Is Graduate School Right For YOU?

Written By: Lukas Mihailovich (’15)

Edited By: Bree Riddick (’16)

Have you ever wondered if graduate school is right for you? The end of undergraduate studies can be a stressful time for college students as they decide whether to enter the workforce or pursue further education. On Oct. 15, 2014 the Graduate Program Coordinator, Dr. Pete Bsumek organized a discussion between professors and undergraduate students interested in graduate school. Along with an assortment of delicious snacks, students gained insight from professors on their experiences, and better understood what graduate school has to offer. Assistant Professors of Communications Dr. Tatjana Hocke and Dr. Dan Schill were the other participating professors.

While there are many graduate courses and degrees available to students, much of the discussion was about the general benefits of a degree, rather than on specific classes. As many college students close to graduating want to know, one major question was about the monetary benefits of going to graduate school. “For many entry level jobs, the graduate degree may not put you ahead right away,” explained Hocke, “but, as you move up in your career, a graduate degree is needed to even be considered for a lot of upper level jobs.”

While money may be the driving force behind many of our decisions, graduate school does not come without its time commitments. The workload intensifies with courses that are more specialized. “On one hand, it’s nice because the classes are much smaller and very hands on. On the other, you really have to be passionate about what you are studying,” said Bsumek. While many will take time off and return later in life for their higher education, Schill warned that this might not be the best idea. “Once you have a full-time job and mortgages to pay, the time and money may not always be there, and will make the process take much longer,” said Schill.

Students came well prepared for the two hour-long session provided, and had many questions that would help them in their decision making process. The SCOM professors’ experience-based answers were able to set students on the right track and provided useful and practical insight for undergraduate students.

Read more about the first event in 2014 at

Are you considering graduate school? If you are already in graduate school, what would you recommend to those considering?

Graduate Student Travels for Master’s Thesis

Written by: Caylor Feeley (’16)

Edited by: Bree Riddick (’16)

For ten days, graduate student Marie Eszenyi was able to research Cuban feminism in Cuba. Eszenyi sat down with Caylor Feeley, a junior in the Communications Studies program, and discussed her trip to Cuba and how the Master of Arts in Communication and Advocacy program at JMU has helped her.

During the week before the start of this school year, Eszenyi was busy working on her master’s thesis.

“My master’s thesis is on Cuban Feminism and the Cuban government,” explained Eszenyi. I was interested in interviewing women in women federations and moderates to see how they work with the government. There are no Non-governmental Organizations because all projects come from the Cuban government.”



In the midst of discussing her travel to Cuba, Eszenyi also talked about how the graduate program has helped her in her studies.

“Because the program is new, people may not think that we have the resources,” said Eszenyi, “but that is not true. I approached Dr. Bsumek and my advisor and they were both very supportive. They put me in contact with the Office of International Programs and I got full funding.”

Eszenyi went on to explain the level of support that she received throughout her journey. “I really felt supported. People in the program advocated for me and for the program, and it was a great experience. It was what advocacy is about with all the support.”

So, what is Eszenyi’s favorite part of being a graduate student in SCOM?

“Professors have a willingness to work with you on publications outside of class. I appreciate the support that they offer. I am getting lead author experience with a professor and he’s giving guidance, but I am getting a robust experience! I also like the program’s reflexivity. The cohort has a voice on the type of classes being offered, for example. We can change the nature of the course for future students and ourselves. Most students don’t get that opportunity in established programs.”

Originally planning to go to law school, Eszenyi changed her path after talking to her advisor in her senior year.

“He led me to apply to the program and everyone was so supportive in getting me to where I am now. They encouraged me to apply in the midst of freaking out!” said Eszenyi.

Eszenyi is currently continuing her journey in the program and leaves a piece of advice for those after her.

“Don’t feel like you have to make a decision on other people’s perception and what you thought you wanted to do your whole life. Even in the last minute you can change your mind. Do what you want to do.”

Applications for JMU’s Masters in Communication and Advocacy program are due February 15, 2015. For more information, follow the link

2014 Looking Bright

As we begin the second semester of our new MA program in Communication and Advocacy, our first cohort of Masters’ students is busy and engaged. Students attended the National Communication Association conference in November where they attended panels, listened to presentations, talked with scholars in areas related to their interests and talked with prospective MA applicants at the Graduate School Fair. Our graduate students are engaged in research projects with several of our professors including work on pregnancy issues and student health. Several are working with our winning Debate and Individual Events teams, and for those who are graduate assistants, they are meeting their new students in the Introduction to Human Communication classes this week. Our graduate faculty members are offering classes in Advanced Qualitative Methods, Health Communication Advocacy and Research, Environmental Communication Advocacy and Research, and Interpersonal Communication as Advocacy.

Apply now

If this sounds intriguing, we hope you will consider applying for the 2014-2015 academic year. Applications are now being accepted and are due by February 15, 2014 for our 36-credit hour program. The program offers a strong foundation in communication theory and research, as well as an in-depth examination of communication and advocacy that highlights practical applications and a competencies approach. Students will choose from two concentrated areas of study in Health and Environmental Communication.

Interested in learning more about our program? Explore the pages on this blog, visit our School’s website, and contact us with any questions. Thinking about applying? Subscribe to this blog, “like us” on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter for program news, updates, and events happening in and around campus. We look forward to hearing from you!

Highlights of Recent Graduate Faculty Activities


Dr. Tim Ball (Assistant Professor, Communication Studies) and Dr. Roz Leppington (Assistant Professor, Communication Studies) published “Community-building learning groups in an online course: A study of functional moves” The Northwest Journal of Communication, 41(1), 137-160.


Dr. Tim Ball (Assistant Professor, Communication Studies) presented “Developing a measure of students’ attitudes towards communication” at the 2013 Eastern Communication Association’s Basic Course Conference in Pittsburgh this April.

Dr. Alison Bodkin (Assistant Professor, Communication Studies) presented and received a top paper award for “An ethnographic study of communication center pedagogy” at the National Association for Communication Centers in Greensboro, NC in March.

Dr. Heather Carmack (Assistant Professor, Communication Studies) with co-author Dr. Sarah Heiss (University of Vermont) presented the Top-Paper in the Interpretation and Performance Studies Division “Performing with food: Relationships between food, women’s performance of “good mother”, and childhood health outcomes” at the 2013 Annual Meeting Eastern Communication Association in Pittsburg, PA in April.

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Dr. Daniel Schill to join the Communication Studies Faculty Fall 2013

The School of Communication Studies is pleased to announce that Dan Schill (Ph.D., University of Kansas) will be joining the faculty in the fall as an Associate Professor of Communication Studies and a member of the Graduate Faculty.  Dr. Schill was most recently an Assistant Professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, where he taught courses in political advocacy, media and politics, social media, telecommunications policy and law, and research methods. This coming fall he will be teaching Introduction to Advocacy Studies in our M.A. program.

His research is centered at the intersection of communication, politics, technology, and the mass media. His book Presidential Campaigning and Social Media (co-edited with John Allen Hendricks, Oxford University Press, 2013) is the first of its kind to comprehensively study the techniques, functions and effects of social media in presidential campaigning. Stagecraft Book CoverHis first book, Stagecraft and Statecraft: Advance and Media Events in Political Communication (Lexington Books, 2009), pulled back the curtain and explained the strategies and tactics of the visual speechwriters and advance staff who plan and manage political events. Dr. Schill’s research has appeared in American Behavioral Scientist, PS: Political Science & Politics, Review of Communication, Real Time Response Measurement in the Social Sciences, and Techno-Politics and Presidential Campaigning.

In addition to his academic research, Dr. Schill conducts research for media outlets with frequent collaborator Dr. Rita Kirk. Since 2008, he has organized and moderated on-air dial focus groups for CNN and provided real time analysis of debates, speeches, and ads. His focus groups are prominently featured on CNN during coverage of major Dial CNNcommunication events, such as presidential debates, conventions, and major speeches. His research and analysis has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, ABC News, Chronicle of Higher Education, Dallas Morning News, The American Prospect, and other local and regional media outlets. Dr. Schill is also an expert in telecommunications and Internet policy and spent the 2009-2010 academic year working on these issues in Washington, DC for the United States Senate as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow.

Highlights of Recent Graduate Faculty Activities

Recent accomplishments and activities by graduate faculty in the School of Communication Studies highlight their commitment to innovative pedagogies, advocacy research and outreach.


Dr. Michael Davis (Assistant Professor, Communication Studies) and Dr. Peter Bsumek (Associate Professor, Communication Studies) published “The public debate writing assignment: Developing an academically engaged debate audience” in Contemporary Argumentation and Debate, 32, 92-97.

Dr. Eric Fife (Associate Professor, Communication Studies), Dr. C. Leigh Nelson (Associate Professor, Communication Studies) and Kristin Zhang (Undergraduate Student, Communication Studies) published “A new horizon for a classic perspective: Facebook and Expectancy Violation Theory” in the Journal of the Communication, Speech & Theatre Association of North Dakota, 25, 13-23.

Dr. Corey Hickerson (Associate Professor, Communication Studies) and Dr. Peter Bsumek (Associate Professor, Communication Studies) published “Greening the public relations curriculum: An integrative approach to teaching environmental communication best practices in the campaigns course” in PRism, 9(1), 1-11.

Dr. C. Leigh Nelson (Associate Professor, Communication Studies) and Dr. Eric Fife (Associate Professor, Communication Studies) published “ A validity exercise in Communication Teacher, 27(1), 6-10.

Dr. Toni S. Whitfield (Associate Professor, Communication Studies) and Dr. Corey Hickerson (Associate Professor, Communication Studies) published “The difficult transition? Teaching, research, service: Examining the preparedness of communication faculty entering the academe” in The Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(1).

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