is finding somewhere to send a paper.”

Some advice Brittany would give to other students looking to submit papers to conferences include,

  • Find professional organizations, small or large, and check when they have CFPs for conferences, or sign up for their newsletter and watch for announcements.
  • Ask a professor you know well if they would be willing to look over a paper you’re interested in submitting for a conference. I have had a professor who has assisted since beginning the process.

As for presenting at the conference,

  • Try to prepare something in advance if possible and then attend a few sessions prior to yours and get a feel for what others are doing.
  • Mainly, just try to get your work out there.
  • Make sure you give yourself enough time to edit your work.
  • And follow the organization’s guidelines for submissions. If your paper is selected to present, don’t stress. You’ll get to meet different people, maybe stay in a cool city, and get to share your work. 

Earlier this week, Brittany defended her thesis to the School of Communications M.S. Graduate Committee and was recently accepted to The University of Iowa to pursue her Ph.D. in Communication Studies.

Get to know your M.S. Com Students: Kevin Jurvis

One of the great things about Grand Valley’s Masters of Science in communication program is the wide variety of students it brings. Current M.S. student Kevin Jurvis is getting ready to finish his second semester in the program. Kevin double majored in Political Science and Communication Studies in his undergrad while also being very involved in Alpha Sigma Phi’s fraternity. He served as the Executive Vice President and President of the Fraternity his Sophomore and Junior years. Kevin has always been interested in Politics and has had multiple opportunities to work on various campaigns. He notes that he decided to pick up the second major (communication studies) after taking COM 101 as an elective in his undergrad, stating, “I really loved the material,” and further expressed the remarkable experiences with all Communications Faculty.

Kevin is currently weighing all of his options regarding his future career. For the last few years, he has been working as a transaction coordinator remotely for RE/Max Nexus in Birmingham, MI. And after working in a variety of communication-oriented positions and opening a dialogue with a few different companies, he is very interested in securing a role in the field of Public Relations. Kevin is originally from Huntington Woods, MI, and enjoys playing hockey, visiting his family’s cottage up north, and loves a good round of Euchre. However, in our interview, he mentioned that he is interested in exploring career options outside Michigan.

During his time in Grad School, Kevin has gathered some insight he’d like to share with others who are considering furthering their education.

  1. The program will be what you make of it. The effort you put in will directly correlate with your results. Therefore, it is essential to set goals for yourself, remain on task, and find a balance between school and other extracurriculars.
  2. It is important to understand that the professors are there to help you some days, it may feel otherwise, but the level of material is also meant to challenge you. You are choosing to get this level of education, and therefore it is your responsibility to hold yourself accountable for the level of work you are given.

So far, Kevin says he’s had a great experience in the M.S. program and is happy with his choice to pursue an advanced degree. He closed his interview by saying he would recommend this program to anyone interested in expanding their knowledge in the realm of communications.

GVSU Health Communication Coalition Connects Students to Community

Health Communication majors attending GVSU who are interested in critical thinking regarding issues surrounding health-in-society should consider joining the Health Communication Coalition (HCC).

The HCC helps interested students better prepare for their future careers in the health communication field by preparing them to apply for internships, providing networking opportunities with guest speakers, hosting Panel of Professionals events, resume workshops, and connecting with other GVSU students majoring in Health Communication.  

This year, the coalition’s E-board consists of Erin Martin as President, Kiersten Duiven as Event Coordinator, Grace Milo as Community Engagement Director, Ally Galanty and Sara Zennedjian as Public Relations Co-Directors, Addison Davies as Membership Co-Director, and Regina Porretta as Membership Co-Director/Secretary. Professor of Communication Studies and Health Communication Lorie Jager is the group’s advisor.

This year the HCC has put on many events such as hosting guest speakers, social media takeovers with professionals, the Fall Semester Panel of Professionals, and the Winter Semester Panel of Professionals. Coming up on Tuesday, March 23 at 7 p.m., the HCC will have Professor Jager come in to talk with their group about how, where, and when to get an internship. This will give students a chance to ask her any questions they have about internships. They may also have another guest speaker join them in April to speak about their professional world experiences.

Besides gaining access to networking events, professionals in the field, and obtaining information about the major, the HCC allows Health Communication students to come together, support each other, and make connections with other students.

“I enjoy being part of the HCC because it’s a great opportunity to get to know people in the major while also participating in events that will help build my career path. Being in a leadership position has also helped me grow on a personal level, making me more confident and excited for my future in Health Communications,” said Duiven.

The group strives to help advance students academically, socially, and in their future careers by providing them with opportunities to explore the major, interact with other students, and network with professionals that may help them land a job one day. 

“I enjoy being a part of the Health Communication Coalition because I love to interact with students who are taking the same classes as I am, and my favorite part is having the opportunity to network with professionals in my field and hearing what tips they have for us,” said HCC President Martin.  

The coalition also gives students a chance to explore the major if they are still undecided and hear from peers and professionals who can guide or act as mentors through their undergraduate studies. Students can join the organizations through LakerLink or by following them on Instagram @gvhealthcomco to keep with their events!

GVSU Alumna Eima Pandher’s Path to Becoming a VP at Kinesso

Eima Pandher, Vice President of International Business Operations for Kinesso

The Grand Valley State University (GVSU) School of Communications (SoC) sat down with alumna Mrs. Eima Pandher to find out how she became the Vice President of International Business Operations for Kinesso. Her story is one we are very excited to tell!

COURSE WORK AND CAMPUS INVOLVEMENT: Pandher graduated from GVSU in 2009 with an M.S. in Communication. As a graduate student, she worked for the Center of Entrepreneurship – Seidman College of Business, better known today as the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Pandher also joined the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO), a collective group of student entrepreneurs networking with West Michigan resources to learn and create business ideas and build strong communities. Pandher also completed her undergrad at GVSU, majoring in Advertising and Public Relations. She joined the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), where she focused on fostering strong growth between the student organization and business professionals in surrounding communities. 

“It’s extremely valuable to join and participate in local organizations within your university as it allows you to proactively gain mentors and resources you will need as you progress throughout your program,” said Pandher.

INTERNSHIPS AND RESEARCH EXPERIENCE: During Pandher’s time as an undergrad at GVSU, she had the opportunity to intern at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel as an Events Coordinator for the Catering and Events team. She was responsible for supporting the staff with logistics and operations. As a graduate student, Pandher embarked on a journey to Sweden to conduct her research on communication barriers between Scandinavian countries and the U.S. and focused on major cities including Malmo, Gothenburg, and Stockholm.

PROFESSIONAL CAREER AND ACHIEVEMENTS: After completing the graduate program, Pandher decided to move to San Francisco to be closer to her family and start her advertising career. She worked for a few companies before landing her role at Kinesso, which is part of The Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (IPG) – an American publicly traded advertising company with five major networks, one of them being IPG Mediabrands – IPG’s data management and media buying arm. Pandher has been with the company for a total of seven years and started as an Ad Operations Specialist working directly on execution and implementation of creative specifications, submissions, and ad trafficking through third-party ad servers, rich media vendors, and media buying for clients, including Johnson & Johnson, Sony Entertainment and Charles Schwab. She is currently the Vice President of International Business Operations and is responsible for building and expanding digital operations across all North America, APAC, EMEA, and LATAM regions for Kinesso. Her primary functions are digital operations execution, business data insights and analytics, planning, and project management while driving cross-functional collaboration and serving as the integrator helping to connect workstreams. Pandher navigates a rapidly evolving dynamic and organization to manage a broad range of projects to varying degrees of complexity, shifting from strategy to tactical execution.

INSPIRATION AND ADVICE FOR CURRENT STUDENTS: Pandher’s inspiration for success comes from the journey and evolution of her parent’s decision to move to the US from India and start their family-owned businesses. They helped build the foundation Pandher needed to strive in her professional career. Some advice to current students includes: Study abroad during your undergrad/graduate program. It will offer you an experience like no other. Join organizations offered at GVSU and hold yourself responsible for attending and participating in the sessions. If an opportunity is not available at your school or company, don’t walk away from it and expect it will eventually become available. Take the bulls by the horns and devise, deploy and create it.

“Fear will hold you back from accomplishing what you’re already capable of accomplishing. If you let fear win, you’re feeding the wrong wolf” said Pandher.