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:

“The X” Marks the Spot. New Student AM Radio Station.

The School of Communications has a new AM Radio Station! WLSX or “The X” is a student-run educational radio station that will allow students to get comfortable behind the mic and learn the mechanics that go into running a station. Students have had access to the student-run radio station – WCKS – The Whale and will now use WLSX as their “lab,” where they will work on their radio personalities and gain on-air confidence in the radio course.

We got a chance to sit down with Dr. Len O’Kelly, Associate Director in the School of Communications and faculty advisor for both student radio stations to find out more information about the new station and get some tips on the broadcasting field.

A quote in the Lanthorn article mentioned that students would have “material to go work in broadcasting” after having experience working in a lab setting such as the WLSX station. Can you give us examples of what this end material would include?
The final project in the class has students apply to me for a job. Their “package” includes a cover letter, resume, and a demo reel. The reel is an edited sample of the work that they did throughout the semester. This package is identical to what an air personality seeking work would submit to an employer. Over the years, we have had students complete the class and send the contents of their final package out to employers – and find work. I’m quite proud of that.

What are some of the things learned in the classroom that students will now have a chance to get hands-on practice with because of WLSX?
I like to tell the students that it’s not enough to simply know how a radio station works – you have to do the work for it to really click. I see the on-air component as a supplement to the classroom work. Likewise, while I can teach the skills needed to operate the station, I can’t teach personality and confidence. That only comes through time over the course of a semester and beyond.

What classes within the program do you begin working in the Radio Station?
Students in CMJ 265 Introduction to Radio do their “lab work” on the station. Students are expected to work on the air for two hours a week outside of class time as an ongoing regular class assignment.

What advice would you give to students interested in broadcasting but are uncertain if it’s the major for them?
I’d say to give it a try. When I started in college I was convinced I would remain my first choice – a pre-medical major. I took the radio course as an undergrad because it was something that I was always curious about/fascinated with. Something clicked immediately for me. I discovered my voice, and I felt comfortable as a communicator. Had I not tried it, I may have never discovered a talent that took me around the world – literally – in a 25-year career.

When will the radio station be available online?
Hopefully very soon! We are working with GVSU IT to make the necessary connections to get the audio signal onto an easy to access stream. I am hopeful that we will see this done within the next couple of weeks. Until then, it’s analog listening on 900 AM on campus. Subscribe now to ensure your the first to hear the station once its available online!

The opening of WLSX has garnered a lot of attention on and off GVSU’s campus. WLNS News, WOOD TV, The Lanthorn, The Holland Sentential, and GVNext have all covered the opening of the Radio Station, and are ready to tune in!

Follow WLSX – “The X” on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates!

Attending College in a Pandemic World: Tips to Get By

Hi, I’m Erin Martin! I am completing my last semester at Grand Valley State University, graduating in April 2021 with a degree in Health Communication and a minor in Advertising and Public Relations. I have had the privilege of leading Grand Valley’s Health Communication Coalition as President this year. The Health Communication Coalition is a student club that hosts networking and educational events that allow students to explore the Health Communications field and build relationships with peers in the major program. I have also had the rewarding experience to lead as a PR director, for the Miracle Network Dance Marathon at Grand Valley since 2018, working to mobilize and inspire GVSU and the surrounding Grand Rapids community to raise funds and awareness in support of pediatric patients and their families at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in downtown Grand Rapids. Finally, I’m honored to have received the Excellence in a Discipline award for Health Communications at GVSU this year. 

Before I went off to college, I could have never predicted that my senior year would take place during a global pandemic. COVID-19 flipped our world upside down, causing college students to adjust to an almost unrecognizable college lifestyle. As someone who has spent four years on Grand Valley’s campus, one during the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to share how I have supported myself academically, prepared for my future, as well as how I protected my mental health. 

  1. First things first: You’re doing great. I have observed over the years how hard college students are on themselves. It is important to know that your best probably looks a lot different from your peer’s best. Try not to compare your successes to other’s successes. College is stressful, especially this past year, and you deserve to pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for making it this far. 
  1. Network, Network, Network! One of my favorite ways to connect with professionals in my field is to reach out to them on LinkedIn. I search for people who have established a career in the field that I am looking into or who works at a company I’m interested in and connect with them by asking if they would be willing to meet and have an informal informational interview over coffee or on Zoom. It is a great way to make connections in your field and learn what’s out there. There are also more traditional networking methods such as career fairs, involvement in organizations or clubs, and connecting with professors. Do not be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone!
  1. Find your motivation and personal time management methods. We have all learned how essential time management skills are now that many classes are online and schedules are looser. I use an online scheduling tool called Skolar to help keep me organized. It will help you measure your time management skills and figure out where and how you might be able to improve them.
  1. Get out of the house if possible. During this pandemic, I have discovered the importance of exploring different locations to peacefully study and relax. It is important to clear your head, change the scenery, and find a spot where you can get away. It could be a local coffee shop, a special spot in the library, outside in a hammock, or anywhere else you can think of, just make it yours!
  1. Do not be afraid to ask for help! Whether it’s academically, financially, or mentally, GVSU has great resources that are free to you as a Grand Valley student. As a health communication student, public and community health means a great deal to me, and knowing that Grand Valley has these resources makes it easy to advocate for my peers. Did you know you get 10 free confidential sessions with a certified counselor if you’re a registered GVSU student? To quote the best, “I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.” – Maya Angelou. Be your own biggest advocate. GVSU also has a Lakers Together page filled with resources to help you succeed and stay informed on the latest COVID-19 updates.

To learn more about student clubs in the GVSU Health Communication program please visit:

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.