About Jenny Montagne: Jenny Montagne works for the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, as the Marketing Sales Coordinator for their part-time MBA programs. She manages the social media channels for Booth’s evening and weekend MBA programs, as well as writes copy for advertising campaigns, the admissions blog, and other digital and print assets. Prior to her current position, Ms. Montagne was employed as a Communications Associate at the American Bar Foundation.

Ms. Montagne holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and journalism from Green Mountain College in Vermont. In 2018, she earned her master’s degree from DePaul University, graduating from their Master of Arts in Digital Communication and Media Arts (DCMA) program.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?

[Jenny Montagne] I earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Journalism from Green Mountain College, an environmental liberal arts school in Vermont. For the next several years, I worked for various nonprofits around Vermont in communications, outreach, and membership service roles.

After moving to Chicago to begin my master’s program at DePaul, I worked in communications and public relations at a legal research institute before taking my current position as the marketing coordinator at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business Evening and Weekend MBA Programs. I was drawn to this position as a working graduate student, and now have an even deeper appreciation for students who are balancing full-time work and school. In my current role, I am responsible for elevating the profile of Booth’s part-time MBA Programs by managing social engagement, writing copy for advertising campaigns, and working alongside Booth staff to develop marketing initiatives.

While at DePaul, I became the editorial assistant for The Agenda Setting Journal, and was the 2018 recipient of DePaul’s Outstanding Achievement and Leadership Award in Digital Communication and Media Arts.

[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 Digital Communication and Media Arts (DCMA) program at DePaul University?

[Jenny Montagne] As I mentioned, I had worked for several years prior to enrolling at DePaul. Though I felt that I had solid on-the-job communications experience, I hoped graduate school would help me to refine my knowledge base and help me to develop some new, hard skills in the field. The industry had undergone a great deal of change since I had completed my undergraduate degree, and I wanted to remain savvy and agile in this work.

After researching several graduate communications programs, I found the Digital Communication & Media Arts master’s program at DePaul. The emphasis on skill-building across technology and practice appealed to me, and the number of resources available to students in faculty, tools, and lab space made it stand out among other programs. By the time I enrolled, I had become interested in pursuing a career in audio production, and DePaul’s proximity to leading public radio outfits was definitely a plus. Finally, I knew that I would have to work during my time in graduate school; the fact that DePaul offered evening courses with working professionals in mind sealed the deal.

[MastersinCommunications.com] How is DePaul’s DCMA 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?

[Jenny Montagne] One of the draws of DePaul’s DCMA program was the structure, which allowed for both flexibility and focus. Hosted through DePaul’s College of Communication, the DCMA program enables students to focus on either Digital Media or Media Art tracks as they earn their degree. Likely because the communications field is so broad and dynamic, the program emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach in coursework. Key concepts ranged from principles of transmedia storytelling, to media ethics, to the creative process.

Throughout the program, I was challenged to improve my group learning skills, hone my creative output, and ultimately produce high-quality, thoughtful work on a deadline. Perhaps the most surprisingly element of the experience was how much choice I had in how to interpret coursework so that it both met the assignment criteria and was of interest to me personally and professionally. I was regularly able to explore media events, figures, and stories that struck me and apply this research in my work.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your capstone scholarly paper? What communication issue or challenge did it address? 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 a non-thesis scholarly paper?

[Jenny Montagne] As a podcast devotee interested in public media, I knew relatively early on that I wanted to explore a topic in this realm. Professor Paul Booth’s New Media and Culture class helped facilitate this process. For our final assignment, I wrote about the My Favorite Murder podcast and the responsibilities of makers of participatory media. I leaned heavily on Henry Jenkins’ Textual Poachers to assess participatory fandoms, as well as scholars like Erin Watley who addressed the potential of participatory media to foster social equity. After I finished the assignment, I found I had more that I wanted to say on the topic. With Professor Booth’s guidance, I reworked the paper, drawing from additional sources to expand and strengthen my argument. The final product, “Stay Sexy and Listen to Listeners: Fostering Inclusivity within the My Favorite Murder Fandom,” argues that producers of participatory media are beholden to their audiences, and failures to engage in a two-way communication model with fans violates the spirit of the form.

I would recommend that students start considering their topics early on in their graduate studies; if there is a subject or trend that you’re drawn to again and again, consider it for your scholarly paper. Writing about something you’re interested in makes the research and writing process a lot more pleasant, and you may even be compelled to continue writing about it after you complete the program.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from DePaul’s Master of Arts in Digital Communication and Media Arts program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?

[Jenny Montagne] I have found that my greatest takeaway from the program was increased confidence in my ability as a writer, editor, public speaker, and critical thinker. Being around great speakers and accomplished media professionals helped to push me up and out of my comfort zone. For me, the benefit of working and going to school was that I was able to use what I learned immediately in my career. Examples of this include being able to model media campaigns on presentation principles covered in class, the ability to quickly assemble a presentation for my colleagues, authoring proposals and other persuasive materials, taking on graphic design projects (for the first time ever), and most of all, learning how to maximize my time.

While in the program, I felt I had a strong grasp on communications developments thanks in equal part to my professors and my fellow students. I believe that the program also granted me the knowledge of where to look and what questions to ask.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the DCMA program at DePaul University? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at DePaul or another university?

[Jenny Montagne] I would advise students starting out in the DePaul’s DMCA Program to try to assemble your own cohort early on. Having a crew of students to lean on, ask questions, and share ideas with helps during stressful periods – these people will also be part of your professional network when you’re done. I would also advise working closely with your adviser to identify your course path and have it match your career goals. As much as you can plan ahead in the courses you will take – including adjusting your schedule to take the classes you want, not just the ones that are available – will allow you to focus in on what actually interests you. I would also suggest that students ask a ton of questions and learn about all of the resources available to them while they’re in the program. Many students in the DMCA program earned their undergraduate degree from DePaul, so they tend to be more familiar with school and program offerings. Gear rental, program licensing, and off-campus work spaces are all things that took me a while to even hear about.

For all students about to pursue a master’s in communications, I would recommend figuring out what you want out of the program before choosing a school. Speak with students, research the course offerings, and find out what graduates are doing with their degrees. Once you’ve found the right program, as much as possible, be conscious of how your courses are contributing to your knowledge base and helping you reach your goals. It’s also possible that your goals will change as you move through the program – that’s OK!

I would also add that this is a really interesting time to be studying media. People who can evaluate it from a critical perspective are an asset and are much more able to successfully navigate an increasingly mediated world.

One final note: develop an elevator pitch for your program – this degree is pretty tricky to explain!

Thank you, Ms. Montagne, for your excellent insights on DePaul University’s Master of Arts in Digital Communication and Media Arts (DCMA) program!