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Conference brings communication students closer to career goals


December 08, 2010

The 96th annual convention of the National Communication Association in San Francisco enabled students in Arizona State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies (MACS) program to make contacts with scholars from around the country, providing them an edge for the competitive application process to Ph.D. programs in the field.

Five students from the MACS program attended and presented results from their research in collaboration with their professors in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. It was the largest showing to date of master’s students from New College at the annual gathering of thousands of communication scholars. The work of additional students not in attendance was on display in presentations of coauthored papers.

“The presence of our students at the NCA convention was noticed, as few master’s students are this active in research,” said Vince Waldron, professor of communication studies.

“Through their participation these students also serve as role models for their peers, who see that there is a larger audience for the work they are doing in the MACS program,” Waldron said. “Our students are working on research questions with real-world implications for individuals, families and organizations, and it’s gratifying to see their work gaining recognition.”

As communicators, the students were not lacking in words to describe the experience of attending the conference. Dayna Kloeber used the word “inspirational” and Nicki Piemonte added “wonderful,” while Carmen Goman chose “overcrowded” and “loud.”

Despite her choice of those negative adjectives, Goman said attending NCA was extremely beneficial for her. She credited her professors in the MACS program, most of whom also attended, for “pulling a few strings” to help her meet people who are relevant to her future plans.

“Without help from their professors in establishing the appropriate connections, attending NCA could be overwhelming for students,” Goman said. “But with guidance from my ASU professors, I met professors from around the country who have interests similar to mine and who I may be interested in working with in a Ph.D. program.”

Specifically, Goman met scholars interested in the field of ethnography; she delivered a presentation about her autoethnographic study of her experience as a Romanian Pentecostal growing up in America and the stressors that experience introduced into her family relationships.

Kloeber, Piemonte, Goman and fellow MACS student Josh Danaher were among the coauthors of a paper, presented by Waldron at the convention, synthesizing some of the research conducted by a New College group dubbed the Relational Ethics Working Group. The group has spent the past year and a half researching the moral messages emerging adults remember receiving from their parents. Danaher also joined with fellow MACS students Matthew Nolen and Kassandra Zukowski (who did not attend) to present a paper on the ways emerging adults communicate moral messages among themselves.

“These papers are part of a larger research project that should produce subsequent papers focusing on how parents and children communicate about moral messages,” said Kloeber, who is nearing the end of her studies in the MACS program.

After defending her thesis in January, Kloeber will submit papers to other conferences around the country and will continue her fellowship with the Family Communication Consortium, a New College initiative that promotes healthy family communication through the collaborative research, teaching and service activities of ASU faculty and students. Kloeber also will apply to Ph.D. programs. She described her enthusiasm for the field of communication with the simple statement, “I’ve got the bug!”

Piemonte was among the ASU students who worked as volunteers during the convention; she helped to staff the registration table. “It such a surreal experience personally meeting some of the scholars whose works I have been reading for years. As silly as it sounds, I felt a little star-struck as I handed them their lanyards,” she said.

Piemonte also praised the assistance she received from Carla Fisher, assistant professor of communication studies. “Dr. Fisher was kind enough to meet me at the graduate school open house and introduce me to faculty members at several universities with well-established Ph.D. programs. It was an incredible opportunity to ask important questions and learn more about each program. I left NCA certain that I want to start applying to doctoral programs that offer degrees in communication and health.”

Piemonte, Goman and Curtis Mitchell co-authored a paper presented by Jeff Kassing, associate professor of communication studies, examining the expression of workplace dissent as an indicator of work engagement and employees’ intention to leave their jobs.

The work the MACS students did in San Francisco “certainly made the program look good,” Kassing said.

“The NCA convention is the premier event for communication scholarship in the discipline, drawing participants both nationally and internationally,” he said. “We have had students attend in the past, but this sets a new high water mark for us. Not only did several attend, but many had multiple papers to present.”

Based on ASU’s West campus, the M.A. program in communication studies focuses on advocacy and prepares students for communication-intensive roles in such fields as public affairs, employee development, community relations and grassroots movements as well as in organizations addressing political and health concerns.