Going the Distance – Grad School

The Strategic Events Planning committee of students arranged for a group of panelists to speak on the Master of Science in Strategic Communication degree Friday  morning in the Hurlburt Student Center.

The whole point of “COMS Week” is to provide communication majors at Radford University the opportunity to gain practical, hands-on experience in the field of their choosing, ranging from Journalism and Public Relations to workshops that help gear them toward making themselves marketable and, essentially, employable after graduation.

Panelists on Grad School

Dr. John Brummette, associate professor and graduate coordinator for the School of Communication, also a graduate of Radford’s Master’s program, is joined by instructor Kim Herbert, graduate teaching fellow Andie Fescemyer, graduate research fellow Colin Huband and graduate teaching assistant Stefani Szkalak to deliver a talk on what it takes to earn your graduate’s degree. 

“We pay you to go to school,” said Brummette. With the university having a rolling admission program, he encouraged students to apply all the way up to August despite the Feb. 1 deadline. “Graduate school works very hard, and if there’s any money, we send it to you. Feb. 1 is the priority registration deadline, but we tend to have funding still left over.”

Brummette defined Master’s in Strategic Communication as “any communication that helps an organization achieve its mission.” Possible careers with this degree are endless, namely becoming a “public relations officer working for a police station.” There’s simply no field where effective communication is not present and that’s why the demand for a graduate from this program will remain.

The same student-centered focus is carried from the undergraduate to the graduate programs, but students don’t have to wait till they graduate to enroll. There’s the option for dual-enrollment, where “students are allowed to attend two 500-level classes.”

“The cool thing about this program is you get to make it what you want,” said Huband, who’s interested in converging his passion for producing videos with the aspect of strategic communication.

Students may choose one of two courses of study when it comes to pursuing a Master of Science in Strategic Communication: the non-thesis route or the thesis route. Both require a total of 36 hours, 18 hours in required classes and the remaining 18 in electives, except in the thesis option where six hours will be directed and reserved for the completion and presentation of a thesis.

The minimum GPA requirement’s a 2.75, “but you need to have a higher GRE score. [However] it’s not a pass or fail test. I hear so many stories from so many students,” said Brummette. “Don’t let the test scare you away; it doesn’t reflect your intelligence. Another thing we accept are three really strong recommendation letters.”

“Regarding letters of recommendation, if this is something that interests you, start building those relationships [with your instructors],” advises Herbert.

“But we look at your overall performance,” said Brummette. “What really stands out is if you had a couple of rough semesters, but you really came out of your shell and started doing better.” He admits to having a “not-so-great Freshman year” himself, but he ended up going to Radford for not just his Master’s but his Doctorate degree as well. “I loved my undergrad, but I was able to actually study what I wanted [under the graduate program].”

There’s also the opportunity to earn money as you teach at the graduate level while pursuing your Master’s, something Fescemyer, Huband, Szkalak are currently implementing. One common challenge they’ve faced is establishing a sense of power difference with their students, stated Fescemyer. “We’re a lot closer to the age of our children, so I think they expect us to be lenient. But as long as you stick to your guidelines, there’s should be no problem.”

Huband disagreed with the sentiment, instead raving of his graduate experience in every aspect and how it had been the best decision he’d ever made.

“We’re still accepting applications,” said Brummette. “Step one: fill out application. Step two: your application will be evaluated. A personal statement is required and make sure to have no typos; we need to know what we can offer you to make you better.”

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