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5 Tips to Help You Make A’s on Your Papers This Year

Posted by: Cierra Seid | September 10, 2018 | No Comment |

Writing a paper is not a punishment. It is a rare opportunity to have someone seriously and carefully consider your ideas. The writer Henry James once said, “Good stories happen to those who know how to tell them.” Consider every paper assignment to be a great opportunity to learn how to tell your stories. Think of the paper as a chance to find and develop your unique voice.

It may seem like more work up front, but it will reduce the amount of work you put in later. A good outline guides you through the writing process. It keeps you organized, helps ensure proper coherency (your flow of ideas), and can even deter writer’s block. Organize your paper by major components and then again by categories and subcategories. Bonus tip: writing out of order can help keep your thoughts straight. It’s often easier to write the introduction and conclusion last once you know all the points you’ve covered.

Don’t plagiarize! You know the honor code, and the repercussions are not worth it. Say it in your own words, cite your sources for their ideas, and use quotes when you use an author’s exact words. You do not have to cite common knowledge or your own ideas. If you need help properly citing, the Purdue OWL is a great online resource to consult.

Pay special attention to the following common grammar mistakes: commas, verb tenses, adjectives vs. adverbs, homophones (e.g. there, their, they’re), rare or uncommon punctuation, subject-verb agreement, proper noun capitalization and only proper nouns, and verb tense consistency. If you’d like to read more about each of these grammar mistakes, visit writingforward.com.

Now is your chance to polish up your paper. Take a break after writing before you dive into proofreading. Don’t trust the spellchecker – it doesn’t find most grammatical errors. Read your paper out loud. If you tend to make certain mistakes, use the search function on your computer to search for them specifically. If you are unsure about APA formatting, consult the Purdue OWL or invest in a style guide. Bonus tip: Use an internet program to have your paper read to you.

Want to read more about these points? Click the links below!


Visual: Tips on Writing Infographic-1vzv1ii

under: Uncategorized

Our final Girl Boss is Dr. Elizabeth Dorrance Hall. Elizabeth graduated from the MCOM program in 2011. Her story inspires us to be motivated, find your niche, and if you love academia, pursue it. If being a “doctor” doesn’t make you a #GirlBoss, then we don’t know what will! Make sure you click the links to read her full story.

Tell me a little about yourself.

E: I received my MA in Communication from the College of Charleston in 2011. Since then, I attended Purdue University for my PhD in Communication, moved to Logan, UT for my first faculty job, and am now happy to live back in the state where I grew up (Michigan). My research focuses on difficult family conversations including marginalization in families and how family relationships evolve over time.

Tell me about your career

E: I am an Assistant Professor of Communication at Michigan State University. I teach courses on interpersonal and family communication and conduct interpersonal and family communication research.

What made you decide to pursue your Master’s degree in Communication?

E: I was encouraged by one of my undergraduate professors to pursue my Master’s degree. My family also placed high value on higher education, so an MA was always something I thought I would work toward. I took a community college course in interpersonal communication during high school that set me on my path to study communication. Just one course and I was hooked for a lifetime of learning about communication.

How did your experience in the MCOM program prepare you for your job?

E: My experience in the MCOM program was hugely influential in my decision to apply for PhD programs. Working with Dr. Merissa Ferrara was my first taste of academic research and I fell in love. She, along with Dr. Kopfman, introduced me to statistics and taught me how to ask and answer interesting questions. The courses in my MCOM program along with serving as a teaching assistant for Gender Communication prepared me to teach undergraduates during my PhD program. I made some amazing friends in the program who were also group mates through many research papers and projects. These women have continued to encourage me and cheer me on through my academic journey. It is amazing to see where we have all landed after just seven years!

Share your biggest accomplishment in your current position

E: While at Utah State University, I co-founded the Family Communication and Relationships Lab (link: https://www.familycommlab.com/). The FCRL facilitates research on families and interpersonal relationships across the country.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work experience or fond memories of the MCOM program?

E: I deeply enjoyed my time at CofC and had a very meaningful experience in the MCOM program. The support of the faculty and my fellow grad students has truly shaped my life and career. Charleston is an amazing place to spend a couple years studying communication. I’d recommend it to anyone!

You can find more on Elizabeth’s work at: http://www.dorrancehall.com/.

That’s all of our MCOM #GirlBosses for now. I hope their stories have inspired and motivated you to follow your passions. Have a safe and restful summer — we’ll see you in August!

Until then,



under: MCOM Alumni, MCOM Spotlights

MCOM #GirlBosses — Q&A with Heather Woolwine

Posted by: Cierra Seid | May 14, 2018 | No Comment |

Next up on the Girl Boss interview agenda is MCOM alumna, Heather Woolwine. Heather graduated from the MCOM program in 2011, and now leads the Public Affairs and Media Relations team at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). She sets a great example for professional students who are trying to earn a graduate degree while working full time. This media relations director, health communication extraordinaire, wife, mother, and self-proclaimed “education geek” is the definition of a Girl Boss!

Tell me a little about yourself.

Heather described her childhood as nomadic. Her father worked in marketing and advertising so they moved around a lot. She believes that this taught her to adapt to change and it fed her natural curiosity. Curiosity is what makes her a lifelong learner; Heather believes there is always the opportunity to know more and do more. She realized early on that she needed to find a discipline that would enable to her to flex all those muscles, and communication seemed to be a good fit.

Tell me about your career.

Heather is a public affairs and media relations director. When talking to her about her daily tasks, she laughed at the idea of having a consistent list. She says “no one day ever looks the same.” She describes her soiree of responsibilities with a bucket metaphor; her daily tasks fall into many “buckets” such as media relations work, proactive work (e.g. campaigns, stories), reactive work (e.g. community happenings that need research), internal communication, strategic communication, and risk and crisis communication. Her signature statement is, ‘I’d rather be dizzy than bored’.

What made you decide to pursue your Master’s degree in Communication?

Heather liked school and referred to herself as an “education geek.” She decided to get her Master’s degree for a few reasons: (1) she was at a point in her career and personal life where it made sense to go back; (2) she wanted more education to be able to apply theory to her work; and (3) she liked that the MCOM program catered to working professionals which gave her the ability to work at her own pace. She said that this also created a great mix of people in their classes — everyone from new graduates to those trying to juggle school and careers. It offered many new and different perspectives.

How did your experience in the MCOM program prepare you for your career?

She said that a lot of the benefit came during the time she was in both the program and working. For example, in a risk management or research methods class she would learn something and then think ‘wait a minute… how can I apply and use this right now?’ Other times, ideas and questions would come to her while working and she would raise them later in class. She described her experience as “real-time learning.”

Share your biggest accomplishment in your current position.

Her biggest accomplishment is her storytelling skill. Heather said that it is very rewarding to be able to tell stories in such a way that you are making a difference in someone’s life.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work experience or fond memories of the MCOM program?
Heather asked to share a bit of advice with current and prospective students. She said that before you come into the program, it’s important to manage your expectations. To achieve your goals, you have to engage with your support system both within and outside of program.


under: MCOM Alumni, MCOM Spotlights

MCOM #GirlBosses — Q&A with Emily Padgett

Posted by: Cierra Seid | May 4, 2018 | No Comment |

Today’s Girl Boss is Emily Padgett. Following Emily’s graduation from the MCOM program in 2012, her internship mentor helped to create a new position just for her here at the College. Emily’s experience  teaches us to always hold yourself to a higher standard, be persistent, and  focus on cultivating a great relationship with your mentor. Here’s a glimpse into Emily’s professional life.

Tell me a little about yourself.

E: I’m originally from the Upstate but have lived in Charleston now for close to 10 years. I like to travel and see live music in my free time as well as get outdoors as much as possible.

Tell me about your career.

E: My current title is Assistant Director of Scholarships and Donor Relations for the College of Charleston. I work in Institutional Advancement for the College and also work with the College of Charleston Foundation. My job is to connect our scholarship recipients with their donors and vice versa. I do this through educating students on the role philanthropy plays in their lives. I create videos for donors as well as develop a whole host of other print materials and assist in planning events for donors and scholarship recipients.

I also work part-time for another non-profit called Raise Up Charleston. It’s a mentoring and scholarship program designed to equip young men with the educational skills and necessary materials to maintain a 3.0 or higher GPA and score above average on the ACT and/or SAT in order to gain acceptance into a post-secondary school. The program is designed to teach young men the personal responsibility, self-discipline and social skills required to succeed in post-secondary education and their future careers.

What made you decide to pursue your Master’s degree in Communication?

E: I was one of the unfortunate people that graduated right before the big recession (Coastal Carolina University class of 2006). After finally landing a position for a small development company, I quickly realized that I needed to do more with myself and my life. I loved my communication courses in undergrad and wanted to expand upon them so decided to go back and get my Masters as a full-time student.

How did your experience in the MCOM program prepare you for your career?

E: I actually started working for Institutional Advancement during my graduate experience as a student worker. I was lucky that it was such a good fit and I found a phenomenal boss and mentor that believed in me and helped to create my position for me. The MCOM program helped me prepare for my career by truly incorporating coursework with real work experiences. I was able to learn in the classroom and take it directly to work.

Share your biggest accomplishment in your current position.

E: One of my biggest accomplishments is still in the works, somewhat, but we are currently working towards implementing a new online scholarship application process that will help students better connect to available funding opportunities. It’s been a long time coming and it’s a lot of work, but definitely worth it!

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your graduate/work experience?

E: I had some of the best professors in the program and really lucked out with my advisor, Dr. Amanda Ruth McSwain. She was instrumental in helping me make it through.

under: MCOM Alumni, MCOM Spotlights

MCOM #GirlBosses — Q&A with Erika LeGendre

Posted by: Cierra Seid | May 3, 2018 | No Comment |

The second interviewee on our Girl Boss lineup is Erika LeGendre. Erika graduated from CofC in 2014, and then again from the MCOM program in 2017. Following her many years on campus, she is now employed at the College. Erika teaches us to find parallels between school and your career, be passionate about your work, and if you love campus, don’t be afraid to stick around! Without further adieu, here’s a little glimpse into the professional life of Erika Legendre:

Tell me a little about yourself.

My name is Erika LeGendre and I’m from North Charleston. I’m a two-time alum of the College of Charleston. I graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s of Art in Communication and then again in 2017 with a Master’s of Art in Communication.

Tell me about your career.

E: I work here at the College in the School of Business as the associate director of marketing and communications. I am primarily responsible for the promotion of the undergraduate programming at the School.

What made you decide to pursue your Master’s degree in Communication?

E: If you had told me in undergrad that I would pursue a Master’s of any kind, I would have said ‘no way’. It wasn’t in my plans. But, I fell in love with the discipline of communication in my last two years of undergrad. It was almost bittersweet for me to graduate because I felt that I had just skimmed the surface of the field in my last two years. I decided after working for a year after graduating that I wanted to go back to study communication at the graduate level. I decided to come back to the College because I was already familiar with the atmosphere and the great faculty in the Department of Communication.

How did your experience in the MCOM program prepare you for your career?

E: It taught me the importance of making informed, data-driven decisions and tying all marketing communications decisions back to a mission statement and company values. It also taught me the importance of research. In my current field, market research and insights give communications professionals a safety net to make informed decisions.

Share your biggest accomplishment in your current position.

E: I’ve only been in the role for a few months now, but my biggest accomplishment so far has been planning and successfully executing the Impact Day event at the School of Business. It was a huge undertaking where we welcomed some of the most renowned impact investing experts from around the globe for a day of panels and networking. The purpose of the event was to position the College and the city of Charleston as the hub for businesses that make a difference and make a profit at the same time. We got to showcase a lot of students doing amazing things as young entrepreneurs – it was very inspiring! I’m happy I got the opportunity to do so.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your graduate/work experience?

E: It was great moving through the program with a cohort that sticks along with you through the entire thing. That’s something you don’t get from undergrad. I grew really fond of my cohort members and learned a lot from them.

under: MCOM Alumni, MCOM Spotlights

MCOM #GirlBosses — Q&A with Alyssa Maute Smith

Posted by: Cierra Seid | May 2, 2018 | No Comment |

We’re finishing this semester with an inspirational mini series all about our MCOM alumnae, who we affectionately dub Girl Bosses. I had the opportunity to get to know some of our most successful lady alum, and now I have the honor of sharing the highlights from our conversations with you.


The first interviewee on our Girl Boss lineup is Alyssa Maute Smith. Alyssa graduated from the MCOM program in 2013, and now owns her own communications firm and leads the marketing and communications function for Charleston Wine + Food. Alyssa teaches us to be (immensely) ambitious, creative, and entrepreneurial-minded. Also, she’s passionate about food and wine… so you know she must be a pretty cool cat.


Tell me a little about yourself.

A: I am a native Charlestonian that grew up on James Island. I love being from Charleston and I love that I still call this place home. I married my high school sweetheart (we both went to Clemson together) and now we both live on James Island with our first son, Owen Smith. I am a mom, entrepreneur, feminist, avid learner, and lover of Southern football. I enjoy boating, fishing, crabbing and eating out at all the fabulous restaurants we have here in Charleston.


Tell me about your career.

A: I am the Marketing + Communications Director of Charleston Wine + Food and owner of Vestige Communications. As Marketing + Communications Director for Charleston Wine + Food, I am responsible for the creation and management of all consumer-facing brand marketing, messaging, and communication. The overall goal of the Marketing + Communications Director is to strategically support ticket sales, effectively communicate the organization’s higher purpose, and overall manage + protect the Charleston Wine + Food brand.

As owner of Vestige Communications, I work with several businesses in the Charleston area to develop and executive strategic communication + marketing campaigns, messaging and overall communicate the organization’s mission and purpose. Some clients include and have included Lowcountry Local First Chef’s Potluck, Lowcountry Local First’s Eat Local Month, New Leaf Builder, Melvin’s Barbecue, and Eagle Harbor Ranch Wingapalooza.


What made you decide to pursue your Master’s degree in Communication?

A: I attended Clemson University and received a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis in PR. My minors included Journalism and Spanish. After graduation I returned to Charleston and began to work for a local, small art studio. Working in a small business inspired me to open my own business. I decided to entertain this idea by going back for my Masters. I attended to College of Charleston’s MA in Communication program at night while still working a full time job. I knew a masters degree was something I always wanted to attain. I would consider myself an eternal student. I love learning new things and applying that learning to my daily life.


How did your experience in the MCOM program prepare you for your career?

A: The MCOM program was exactly what I needed at the time I went back to school. The classes were challenging and dynamic. I took several courses in PR, leadership and women + gender studies. I think the most influential classes were my leadership and women + gender studies. As a female entrepreneur and someone who leads a small team, these have been instrumental in establishing my leadership style and workplace practices. I feel lucky that I have the pleasure of working with an all female team and a very much male-dominated industry. The coursework and in depth case studies I was exposed to in the MCOM program greatly set me up for a realistic look at work in the 21st century.


Can you share your biggest accomplishment in your current position?

A: As Charleston Wine + Food’s Marketing + Communications Director I oversaw the marketing strategy for the 2018 festival. This year’s festival saw our largest attendance to date – 29,072. We secured over 200 local, regional and national media mentions totaling 528,333,941 impressions; saw website traffic of 1,002,250 impressions, secured partnerships with 32 media outlets including Wine Spectator, SAVEUR, Tasting Table, Food Republic, Bake from Scratch and Fast Company.


Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work experience or fond memories of the MCOM program?

A: Through the MCOM program I met Dr. Ruth-McSwain. I was greatly inspired by her and her work. In my current role as Marketing + Communications Director, I reached out to Amanda to see if she would be open to a partnership with her senior capstone class. In 2016, we created the first capstone class at the College that would work with a real nonprofit as their agency of record. The students went through a primary and secondary research phase and presenting their findings to me (AKA “the client”). They then went into an idea generation period where they came up with a full communications campaign that they pitched to me. We worked through the back and forth that often occurs between client and agency and settled on campaigns that they would execute for Charleston Wine + Food. Following the campaign execution phase, they analyzed and reported key findings. She and I have now done this with 2 capstone classes and are approaching our third. We have overseen a total of 40 students who learned more in this one class experience than we could have ever imagined. I still have students thank me for the experience and share the doors that were opened for them because of it. This all came to be from my participation in the MCOM program and meeting Amanda.


Bonus material for your reading pleasure: This is a bio that Alyssa’s coworker wrote about her. We think it’s quite fitting.

“Alyssa is CHSWFF’s Marketing + Communications powerhouse. She is here to get $hit done and make it rain media partnerships and press hits. If there were Guinness Book of World Records for most organized + efficient person ever, Smith would likely hold the championing title. Wonder Woman-esq, there is nothing she can’t do, and we guarantee she’ll do it with a big smile on her face. A true Charleston native, Alyssa was born + raised right here in the Holy City and is all about that #locallove. Alyssa is a mom to Owen and wife to Emmett Smith (no, not that Emmit Smith). When she’s not at Wine + Food, you can catch her boating + beaching or wading in the Folly River with a fishing pole in hand. She believes that Thanksgiving dinner should be served year round and prefers dessert as an appetizer. On Fridays, she wears Orange (Go Clemson!), and yes, you can sit with her. Fun Fact: She once sang “Ice, Ice, Baby” with THE Vanilla Ice. Alright stop, collaborate + listen.”

under: MCOM Alumni, MCOM Spotlights

Changes Proposed for the MCOM Program

Posted by: Cierra Seid | March 13, 2018 | No Comment |

With application deadlines quickly approaching for the 2018-2019 academic year, it seems to be an appropriate time to share an update on the curriculum changes planned for the Master of Arts in Communication  program. Some of you may have already heard the rumor: starting Fall 2019, the MCOM program will be moving online. The proposal calls for the current two-year, on-campus program to be  transformed into an online degree program with a one-year completion option. This is a big change!

So why is the program changing? I talked to MCOM program director, Dr. Amanda Ruth-McSwain about the proposal, and asked her to share some details about the new direction of the program.

We made this decision in order to better serve the needs and interests of the local community of communication professionals. The proposed program offers students the flexibility and convenience often required for working professionals along with a rigorous, engaging and tailored advanced educational opportunity in communication. I think it is important to emphasize that the learning experience is not changing, just the mode of delivery and versatile degree completion schedule.

The updated program includes a curriculum of six content modules with the first focusing on  foundational topics such as theory and research methods, then moving into specialized topics like leadership communication, digital media communication, and strategic communication. This is quite the change from the traditional three-course-semesters that many graduate students expect. In addition to the new course structure, the program includes a six-hour capstone module that will offer unique, transformative learning opportunities for students; the capstone module will require the application of course content and demonstration of industry best practice  through independent-study projects, community-based research teams, undergraduate classroom teaching experiences, and professional immersion opportunities.

For students interested in on-campus experiences, a variety of work-study opportunities and professional development will still be available. There are still great on-campus options for students who value face-to-face time with faculty, staff, and fellow peers. In fact, Dr. Ruth-McSwain shared the following:

Although the program will be online, we are fortunate to still be able to offer financial support and work experience for our students through scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, and student worker positions. Assistantship and student workers positions will also offer students the opportunity for campus immersion even though their coursework will be delivered in the online environment.

Currently, the Master of Arts in Communication manages 3.5 funded graduate assistant positions. Two positions are designed for students interested in working alongside faculty mentors in the undergraduate classroom, COMM 214. The other two positions provide support for the marketing efforts, social media coordination, event planning, and office administration in the Department of Communication. Additionally, other departments across campus offer similar positions, so there are plenty of opportunities to get involved on campus.

For those of you who have already graduated from the MCOM program, you may be wondering what this means for your degree and the value of the program. So, Dr. Ruth-McSwain shares reassurance that the program will be just as great as it always has been…

This is a fairly significant change for not only the Master of Arts in Communication program but for graduate programs across the College of Charleston. However, this revision to our curriculum does not change the degree or the value of the graduate experience. Graduate faculty in the Department of Communication are committed to maintaining rigor and quality in the virtual classroom as well as provide the same level of student support and extra-curricular opportunities that current (and previous) students have received. We spent over three years on this program revision to make sure we got it right…and I am confident that the program will remain a valuable and worthwhile investment for communication professionals in all seasons of their career.

The new  format allows the program to reach potential students and accommodate busy schedules. Further, the program will give students located outside of the Charleston area access to a rigorous graduate education with a flexible schedule. Given the 12-month degree completion option, newly-graduated baccalaureate students may stay at the College of Charleston to earn their Master’s degree in just one additional year.

The proposal presents an exciting time and future for the MCOM program. Whether you wish to earn your Master’s degree from a distance or participate in a hybrid graduate experience, or complete the program in one year or more than one year, the MCOM program can now allow students to tailor their education to their individual needs.  If you’d like to learn more about the change, please contact Dr. Amanda Ruth-McSwain at ruthmcswaina@cofc.edu.


Until next time,




under: About the MCOM Program

Grads Go Abroad

Posted by: Cierra Seid | January 31, 2018 | No Comment |

Seeing the World through a Graduate Lens

In Athens, she took a Mediterranean cooking class. In Greece, she traveled to different ports via ferry. In Hungary, she visited an orphanage and learned about the refugee crisis. Her name is Stephanie McInnis ‘16, and these are just a few of the study abroad experiences that she had as a graduate student abroad.

Studying abroad as a graduate student may look a little different than doing so as an undergraduate, but it is every bit as rewarding. If you missed your chance to study abroad during your undergraduate program (or maybe you’d like to do it again), you still have a chance! MCOM students have the opportunity to study abroad with the Department of Communication each summer, and this summer, our communication professors are leading trips to Austria, Cambodia, Italy, Poland, and Thailand.

  • May 15-June 15, 2018: Study abroad in Salzburg, Austria, Florence, Italy, and Krakow, Poland with Dr. Robert Westerfelhaus and Dr. Celeste Lacroix
  • July 6-30, 2018: Study abroad in Thailand and Cambodia with Dr. Merissa Ferrara

Though these programs are primarily designed for undergraduate course credit, graduate students that participate work closely with professors to tailor the travel to fit their professional and academic goals, thus earning independent enrollment credit at the graduate level. For example, study abroad learning experiences are great opportunities to enroll in an independent study or pedagogy coursework while earning anywhere from three to six credits for the travel experience. You could earn those credits while hiking Machu Picchu, swimming with elephants, or enjoying a waffle in Belgium.

MCOM alumna, Stephanie McInnis, did both while she was abroad in Italy, Greece, and Hungary with Dr. Merissa Ferrara and Professor Val Wright: This was a communications trip for undergraduates, and I worked as a teaching assistant and completed an independent study while abroad. Due to my focus in health communications, I helped teach theory and other health communication related topics throughout our time in Europe.

For her independent study, Stephanie blended her love for food magazines with the unique food and culture she was experiencing. She shared:

“I knew that as I entered the workforce, building and perfecting various skills is important in selling yourself to possible employers. Therefore, I chose to combine my love for food with a skill I didn’t previously possess, Adobe Photoshop. I combined recipes and images to create a magazine spread in Photoshop. It was a great opportunity to teach myself a program and focus on something I love, which is food magazines like Gourmet Traveler. While traveling, I was inspired by the incredible cuisine and culture, which helped form my ideas and vision for the spread.”

As mentioned, this summer, Dr. Ferrara is once again leading a group abroad — this time to Thailand and Cambodia. While talking to her about the upcoming trip, she shared that this trip will focus on responsible tourism, culture, and engaging in community. These themes would be especially applicable to graduate students who are interested in public relations or hospitality. Dr. Ferrara mentioned that graduate students on this trip could expect a lot of freedom in their choice of study. Imagine studying culture alongside Burmese refugees or Buddhist Monks in a mountain-top temple in Thailand! Additionally, Dr. Ferrara encouraged graduate students to look into the great study abroad incentives offered by the College. Personal finances should not dictate whether or not you can study abroad, and you should take advantage of such opportunities while you can.

Another MCOM alumna, Maggie White ‘11, took advantage of the chance to study abroad twice during her schooling. Her first trip abroad was led by Dr. Celeste Lacroix and Dr. Robert Westerfelhaus to Italy, Germany, and Austria. She shared, “Due to my unique position on the trip, the two professors were able to alter the curriculum they had planned for the undergrads so that the classes they taught would be applicable to my graduate degree. They did this by adding or altering assignments to make the courses more in line with my aptitude and interests.” As a nontraditional student on the trip, Maggie said that she appreciated having more time with the professors and felt that she learned more because of the one-on-one opportunities for discussion and engagement.

On her second trip abroad, this time on a fellowship that she was awarded to teach at the University of Versailles, Maggie conducted an independent study about women in different cultures and how they communicate. Her studies in the classroom were important, but she gained so much while learning outside of it:

“Education is what you make it and there is so much to be learned outside of the classroom. To be able to complement that traditional classroom learning model with international, cultural, in-the-field experiences made my graduate studies more whole. Being outside of the school boundaries also made me communicate differently and more often with my professors. This lead to us developing my curriculum as a team and that made the whole course of study both more enjoyable and more applicable to my future professional path.”

As a graduate student, this is your chance to have that unique, in-the-field experience. Studying abroad can do much more than offer you credit toward degree completion. Alongside Dr. Ferrara (ferraramh@cofc.edu), Dr. Lacroix (lacroixc@cofc.edu), or Dr. Westerfelhaus (WesterfelhausR@cofc.edu), you can make the most of your summer and your independent study hours!

If you can see yourself sipping wine on the Amalfi coast, or caravanning through the desert by camel back, consider applying for one of the life-changing, high-impact learning experiences being offered. But don’t forget, application deadlines are quickly approaching, so make sure to contact one of the study abroad coordinators or Dr. Ruth-McSwain if you are interested in going abroad this summer.

Do you have a unique experience studying abroad that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!


Until next time,



under: About the MCOM Program, Seasonal

3 Stories of Scholars: #1 Alex Cottingham

Posted by: Cierra Seid | November 30, 2017 | No Comment |

Traveling, volunteering, managing a career, and navigating graduate school – it sounds easy, right? Not really, but Alex Cottingham makes it look that way.  

Alex recently turned her graduate internship experience into a full-time job, but it wasn’t her academic performance alone that afforded her that position. Instead, she’s been making the most of her experiences and the network she’s built during school to best prepare for this season of professional life.

Her position at The Harbor Entrepreneur Center began as an internship that she received through an alumna who was still in contact with Dr. Ruth-McSwain. Initially, Alex sent out the first email about the position, but after a few exchanges, the conversation between them went cold. Instead of accepting that as defeat, she took initiative and followed up again with the alum to schedule her interview. This is an important lesson that everyone should take note of: sometimes people get busy and need a reminder, and sending a follow-up isn’t necessarily being pushy.

As a result of that communication Alex was offered an internship position at The Harbor. After one short month of working as an intern the director offered Alex a full-time position. He told her that everything she had been learning in her internship was essentially an extended job interview. Obviously she demonstrated her fit for the position, because now she has a job that makes us all green with envy!

Alex handles all of the public relations, communication, and event planning for the Charleston-area Entrepreneur Center, but her professional responsibilities don’t end there. Currently, Alex is a second-year graduate student in the M.A. in Communication program at the University of Charleston, S.C. Like many students, she didn’t exactly have a traditional undergraduate experience. After transferring to the College of Charleston in 2013, it took her a total of five years to complete her B.A. As you can imagine, after five years of school, she wasn’t sure if she was ready to take on an additional two years immediately following graduation. But she decided it was a great opportunity that she couldn’t pass up, and jumped in feet first. Last year, Alex served as Treasurer, and is now President for the Master of Arts in Communication Student Association. As an undergraduate, she interned with One Love Foundation and has since helped establish One Love as an undergraduate student organization on campus. Additionally, she works with the Graduate Student Association and the Graduate Diversity and Inclusion Council. On this topic, Alex shared a thought about how her academic experience influences her professional choices:

“My academic experiences at the College have always been challenging and stimulating. This is something I look for in my professional life as well because I’ve had enough jobs that haven’t required as much critical thinking or effort in the day-to-day.  At the College, my classes and my involvement with on-campus groups is so dynamic that there is rarely any sense of monotony. I’m always learning something or doing something and I’m fortunate to have found a position at The Harbor that provides these opportunities as well.”

The most influential part of Alex’s college career happened last summer. Alex had the opportunity to do something that many graduate students don’t: study abroad. Though she didn’t have the opportunity to do so during her undergraduate studies, she was given another chance to as a graduate student. She describes it as the “best and most influential part of [her] educational career.” This past summer, she traveled to Greece, Morocco, Spain, and Portugal with Dr. Ferrara and Professor Wright’s abroad experience. While she spent her summer traveling Europe, Alex used it as a chance to complete an independent study for credit. She researched popular topics in each country of travel. Her research quickly manifested through a volunteer opportunity to work with the refugee crisis in Greece. Alex shared the following story:

“One of the articles I read discussed volunteers who brought hand warmers to one camp and the refugees, unfamiliar and unaware of the little warmers, poured them in their tea and started drinking it! Good intentions do not always have the anticipated outcome. I saw this when we were volunteering in the warehouse [for donated items]. People from all over the world sent in clothes, shoes, toys, etc., but Greece didn’t have the infrastructure to handle it, so the warehouse was stacked to the ceiling with donated items.”

The study abroad experience inspired Alex to do more, though we’re not convinced she needed it since she’s already managing her work, school, and extracurricular life like a pro. This busy girl is on track to graduate in Spring 2018 after two very productive and rewarding years at the University of Charleston, S.C.

If you’d like to learn more about Alex, she invites you to send her an email or find her on LinkedIn. To learn more about her organization, you can visit The Harbor website.


Do you know someone who should be featured in the next #3StoriesofScholars? Let me know at seidcr@g.cofc.edu.

Until next time,


under: 3 Stories of Scholars, MCOM Spotlights
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Networking Opportunities in Graduate School

Posted by: Cierra Seid | October 20, 2017 | No Comment |


When I first heard about the networking opportunities with the Advisory Council, I realized that the College of Charleston offers the ultimate master’s degree experience for communication students.” – Nina Rose, UCSC 2011

Networking. It can be intimidating, and as a result, many people don’t like to do it. But if you can do it (and do it well), it has the potential to be very rewarding. Networking is especially important in graduate school when you are beginning to think about possible career paths after graduation.

The age-old cliche “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” rings true to anyone who has ever been offered an opportunity simply because they knew the right person. If you have yet to experience this – don’t worry, I’m going to tell you how you can. First, you have to expand your circle of acquaintances. If you’re thinking, “How do I even start?” then you’re in luck. Below I’ve included a list of four networking opportunities to take advantage of during your time at UCSC. And, as a bonus, I’ve included some top-notch advice from a few of our successful MCOM alumni. Equipped with this list, you can overcome your fear and become a network navigator.

  1. Advisory Council  The Department of Communication Advisory Council  at the College of Charleston is a unique and invaluable resource available to students. This group of over 50 prominent leaders in the field of communication volunteers by providing opportunities and mentoring to the College’s communication students. This year’s itinerary brings the Advisory Council members to Charleston on Wednesday, October 25 to Friday October 27. For the communication graduate students, a “power lunch” will be held from 12:00-1:00 on Friday in the Stern Center Ballroom. Students are encouraged to check out the member listing prior to events.

While talking to a few of our alumni, they all mentioned the opportunities the Advisory Council affords. Here’s what Jill Skipper, UCSC 2017, shared about the council: “The Advisory Council is an unbelievable group of brilliant and successful individuals and no matter if you think they work in a field you are interested in or not, research them, speak with them and NETWORK! They are resources for you to utilize to bounce questions off of, send your resume to, connect on LinkedIn, etc.”

  1. Build your professional online appearance (join LinkedIn if you haven’t yet) One study found that 85 percent of jobs are filled through networking of some kind, and networking is prevalent on LinkedIn. This social media is one of the best ways to connect with people you meet and showcase your work. Think of it as an online resume – one that can show all of your hard work but isn’t limited to one sheet of paper. Whether you are job searching or happily employed, LinkedIn is a platform that can take your networking and opportunities to the next level. You can use your LinkedIn account to make new connections or maintain professional relationships.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, here are a couple facts that might: 89% of employers report having hired someone on LinkedIn, and 94 percent of recruiters are active on the site. Meanwhile, only 36 percent of job seekers are active on LinkedIn. Just being a part of this online community can give you an incredible advantage!

  1. MCOM Alumni The MCOM program has over 85 alumni around the world, and you have something in common with them: your education at UCSC. Jessica Richardson, UCSC 2011, mentioned that she has recently gotten involved with the Alumni Association and has found the connection with other alumni beneficial. Whether you stay in the Charleston area or not, you can get involved with a chapter wherever you end up, and that common interest can foster a great introduction. In addition, during your time here, get to know your fellow classmates. Like you, these people will soon be alumni and off to hold important positions in the communication field.

Jessica noted how important fellow classmates and school alumni were for networking: “My grad school cohort and I have strong ongoing relationships – we serve as professional references for each other and help each other out, personally and professionally.”

  1. Local Professionals Networking with professionals in the Charleston area is also very important – especially if you plan to stay after graduation. UCSC offers communication students the opportunity to attend PRSA and AMA meetings (a great place to network!). In addition, the International Association of Business Communicators hosts networking events that are often open to non-members. For example, the South Carolina chapters of IABC and the PRSA are teaming up to host a professional development conference on November 3.

Nina Rose, UCSC 2011, offers some advice for current students: “My advice for graduate students is to be bold and ask questions to the professionals in your field. The answers might surprise you, turn your career another direction, or inspire you to continue your journey, but the power is in your hands through networking.”

Bonus Tip: Get a Business Card (even if you’re only a student). A student business card can make you look professional and well-prepared when networking. In addition, that little piece of cardstock can help create a lasting impression (try VistaPrint to create your own). After a successful in-person networking session, remember to connect with that person on LinkedIn!

Brandy Francis, UCSC 2016, shared her secret to successful networking: “I researched each Advisory Council member, discovered who I was interested in, and arrived with a handful of business cards and a mission. Now I’m working for a super fun, innovative agency and I have Dr. Ruth and a few Advisory Council members to thank.”


Did I miss anything? Let me know if you have additional networking tips in the comments!

Until next time,



under: About the MCOM Program
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