About Sakina Jangbar, Ph.D.: Sakina Jangbar is an Assistant Professor at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. She currently teaches courses in Public Speaking, Social Movements, and Rhetorical Theory and Criticism. While earning her Ph.D. in Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Jangbar served as Assistant Director of an internship program that helps first-generation and minority students transition into graduate studies.
Dr. Jangbar holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from California State University, Northridge. She graduated from the Master of Arts in Communication Studies program at CSUN in 2013, and taught courses in Public Speaking and Argumentation as an MA student.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Dr. Sakina Jangbar] I attended California State University, Northridge from 2009 to 2013 for my B.A and M.A degrees in Communication Studies. As an M.A. student, I taught courses in Public Speaking and Argumentation. After completing my education at CSUN, I pursued a doctoral degree at University of Texas at Austin from 2013 to 2018. My major at UT was Communication Studies with an emphasis on Rhetoric and Language. While at UT, I taught courses in Professional Communication Skills and Rhetorical Theory and Criticism. I also served as the Assistant Director of an internship program that mentors first-generation and minority students into graduate programs.
Currently, I am an Assistant Professor at St. John’s University in Queens, NYC. At this institution, I teach courses in Public Speaking, Social Movements, and Rhetorical Theory & Criticism. I travel to conferences to present my research and publish my work in peer reviewed journals of my field.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Master of Arts in Communication Studies program at California State University, Northridge?
[Dr. Sakina Jangbar] Pursuing a master’s degree at CSUN was a natural transition for me since I was already familiar with the faculty and the program. At the time, I had young children, so it was not feasible for me to enroll in a graduate program that would require either a commute or a move. Additionally, I was thrilled at the prospect of working for two more years with my mentor, Dr. Peter Marston, who patiently taught me and served as my mentor throughout my educational journey.
I was hoping to gain admission in a doctoral granting institution after completing my M.A degree. My plan was to become a professor, and my mentor had advised me to aim for a Ph.D. CSUN awarded me several scholarships to make it possible for me to not only complete my M.A. but also my Ph.D.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is CSUN’s program structured, and what concepts did the program emphasize? What skills and strategies did you learn in your classes, and how did you apply them to course assignments?
[Dr. Sakina Jangbar] CSUN’s Communication Studies program is structured as a generalist program, which means that students take courses in several areas of Communication Studies, such as Performance, Intercultural Communication, and Rhetorical Theory. A generalist program allows students to explore the field of Communication Studies and figure out which areas are a good fit for them.
Also, M.A. students in the Communication Studies program at CSUN have quite a bit of independence in how they teach the Public Speaking course. This freedom allowed me to find my voice and style of teaching. When I was chosen to teach the Argumentation course, I was given even more freedom. I was permitted to select my own textbook and write my own syllabus. This training helped me tremendously in my Ph.D. program. Even now, as an Assistant Professor, I value the trust that the communication faculty at CSUN placed in me as it allowed me to trust myself.
As far as courses are concerned, I learned to read dense texts, participate in class discussions, and write research papers. Class discussions helped me to not only understand concepts and ideas but also figure out my positions. At the end of the term, class discussions became a source of topic ideas for research papers.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your thesis? What was your primary research inquiry, and how did you decide upon it? Could you describe the process you undertook to research your topic and form your final conclusions? What advice do you have for students in terms of completing their thesis (i.e. determining a research topic of appropriate scope, conducting thorough research and analysis, and crafting a strong presentation, etc.)?
[Dr. Sakina Jangbar] I have to be honest. The thesis writing experience was quite difficult for me because it was my first major scholarly undertaking. Before the thesis, I had only written class papers which were 12 to 15 pages. My thesis was 150 pages, as my mentor had high standards in terms of strength of the argument and length of the chapters. Even though writing my thesis was a challenge for me, I think it was a valuable experience as it paved the way for me to write my doctoral dissertation.
Let me back up a little bit. When I expressed to my mentor that I wanted to write a thesis, he gave me my research question. He asked me to write about how Heidegger’s theory of understanding could inform rhetorical theory. If you’ve read Heidegger even a little bit, you know that his work is enormously difficult to read. I spent an entire summer trying to read Heidegger’s Being and Time. Although I made a lot of progress, I was not able to finish the book. However, I do not have a single regret about struggling to understand Heidegger’s work – it was so worth it!
For my literature review, I went to the philosophy library at USC. The librarian there helped me gather all the material I would need for it, which saved me a lot of time. However, the lit review, the doctoral applications, the GRE exam, and teaching took up the entire Fall semester. I had only the Spring semester to write three substantive chapters and a conclusion. I almost didn’t make it.
The first substantive chapter I wrote was only five pages. My mentor called me into his office and gave me a pep talk. He told me to graduate in Sakina style! After that, I dove-tailed into writing. Everyday, I spent eight hours writing. I would write from 8 in the morning when my son would leave for school, and write until 4pm when my kids would come home. With a lot of hard work and my mentor’s help, I completed my thesis and defended it before a committee.
Defending a thesis is not hard if you have done quality work. When the writing is good, the question is not whether you will pass or fail. Rather, the faculty are interested in having a conversation about your work. In any case, I thought it was flattering that three professors read my thesis and wanted to talk to me about it for an hour. The defense time went by so quickly. I found myself wishing for more time. Before I knew it, everyone was congratulating me. I wish I could go back to my past-self and tell the other Sakina to enjoy the process rather than worry.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from CSUN’s MA in Communication Studies program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Dr. Sakina Jangbar] I think the relationships that I formed with my mentor and my peers were quite significant. I made so many mistakes and I had so much to learn not just in terms of content but also the culture of higher education. I am grateful that so many people looked past my rough spots and offered me their friendship and support.
Secondly, the scholarships that I received from the graduate studies division at CSUN made it possible for me to move to Austin with my family and begin my doctoral education. The scholarships even supported my travel to conferences while I was at UT Austin.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the Master of Arts in Communication Studies program at California State University, Northridge? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at CSUN or another university?
[Dr. Sakina Jangbar] My best advice is to find a mentor who will support you and be willing to invest their time in you. This has been true for me both in my M.A. and my Ph.D. program. An adviser can make or break your academic career. Secondly, just do the work. Read what you are supposed to read no matter how hard it is. Engage in discussions so you can develop a voice. Write about topics that you find interesting. And, most importantly, do not let perfectionism or fear stop you. Be bold and seize the day.
Thank you, Dr. Jangbar, for your excellent insights on California State University, Northridge’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program!