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:

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 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.

Dr. Velez Ortiz, School of Communications professor contributed to the ASHR

Dr. Melba Velez Ortiz, Grand Valley State University School of Communications professor, contributed to the American Society for the History of Rhetoric (ASHR). The ASHR offers rhetoricians multiple points of entry and enthusiasm. The common purpose of this particular society is the study of rhetoric as a historically situated cultural practice. 

Her article “Medu Nefer (Ancient Egyptian) Rhetoric” was published on October 8, 2020, as part of the ASHR’s Teaching the History of Rhetoric series. The article makes a case for why Ancient Egyptians as African people had already developed a distinct rhetoric style two thousand years before the Greeks.

“I aim to add my voice to those who seek to bring about some justice to the intellectual history of communication studies by finally acknowledging ancient non-western canons of rhetoric ignored or concealed until now,” Dr.Velez Ortiz said.

Dr.Velez Ortiz uses this same approach when teaching communication ethics at GVSU. Rather than starting with the Greeks’ contribution to the study of ethics and rhetoric, she begins with Ancient Africa. She believes there is quite a bit of cross-pollination between ancient cultures regarding the definition of excellent speech.

Dr.Velez Ortiz believes that this article is an essential read for GVSU students and Communications scholars because “successful leaders in the communication field communicate ethically and understand the importance of ethics in the contexts of human history.”

The inspiration for “Medu Nefer (Ancient Egyptian) Rhetoric” is the references made by ancient Greek scholars and historians to the heavy influence of ancient African people to Greek philosophical, political, and communication theory in the form of footnotes and passing references. After observing this, Dr.Velez Ortiz saw it as her job to remind us of something ancient Greeks acknowledged without shame or hesitation.

“The research that is done in this area, including mine, helps to dispel myths about the lack of contributions of ancient African people to our intellectual history and morality,” Dr.Velez Ortiz said.

This article’s research began with a book she published with Routledge press titled “Maatian Ethics in a Communication Context.” She plans to continue to develop these ideas in other articles and books. 

“Dr. John Henrik Clarke once said, “All history is a current event;” I agree with this view and hope eventually, the field of communications revises its curriculum to reflect these ancient African foundational approaches to the practice and study of communication,” Dr.Velez Ortiz said. “If we started to take ancient African thought and communication seriously, future undergraduate students would both take speech classes and listening courses that honor the more ancient intellectual tradition.”

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.