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:  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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Graduate Student Spotlight: Arianne Gasser and Samantha Nakhoul Manjarres

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


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.


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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“Rise and Shine:” A Student Documentary Experience in Ghana

By Maddie Horvath, Senior Communication Major

This April, Villanova’s student documentary class, led by Executive Producer Hezekiah Lewis, will introduce their film, “Rise and Shine,” to the Villanova community, showcasing a year’s worth of research and their passion for storytelling.

This year, the class explored Ghana’s educational systems; the crew spent two weeks in Cape Coast, Ghana this past fall, meeting with students and staff at the Heritage Academy and getting to know their stories. Lewis expresses gratitude for the talent and respect of the Villanova students in Ghana. “They didn’t go to Ghana to teach or to problem-solve,” he says. “They went to learn.” Lewis has always felt a connection with Ghana. His inspiration to pursue this story came from his previous film experience in Ghana and the relationships he has formed there.  “These kids have no electricity, no water, no computers, but they have a passion for learning,” he says about the students of Heritage Academy.

The Villanova students hoped to compare U.S. and Ghanaian educational systems. In order to do so, the students took their cameras to Strawberry Mansion High School in Philadelphia. When I asked Lewis how he chose which school to parallel with Heritage Academy, he explained, “Linda Wayman [Principal] at Strawberry Mansion had a passion to change Philadelphia schools and made the decision easier.” The group attended a rally in Philadelphia with one student from Strawberry Mansion this year. It was a moment that Lewis regards as one of his favorites, explaining that watching the student fight for his education affirmed his commitment to the film and it’s story.

Looking at the act structure board in the studio, it is easy to see the hard work these students have put into producing their documentary. Today, the students have completed the majority of filming and now concentrate on finding historical contexts and educational parallels between the two schools and narrowing their focus. Lewis noted that a challenge the group has faced through their editing process is excluding great content in order to craft the story they envisioned.

The students hope to debut their film, “Rise and Shine,” on April 25at the Ritz Theatre in Philadelphia.

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Lambda Pi Eta Presents Ethos Award to Dr. Billie Murray

By Bridget Kelly, Senior Communication Major


Each year, the Villanova Department of Communication presents the Ethos Award to an individual who demonstrates ethos in his or her professional life. The Greek term ethos refers to a speaker’s ability to convey trustworthiness and authority on the topic at hand while also establishing credibility with audience members. Ethos is also the trait that a communicator establishes by demonstrating intelligence, virtue, and goodwill in his or her work. The award recognizes distinguished members of the Villanova community who demonstrate character, and in doing so, excellence in the field of Communication.

This year’s Ethos Award recipient is a popular and acclaimed faculty member, Dr. Billie Murray. Dr. Murray has been teaching in the Villanova Department of Communication since 2010 and was the former faculty advisor to the Alpha Rho chapter of Lambda Pi Eta (LPH), the National Communication Honor Society.

“I’m honored. I’m honored that the students wanted to recognize me in this way because I learned so much from them,” said Dr. Murray. “I really appreciate it.” Dr. Emory Woodward developed the Ethos Award in order to recognize an individual who has achieved great success and served as an ethical leader in the field of Communication. The LPH Executive Board reviews nominees each year and carefully selects a winner based on his or her accomplishments.

“Dr. Murray is so deserving of this award because of the sheer goodness with which she lives her whole life. As a professor she exudes wisdom, passion and a welcoming nature that is contagious,” said Jaquelin Valente, a senior communication major and outgoing LPH Executive Board member. “I could think of no one more worthy of this honor.”

As the LPH faculty advisor, Dr. Murray oversaw the development and implementation of a service program at Germantown High School in which LPH inductees work with Germantown students. “My favorite part about Lambda was developing the Germantown High School workshops,” said Dr. Murray. “I felt they were very fulfilling and were a great service opportunity for the inductees. It was also a really great way for me to get to know the students better.” The Villanova LPH inductees help the Germantown High School students learn professional communication skills and how to master the art of public speaking.

Dr. Murray is originally from South Carolina and graduated summa cum laude in Communication Studies and Political Science from the College of Charleston in 2000. After earning her B.A., she received her M.A. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and finished with her doctorate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Villanova and serves as the department’s area coordinator for Rhetorical Studies.

At Villanova, Dr. Murray teaches undergraduate courses in Survey of Communication Studies, Theories of Rhetoric, Qualitative Research Methods, and Rhetoric and Social Justice. She has also taught graduate level courses in Strategic Communication Theory and Human Trafficking, a course taught in conjunction with Villanova’s Nursing and Law schools. As a rhetorical activist scholar, Dr. Murray believes that her research should contribute to social justice and the public good.

Recently, Dr. Murray has published a lead article in “Argumentation and Advocacy” about the politics of grief in public spheres of argument and a book chapter in “Communication Activism Pedagogy.” Her dedication to the Villanova Department of Communication, the Lambda Pi Eta Communication Honor Society, and to the general field of communication makes Dr. Murray a very deserving and distinguished Ethos Award recipient.

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The Vatican Internships

Lael Hoegen


Since 2004, Villanova’s Department of Communication has sent its students to take part in an amazing program at the Vatican in Rome. This program offers students the unique opportunity to work in the Vatican offices and at Catholic News Service while taking classes and learning Italian; this study and internship program is arranged through a partnership with Arcadia University and L’Universita Roma Tre. Villanova’s interns not only maintain an elite position at the Vatican, but they also gain cultural experience in beautiful Rome! Just ask Bridget Kelly, who took part in the program during her spring semester in 2012, along with two other students from Villanova.


Bridget interned at the Catholic News Service (CNS), a news agency that specializes in reporting domestic and international religious news. Because the team at CNS was small, Bridget, who had very little video and photo knowledge, strengthened her skills and even completed three video projects, which can be viewed on the CNS YouTube page. She also wrote and edited breaking news articles, helped film weekly papal audiences with the CNS videographer, attended news conferences and even created video projects about Italy and research information at the “sala stampa,” or press hall. The program also allows the students to take classes to learn more about Italian culture and history.


Ultimately, however, the experience is not about language; rather, it is about the students and how much they can gain from this opportunity. Bridget was able to travel while she was abroad. Three of her classes allowed her to travel throughout Italy, exploring places such as Bologna, Florence and Prato for weekend class trips. But, she also left the country and visited Spain, Ireland, Amsterdam, Prague, and Greece! All in all, Bridget said, “Working in the Vatican was indescribable. Even though none of the interns actually work inside the Vatican, we are still exposed to many different aspects and are allowed certain privileges.” Some of her most memorable moments include her experiences at papal audiences on Wednesdays. With her press pass she secured through the internship, Bridget was able to experience something very few people can say they have – she has been within two feet away from Pope Benedict! 


The Villanova Vatican Internship program offers Villanova Students an unparalleled opportunity to live, learn, and breathe in the culture of Rome. It is truly an experience of a lifetime that also is quite an impressive addition to one’s resume.



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