About Katharine Miller, Ph.D.: Katharine Miller recently completed her Ph.D. from Purdue University, earning a doctorate in Organizational Communication, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Mixed Research Methods. While pursuing her degree, Dr. Miller served as a Graduate Teaching and Research Assistant in Purdue’s Brian Lamb School of Communication, assisting with and teaching courses in Presentational Speaking, Advertising, Public Relations, and Organizational Communication. In the fall, she will be starting as an Assistant Professor of Corporate and Health Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Dr. Miller attended Marquette University for her undergraduate studies, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communication, Marketing, and Writing-Intensive English. She completed her master’s at Marquette as well, graduating from their Master of Arts in Communication program in 2016.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Dr. Katharine Miller] I completed my BA in Corporate Communication, Marketing, and Writing-Intensive English from Marquette University in 2014, and then stayed at Marquette to receive my MA in Communication Studies in 2016. I just finished my PhD in Organizational Communication from Purdue University. In the fall, I will be starting as an Assistant Professor of Corporate and Health Communication at UW-Whitewater.
[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 program at Marquette University?
[Dr. Katharine Miller] At first, I was not even sure I wanted to pursue a master’s degree because I did not know quite yet what my career plans were. I always wanted to attend grad school, and I became very passionate about my Corporate Communication major and wanted to see what more I could do in the Communication arena.
Ultimately, my decision to stay at Marquette for my master’s was largely dependent on the wonderful relationship and admiration I had with and for the faculty. Additionally, Marquette’s program is small, which I knew was a good fit for me personally. After my first year at Marquette, I knew I wanted to continue with research and teaching, and my advisor and committee members became very helpful in mentoring me through the application and selection process as I pursued a PhD.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Marquette’s MA in Communication 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. Katharine Miller] Marquette’s program has changed since I have been there, but overall the curriculum was very traditional in its structure. You had the flexibility to take various classes that ranged from regular to advanced methodology, theory, and applied communication (e.g., training and development, advertising campaigns). The classes were very small (ranging from 5 to 10 students) which allowed for intimate conversation between the students and instructors. Both faculty and adjunct instructors taught courses, which allowed for a great mix of concepts and strategies.
Marquette also has many great relationships with local businesses, which allowed for many of the classes to have an applied approach and projects. Research was not the primary focus at Marquette, which was perfect for what I was looking for at the time. Many students are either part-time students who work full time, or teaching/research assistants who had plans to either return to industry or a small number would go on for a PhD, myself included.
[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. Katharine Miller] My thesis topic was something I had been thinking about since my undergraduate days, and one that my advisor and mentor were invaluable in helping me focus in on and really get at the “so what” question. This idea has since continued to be a passion of mine and was even a large focus of my doctoral dissertation. My thesis largely looked at how communication professionals make sense of and understand Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). I sought to understand how these individuals define, communicate, and come to know what CSR is and what it means to them and their company.
As I am sure others can relate to, completing a thesis is an incredibly challenging experience. It is the time when you are challenged to complete an entire research project on your own in order to contribute to theory, the field you are a part of, and to create new knowledge about a certain topic. Knowing that I wanted to pursue a PhD, my professors encouraged me to complete a thesis in order to have real research experience, while getting a sneak peek into what a doctoral program may be like.
However, I would encourage anyone in a graduate program to consider the thesis route. It challenges you to work independently on something that is completely yours, and I have heard it is a great thing to add to a job market portfolio. My thesis was both qualitative and rhetorical, and was a case study of one specific company in the financial services industry. In terms of advice, I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping yourself on track. Set a timeline with goal dates with your advisor and stick to it. Since you are working on your own for almost a full year, setting a schedule for yourself is crucial.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Marquette’s graduate communication program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Dr. Katharine Miller] Even though Marquette is a smaller program, the connections I made there were invaluable, and I still keep in touch with many of the faculty who mentored me during my time there. The classes I took at Marquette laid the foundation for my doctoral program, and my confidence as a teacher and as a scholar grew during those short two years.
I grew a passion for asking questions about the world; about knowledge; and for teaching and mentoring students as they embarked on their own career paths. This all started at Marquette, and has immensely shaped who I am now as I begin professorship. Overall, the introduction Marquette gave me to communication theory and research, particularly in Corporate Communication and PR/Advertising, teaching, and traveling to present at conferences, completely transformed my career path and future.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Marquette University’s Master of Arts in Communication program? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at Marquette or another university?
[Dr. Katharine Miller] I always tell prospective students that the most important thing when choosing a graduate program is fit. Be sure to make on-campus visits or attend pre-orientations so that you can interact with students and faculty, see how they interact with each other, what the culture is like, and how the campus feels. Being able to envision yourself there and feeling that you could be happy there personally and professionally. To me, fit was incredibly important.
Thank you, Dr. Miller, for your excellent insights on Marquette University’s Master of Arts in Communication program!