Why did you choose communication studies M.A. program at NIU?
I was familiar with NIU (I grew up in DeKalb), but more importantly I knew many of the faculty from research I had done while an undergrad student at U of I. In particular, I was drawn to the work that Dr. Gunkel was doing with new technologies and ethics. I also knew the amazing Forensics program and wanted to be more involved with that. But I think the most important reason I wanted to go to Northern is because of the opportunity it gave me to start my teaching — being able to have my own section of Public Speaking was exciting for me and an area that I wanted to develop in myself because I knew I wanted to be a professor.
How did your major help prepare you for what you are doing now?
It is everything that I'm doing now — everything I learned at NIU I've put into practice in my own teaching and research. I'm a professor at DePaul University in Chicago and I teach courses about fandom, popular culture, social media, digital technology, and other media/cultural studies ideas. All of these classes and techniques I learned at Northern. I also honed my teaching abilities at NIU — in fact, I got very little teaching experience in my PhD program, so NIU gave me most of the experience in the classroom before I became a professor. I made lifelong friends with my classmates and my professors at NIU, and these relationships have helped shape my work today.
What do you feel is special about the NIU program?
One of the things I really benefited from in NIU's Communication program is the individual attention I got as a student. I knew all my professors very well - we would chat in office hours, have individual coaching sessions, even had coffee to discuss projects and papers. The professors really cared about my progress and thoughts — they wanted me to blossom into a scholar on my own. And I truly appreciated (and needed!) that help and encouragement.
Why would you recommend the M.A. program to other students?
I'd recommend the program for the care and attention that all the professors showed for their students. There was real investment in working with the students. I remember working with a professor on a paper for publication — my first publication — and being elated when seeing my name in print for the first time. This was something suggested by the professor — I didn't know at all how to get something published, so working with the professor to make that happen was extraordinary.
Is there anything you would like to tell prospective students?
I know it's cliché, but make the most of your time in the program. It seems like a long time for a degree, but it goes by so quickly and there are so many opportunities. Don't let them slip away — take all the opportunities you can!
M.A. Communication Studies, 2005
Professor, Media and Cinema Studies
Graduate Director, Digital Communication and Media Arts