Graduate Student Spotlight: Arianne Gasser and Samantha Nakhoul Manjarres

By Caitlin LeMay, Senior Communication Major, Specialization in Public Relations

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Arianne Gasser and Samantha Nakhoul Manjarres, graduate students in the Department of Communication at Villanova, are involved, active, and valued members of the Villanova community. As they will be graduating this May, I hoped to recollect their experiences as Villanova Communication students and where their degrees may take them in the future.

While completing her B.A. in Communication Studies at Kent State University (KSU) in Kent, Ohio, Arianne Gasser was simultaneously making post-graduation plans. Her decision to pursue graduate studies was influenced by two main factors. Gasser worked as an aide in an Introduction to Human Communication course at KSU. This experience made Gasser realize that she eventually wanted to teach at the college level, a profession that would require a Master’s degree. Gasser also connected with a Kent State alumnus who, upon discussing Gasser’s career goals, recommended that she consider a graduate degree. For Gasser, Villanova’s Graduate Program in Communication offered the perfect blend of theory and practice – one that would benefit her whether she was working in the corporate world or pursuing a PhD.

As a graduate student since August 2011, Gasser now knows that she made the right choice in coming to Villanova. She feels that her Communication courses at Villanova have prepared her well for her future career.

“This program has challenged me intellectually, which gives me the ability to think more critically and see things from a different perspective,” says Gasser.

Not only is Gasser a graduate student at Villanova, but she is also working two part-time jobs. Since 2011, Gasser has been working 20 hours each week as a Graduate Assistant for Villanova’s Center for Multicultural Affairs, mainly doing Research and Diversity Programming.

Over the course of the last year Gasser has been focusing on a labor of love, her thesis. Her research centers on racial identity and organizational socialization, a topic inspired by a Villanova course called “Diversity and Organizing,” taught by Dr. Maurice Hall.

“The course married my studies in organizational communication with my work and studies in Multicultural Affairs in a way that opened me up, ultimately, to what became the topic of my thesis. If it weren’t for that class, I have no idea what my thesis would have been about,” says Gasser.

Gasser enthusiastically praises the Graduate Program in Communication at Villanova for its flexibility in accommodating a wide variety of individual needs and personal interests.

“You can essentially make the degree what you want. I was able to take classes outside of the department, like “Organizational Training” and “Organizational Psychology,” that offered a different perspective on the things I was studying in my Communication classes. I think it gives people the opportunity to do what fits their personal style and their academic strengths,” says Gasser.

Gasser will graduate in May 2013 with a Master of Arts degree in Strategic Communication and a graduate certificate in Organizational Communication.

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Hailing from Maracaibo, notoriously known as the hottest city in Venezuela, Samantha Nakhoul Manjarres has had to adjust to the comparatively cold Northern winters, but for a good reason – Nakhoul Manjarres is pursuing her Master of Arts degree in Communication at Villanova University.

Nakhoul Manjarres knew that she wanted to go to graduate school since her time as an undergraduate studying Mass Communication and Journalism in Valencia, Venezuela. When she graduated from college, Nakhoul Manjarres had already secured a job in corporate communications. She worked for a year to gain experience before moving to Gladwyne, Pa. where she worked as an Au Pair. Living in Pennsylvania gave her the opportunity to research graduate programs in the area before committing to a specific school.

“I chose to be an Au Pair because it was a cost-effective alternative to live abroad and to improve my bilingual skills. During that year I visited several Communication graduate programs in the area, including Temple, Drexel and Villanova. Villanova became my first option after meeting with Dr. Woodard, the program director at the time, because I found the curriculum to be very aligned with my interests,” says Nakhoul Manjarres.

Currently in her final semester, Nakhoul Manjarres is interning at Allstate Insurance in the Corporate Relations department while completing her graduate thesis. Nakhoul Manjarres’s thesis is a qualitative study about Play On, Philly! (POP). POP is a program that supports personal and social development and academic enrichment by providing music education to children in low-income communities in Philadelphia. This program is based on a similar music education program in Venezuela called El Sistema.

Both her personal interests and her favorite graduate course, Qualitative Research, inspired Nakhoul Manjarres to pursue this unique thesis topic. In her Qualitative Research class, Nakhoul Manjarres was able to reflect deeply on readings, class discussions and assignments.  Nakhoul Manjarres’s favorite assignment, however, was writing narrative interviews. Dr. Rose, her Qualitative Research professor and current thesis advisor, helped Nakhoul Manjarres pinpoint a research topic that would combine and utilize her interests and skills.

“The Graduate Program in Communication at Villanova has been a great place to grow and to learn. I have had great professors and have made wonderful friends. I feel that the program helped me to define the way I want to perform in the professional arena, mostly thanks to the class discussions and collective brainstorming we experienced in all of my courses,” says Nakhoul Manjarres.

After graduating in May with a Master of Arts in Communication, Nakhoul Manjarres plans to take a year to do Optional Practical Training (OPT), during which time she will have a job that utilizes her bilingual skills. She hopes that this type of experience will improve her resume and make it more attractive to employers, both in the United States and in other countries. Nakhoul Manjarres anticipates that her bilingualism will become an important part of her future career.

When asked whether she would recommend the Villanova Graduate Program to other students, she replied without hesitation. “Of course. My experience has been nothing but good. At Villanova, I found great people to work with, to learn from and to be friends with.”

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