Feature Story: New Director of the Graduate Program of Communication


There have been a lot of changes at Villanova University lately. This school year the Graduate Department in Communication has a new director, Dr. Heidi Rose. I was able to interview Dr. Rose and get some insight about her life and role with the program.

Research Interests and Background

Dr. Heidi Rose is a faculty member in the Communication Department. Her research interests overall concern the body, identity, and the relationship between body and text. Her early research examined American Sign Language Literature and Deaf Culture. She was able to publish this into a book/DVD which is the first bilingual and bicultural text of its kind. In more recent years, she has been drawn to autoethnography as research method and performance. This led her to write and perform two performances.

“I have written and performed two related solo performances, Good Enough and Mirror Image, which I performed together last February on campus and hope to tour around the U.S.”

Like many students in undergrad, her interests of today are something she developed while she was studying at Northwestern University. As a Theater Major who realized that pursuing acting was not what she expected, she choose to return to academia.

“After meeting with Dwight Conquergood, who was one my professors and mentors at Northwestern, he steered me to a Master’s in Communication with a focus on Performance Studies. I was fortunate to be offered an assistantship, so while at Emerson College in Boston I taught speech section of a large public speaking class and began learning about research. I discovered that the teaching a research lifestyle made sense for me and that studying performance and culture gave me a great deal of satisfaction. The logical next move was to pursue a PH.D.”

Goals and Vision

Although Dr. Rose has only been in her position for a couple of weeks, she has developed a vision for the program. She wants students to use the concepts they learn in courses like Strategic Communication Theory and Research Methods to make sense of the world and to effect change in their own particular corner of the world.

“I would like this Graduate Program to be known as a place of possibility—a program in which students feel free and inspired to take intellectual and creative risks and to explore new professional options”

This year she decided not to teach in the Graduate Program because she wanted to focus on learning her role as the Director. However, this Fall she is teaching a Freshmen Honors Course called Interdisciplinary Humanities and in the Spring she is teaching an upper level course called Gender, Performance, and Social Change as well as a Senior Project. While Dr. Rose may not be teaching in the Graduate Program, she has listed her top 5 goals she wants to accomplish during her tenure as Director:

  1. To continue to distinguish this program from all other Master’s in Communication at area universities
  2. To grow our Graduate Alumni Connections
  3. To send more students to Ph.D. programs in Communication
  4. To make sure the program is doing its best to prepare students for a wide range of professional opportunities
  5. To Develop strong relationships with all current graduate students and work together to create the best experience possible for every individual.

For additional tips and announcements, follow the Communication Graduate Studies Department on Facebook and Twitter.

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The New Student Perspective: Orientation and the first days of School

Written by Ashlee Douglas

Graduate School has begun! Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. Everyone just kept reiterating, “It’s different from undergrad”, “It’s going to be a lot of reading”. Coming from a non-communication background, I was nervous about what would be expected of me: being able to understand the concepts and to handle the workload. I just kept reminding myself that communication is something of great interest to me and I am confident that Villanova is the place of study that will help guide and strengthen my educational and professional interests.

Student Orientation weekend had arrived. We began with the first lecture, “The Communication Perspective”, by Dr. Emory Woodard It was a way to introduce the new students to the program, the faculty, and touch on the various ways that one can engage in communication studies from the theoretical to the practical. Rhetorical, Social, Critical, Performance Studies, Public Relations, the list goes on. I enjoy that aspect of the study of communication, and I am also excited that Villanova has such a diverse faculty that touch on many facets of communication.

The second day of orientation was several lectures on the expectations of graduate school, from reading, pedagogy, research, theory, and the journey from orientation to graduation. The day was filled with questions, discussions, and getting to know my classmates and some of my professors. By the end of the day, I felt less nervous about this new undertaking and a little more confident in my abilities.

I have completed my second week of classes. I know my way around a little better, I am connecting names with faces, and I’ve got my wildcard (I’m assuming that makes me an official Wildcat). I am starting off with Strategic Communication with Dr. Murray and Quantitative Research with Dr. Murray. Yes, it is a lot of reading as everyone forewarned. However, the readings are interesting and the class discussions are entertaining, so it makes it less daunting. The Villanova community has been great so far, and I am looking forward to what is to come from this experience.

Below are photos from after the Welcoming Lecture where we gave a toast and refreshments were served.

IMG474 IMG473 IMG472

For additional tips and announcements, follow the Communication Graduate Studies Department on Facebook and Twitter.

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Qualitative Research vs. Quantitative Research

by Marianela Nunez


Without any doubt, being a graduate student involves mastering research methods. Research methods help us answer questions about the topics and things we want to understand. However, not all methods are meant to answer the same kinds of questions. Hence, researchers have developed two paradigms to do research that differ in their purpose and in their ways to do research. These two paradigms are called qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative Research vs. Quantitative Research

Qualitative research is very different from the quantitative research. The epistemological and ontological questions and assumptions of the qualitative paradigm hold mostly opposite values than those held by the quantitative. In qualitative research, as opposed to quantitative research, in which objectivity is the main focus, hermeneutics is what matters to produce trustworthy knowledge. When it comes to talk about ontology, qualitative scholars believe that there are multiple realities as opposed to one reality about the things they study. According to the quantitative paradigm, there is one reality that is waiting to be discovered by the researcher to reveal the nature of the world. However, the qualitative paradigm disagrees with this understanding and argues that there are multiple realities that are shaped by human interactions on earth.

The qualitative paradigm and its methods to conduct research constitute a humanistic body of knowledge that seeks for interpretation. Qualitative methods represent the assumptions of qualitative research, its concern with representing the other, acknowledging and being reflective of our positionalities and create valuable and ethical work (Conquergood).

The purpose of qualitative communication research is to gain a better understanding of human communication and realities without claiming generalized understandings of the world. As a result, they use thematic analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of the information gathered to produce very rich, detailed and very specific knowledge. On the other hand, quantitative research seeks to quantify and explain reality relying on statistical analysis, numbers, and pre-determined formulas and variables to produce knowledge.

Establishing credibility and trustworthiness is compared to validating a study in quantitative research. However, this is done totally different in qualitative research since we are not looking for generalizable claims to apply to all populations. As the qualitative researcher, Haraway (1988) argues, knowledge is partial and situated. Therefore, establishing credibility in qualitative studies depends on prolonged engagement, member checks, audits, peer reviews and some other factors.

Differently, in quantitative research, the validity of a study depends on the instrument and how well it measure what it was meant to measure. Qualitative methods measure objective facts; it is focused on variables and their relationships. It looks for cause and effect and it is value free. This type of research emphasizes reliability over authenticity.

Characteristics of Qualitative Research

  • It is an inductive method.
  • It is focused on the individual.
  • It is holistic.
  • It is important to use gender neutral language.
  • The use of first person is okay.
  • Cause and effect are not engraved in the QR vocabulary. They are actually words that should not be used when talking about qualitative studies. We are not measuring anything. We are just trying to understand the things we study. If we go away from this cause and effect type of thinking then we can gain an in depth understanding of fewer people.
  • Interpretation and understanding are at the very foundation of this method.
  • Qualitative research depends on the interaction of the researcher and his or her participants.
  • Samples are usually small.
  • Knowledge produced is mostly represented by words, images, and sounds.

Characteristics of Quantitative Research

  • It is deductive.
  • Use of first person in your writing is not allowed.
  • The quantitative vocabulary is like a new language.
  • Researchers use SPSS, a great software to analyze their statistical data.
  • Meant to produce generalizable knowledge.
  • The use of numbers, formulas, and graphs is at the core of this paradigm.
  • Samples are very big.
  • Research should be easily replicated.

Some Quantitative Research Methods       Some Qualitative Research Methods

Surveys Ethnography
Experiments Phenomenology
Interviewing Interviewing
Statistical Analysis Case Studies


Discovering your Preferred Paradigm

It is very important to find passion for what you are doing while you are in graduate school and in life in general. Therefore, I think that for those of you who have not discovered both ways of doing research, it is important to start thinking about the investigative questions you would like to answer, and how you would like to answer them to discover your favorite paradigm. Personally, I have done quantitative and qualitative research, and I have found pleasure in both methods. However, I like the idea of understanding the world using the values presented by the qualitative paradigm. Can you share what your favorite paradigm is and why?

For additional tips and announcements, follow the Communication Graduate Studies Department on Facebook and Twitter.

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How to Prepare for the Comprehensive Exams

This is the first of a three part series focused on providing students with information about completing the Comprehensive Exams and writing a Thesis, in order to help them decide which route they would prefer. The first two parts will provide tips from professors and students regarding each and the third will consist of a broad overview comparing the two options.

ImageAlmost from the very start of Graduate school, fellow students talk about how incredibly difficult the Comprehensive Exams are going to be. This makes preparing for them seem like an insurmountable task. Below are recommendations, gathered from professors and students that will hopefully break down the preparation process into more manageable steps:

  • Keep all books, readings and notes from class – use as references when studying, but don’t only rely on your notes or memory from the class, regardless of how recently you took the course.
  • Start refreshing your mind with readings as early as possible – this allows you to ease your way back in and you will feel less intimidated by the amount of material you need to cover.
  • Create a study timeline with weekly goals – whether you aim to read one article per day or review notes regarding a certain amount of material each week, this will help you pace your studying.
  • Re-read each article and take new notes to supplement your initial readings – focus on the main points of the articles rather than taking super detailed notes.
  • Don’t limit your review to readings that you liked or think were more prominent – the exam is comprehensive and requires more than just a general understanding.
  • Create a study guide once you’ve re-read all of the material – narrow it down to the most saturated and crucial points you need to take with you into the exam.
  • Create flash cards or a smaller, more compact version of your study guide – keep this with you at all times to review whenever you have downtime.
  • Meet regularly with other students taking the exams – take turns explaining articles to each other and collectively answer questions as you go.
  • Meet with the professors from each of the courses on which you will be tested – this will help you better understand their expectations and talk through any areas of the material where you might need some clarification.
  • For areas that limit the number of meetings with professors (for example Quantitative), review as much as possible before your first meeting, which should be used to review your understanding of the material – save your second meeting for closer to the exam to address any remaining questions that have come up as you continued studying.
  • Use what you have learned to analyze and evaluate an issue and critique assumptions – this is why you need to have a strong knowledge of the material.
  • Know the proper vocabulary necessary for addressing each question – this will be vitally important during the actual exam to demonstrate your understanding of the material.

Adequate preparation is essential to your success on the Comprehensive Exams. And while this may seem easier said than done, adequate preparation is not as impossible as it might initially appear. By taking the process one step at a time and efficiently planning your study time, preparing for the exams can become less of a task and more of an opportunity to reflect on and synthesize everything you have learned over the course of your time in the program.

The tips offered above were supplied by Dr. Gordon Coonfield, Dr. Heidi Rose, Dr. Jie Xu, Ms. Kat Biehl and Ms. Marci Paton.

For additional tips and announcements, follow the Communication Graduate Studies Department on Facebook and Twitter.

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How to Avoid Burnout in Graduate School

By Robin Kanak

Any graduate student can relate to the mounting panic you feel when your midterm deadline is steadily approaching and you know your paper it isn’t anywhere near finished. Once in awhile, those feelings of stress and panic are completely normal, but it is also easy to fall into a pattern where stress becomes the norm. Stress takes a toll on your mind and body, and stress + lack of motivation = burnout. I only started this program a year ago, but at the end of my second semester I was running on fumes and I knew that my lifestyle needed to change. Clearly, I am no expert, so I also consulted current graduate students, alum of Villanova’s Master’s in Communication program, and faculty members in the Department. Hopefully some of the things we have learned can help you too!

#1. Know Why You Are Here

Everyone in Villanova’s MA program is in a different place and is in graduate school for a different reason. You need to know why you are here and what steps are going to be most effective for helping you accomplish your goals. Are you here because you are interested in moving on to a Ph.D. program? If so, you might choose different classes and different projects than those who are in the program because they want opportunities for advancement in their professional career. Arianne Gasser (recent grad and Research Associate at CRA, Inc.) reminds us that “You have to know why you’re there and what you’re working toward–and that isn’t just with grad school; it’s with anything you do.” Whether you are working on core courses, studying for comps, or reading endlessly for thesis, understanding how your goals align with the things you are learning can help improve your attitude toward school and boost your motivation. Along the same lines, current graduate student Marianela Nunez advises fellow students to make sure you write about topics you are really interested in, they might even develop into your thesis!

#2. Don’t Let School Consume Your Life

There are going to be periods of time where school consumes your life, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have never have time for anything else because you are in graduate school. James Hand (current graduate student and father of two) reminds us: “You’re going to school to make a difference in your life– not to stop living.” Make time for other activities you love because they are important to maintaining your identity as more than a graduate student. Whether your activity of choice is training for a marathon, hanging out with your family, reading books for fun, or going out dancing, don’t feel like you are being a bad student for making some time for yourself (or your family). Taking time to participate in activities you love can help you feel more motivated when you sit down to do school work again. Communication faculty member, Dr. Amy Way emphasizes that “the key to making time for the activities you enjoy is unapologetically engaging in them.  Don’t take breaks and think about how you should be doing work – just let yourself enjoy the break.  Revel in it!” (As a side note, I found that Dr. Way’s credibility on this topic was boosted when she told me that she got 8 hours of sleep almost every night while in grad school!)

#3. Manage Your Time Well

By now you are probably wondering: “How is it possible to make time for anything else when there are 10 readings looming over my head?” There are a million time management tips out there, so here are just a few that come highly recommended by those who have successfully completed this process:

– Multiple graduate students recommend the Pomodoro technique (watch the video here: http://pomodorotechnique.com/).  Arianne says that the Pomodoro technique was particularly effective when working on papers because “I used to have the bad habit of checking Facebook or other websites whenever I couldn’t think of what to write next when working on a paper.” When doing Pomodoros, however, she says “its impossible not to feel accomplished.”

– Dr. Billie Murray, faculty member at Villanova, recommends sitting down each week and listing EVERYTHING you need to do that week. “We all tend to do this type of ‘to do list’ anyway,” she says, “But the key here is to THEN introduce your list to your calendar. Block off exact amounts of time that week when you will complete those tasks and DO THEM during that time. I find that if you schedule 30 minutes of time for writing and put it on your calendar, you will do it. And you’ll feel better having done it!”

Whether you are a full-time or a part-time student, it is easy to get burnt-out during grad school. Aligning what you are doing in school with your long term goals, choosing to make time for other activities, and taking steps to manage time more effectively can improve your motivation and attitude, making graduate school a much more pleasant experience! What are your favorite tips for avoiding burnout? Post them in the comment section below!

For additional tips and announcements, follow the Communication Graduate Studies Department on Facebook and Twitter.

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What can I do with a M.A. in Communication?

Why a Masters Degree?

Begin thinking about why you want a Master degree. A master’s degree can make you competitive and give you an advantage. A Bachelors today is “the equivalent of having a high school diploma 20 years ago” (The Editors).  More employers today required a Masters degree. It helps differentiate you by adding a level of skill and experience through higher education. A college master’s degree is worth $1.3 million more in lifetime earnings than a high school diploma. This can be helpful in landing the career choice that interests you.

What is degree in communication?

A degree in communication is very flexible and has a variety of focuses. Generally, a communication degree teaches students how to use important tools to communicate whether it is written or oral communication. Communication research is yet another area that communication degrees cover. Through research you will learn theoretical aspects of modern communication.

Dave Cheng, a newly enrolled student in the M.A. Communication program at Villanova  says that “I originally wanted to pursue a PhD. I even left a job with ESPN to do so until I realized the demand of such a degree and decided to just go for the masters. I want the masters because I know it will be good for my career”

Skills Acquired

While earning a master’s degree in communication, there are a variety of skills that you will encounter. Student learn leadership skills, global communication practices and the ethics of communication. These skills are applicable to many jobs in business and the nonprofit sector.  You will also learn to write effectively for multiple audiences in writing for both expert and non-expert groups. A Masters in communication will also enhance your research and presenting skills.

Career Choices

There are a many career choices. Just to name a few there is:

  • Advertising
  • Journalism
  • Publicist
  • Media Critic
  • Community relations
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Integrated Marketing

What is more important than these choices is to ask yourself what really interests you? From there you can decide how to apply a Master’s degree in communication to fit your needs.

Villanova University Graduate Studies in Communication

Villanova University Graduate Studies in Communication are organized around three focal concerns: principles, practices and contexts. Principles courses emphasize the overarching philosophical, ethical, and methodological issues relevant to the study and practice of communication in multiple contexts. Practices courses focus on the strategic application of communication principles to the creation of messages within particular contexts. Contexts courses concern the places, spaces, situations, and modalities within which principled communication has significant impact.

To learn about Villanova University’s Graduate program in Communication check out its Official Website.

For additional tips and announcements, follow the Communication Graduate Studies Department on Facebook and Twitter

Information from:

Lifetime Earnings Soar with Education

What Can I Do with a Communication Degree?

Grad school decision time: master’s degree in communication or MBA or IMC?

What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Communications?

The Right (and Wrong) Reasons to Get a Master’s in Communications

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Social Media: 25 Best Practices for Engaging with Audiences

Companies use social media to increase engagement and stay relevant in the minds of their target audience. It also allows them to listen to public opinions about their company, receive feedback from their audience and respond to specific feedback. Social media tools are becoming an essential part of the marketing plan, with their ever-increasing function as additional brand-building tools.  Below is a compiled list of 25 social media best practices to encourage positive relationships with an audience:


1. Use the varied posting options (statuses, links, photos, videos, events, check-ins, etc.) – keeps the audience from being bored

2. Remove links from copy of post – use that space to grab attention

3. Employ photos rather than just a link, when possible – photos will catch the viewer’s eye better

4. When posting photos, post to timeline, rather than straight into an album – this way it will get its own attention

5. Use shorter, more succinct copy in posts – this gets more engagement

6. Be present and responsive – adds to credibility

7. Post consistently – spread content out, don’t just post everything at once and then be inactive


8. Throw all support behind fewer posts – small engagement more frequently is not beneficial, having high engagement on a few posts increases likelihood of getting into update emails

9. Share marketing offers – audience is more interested in education and information

10. Engage in groups more than anything else

11. Stay away from photos – they don’t look good and have low engagement


12. Keep them short (between 120-130 characters) – when people re-tweet, they may delete keywords, hash tags, etc. that you’ve included if it’s too long

13. Include handles of influencers (who you’re tagging) – better chance that they’ll see it and share

14. Only use about two hash tags per tweet – looks cleaner and more mature

15. Use visual content – photos get the most engagement, followed by links, then videos and finally regular tweets

16. When including a photo, upload directly to Twitter – otherwise they won’t show up in newsfeed

17. Place links after about 25% of the text in a tweet –people might not read to the end of the tweet

18. Include links and handles in bio section – directs traffic right from there

19. Links should only be about 20 characters

20. Follow the people who follow you – build relationships

In General:

21. Work with your other social platforms to promote a consistent message

22. If posting the same content to all networks, tailor the message based on the style of the platform

23. Monitor all engagement closely – build real relationships with the people interacting with you

24. Even when people get upset with you, respond in a way that will leave them with a positive experience

25. Use online and offline tools to drive traffic to both social media sites and corporate sites

Once you know how to better utilize the various social media platforms, posting at a time when your audience will be most engaged is essential. Generally, content posted around lunch time has the highest click through rates. However, testing your own posts will provide more accurate insights about the specific target audience.

For additional tips and announcements, follow the Communication Graduate Studies Department on Facebook.

The items on this list have been sourced from a presentation by Anum Hussain at the 2013 Inbound Marketing Conference and from the “Social Media Best Practices” page on Tufts University’s website. 

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