About Max King: Max King is the Coordinator of Athletic Communications for Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. In this role, he serves as the primary media contact for the school’s sports teams, handling public relations, social media, and web strategy, as well as assisting with gameday operations. Mr. King’s previous work experience includes time spent with the Lansing Lugnuts (a minor league baseball team) and the Detroit Lions.
Mr. King holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. He completed his master’s in 2017, graduating from the Master of Arts in Communication program at Oakland University.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Max King] I received my bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University in 2013, and earned my master’s degree in communication from Oakland in 2017. I currently work as the Coordinator of Athletic Communications for Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Part of my duties include public relations for the athletics department at Oakland, website development, gameday operations and organizing interviews with student-athletes, coaches and staff.
[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 Oakland University (OU)?
[Max King] I decided to pursue my master’s degree because of the influence of two communication professors I had at Michigan State, Steve McCornack and Kelly Morrison. I took some of their courses as an undergraduate student and found the communication field, specifically interpersonal communication, fascinating.
I chose the Master of Arts in Communication at Oakland because it was the perfect situation for me educationally and professionally. I was fortunate to receive a full-ride scholarship offer to the program, while being able to work in the athletics department as a graduate assistant. I also liked the program’s structure and how they offered different fields of study outside of interpersonal communication, which was all I was exposed to prior to my arrival.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Oakland’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?
[Max King] The structure of the communications program allowed students to focus on three major fields: Interpersonal Communication, Media Studies, and Culture and Communication. Students select a field they want to specialize in and take a majority of courses in that field, while also being required to take a few courses from the other two fields. Full-time students generally can graduate from the program in two years. There is a choice of three exit options; a thesis, a creative project, or comprehensive exam, which is the route I chose.
The program overall emphasized a critical approach to communication and how it influences so many factors in our everyday lives. Some goals of the program are to teach students about the wide-ranging impact of communication, how to be critical of it, and developing the analytical skills that are needed in today’s society. We were also taught how to conduct research and how to analyze others’ work.
Perhaps the best skill I learned and still use today is the critical approach of communication that is so often overlooked. Before going through the course work, being critical of communication was never something I thought much about. Being able to be exposed to how the “other side” may be influenced was an eye-opening experience for me.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience preparing for and taking your comprehensive capstone examination? What were the components of the exam, and were they tailored to your individual course of study? What advice do you have for students in terms of preparing for their comprehensive exams?
[Max King] At the beginning of my last semester, I met with my advisor, which I chose during the beginning of my second year in the program, and we discussed how the exam worked and how to prepare. At the time, there were two parts to the exam; a take-home and in-house portion, both in an essay exam format, that took place towards the end of the semester.
The in-house portion consisted of four questions; one from each of the three core courses that all students are required to take, and then a question from one of my non-specialization fields (in my case it was from a critical-cultural course). I took the exam inside the program’s building and had five hours to answer the essay questions. I was actually the only student in the program that was taking the comprehensive exams that semester, so it was just me in a room which was different but also kind of nice.
The following week I took my take-home exam portion and had a week to complete another series of four essay questions. These focused more on my specialization courses and a reading list I created.
The reading list is an important part of the comprehensive exams. It was something I worked with my advisor on early in the semester and derived from the readings in my specialization course work. These readings consisted of anything I was assigned to read for those classes and anything that I referenced in my papers and projects from those classes. This list was extensive (though it did not include everything I read for those classes) and I grouped the readings together under three themes. Each theme was a declarative statement and was an argument that I thought I could make using my selected readings. And, each argument bridged the different courses, meaning I used readings from various classes to support my argument, rather than just using material from one class to support one theme.
Once I submitted all my papers I received an email about one week after saying I passed. It was a great feeling!
Preparing for the comprehensive exam can be daunting at first, and I believe some of the formatting has changed since I was in the program, but my advice for future students taking the comprehensive exams is to plan out and organize your semester while utilizing your professors/advisor as a resource for guidance. Try and make a number of goals throughout the semester and meet those deadlines. The program at Oakland certainly gave me the skills to make my own deadlines on course work and this is no different. Ask your professors, advisor, and even other students who may be taking the exams questions throughout the process.
The great thing about my experience at Oakland was I felt that everyone was on my side and wanted me to succeed. Plus, the program is set up so the course work prepares you for your exit option. To be put it in terms of athletics, the course work is practice and the exit option is the game.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from OU’s Master of Arts in Communication program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Max King] A few different aspects of Oakland’s program helped me to be where I am at today, starting with the interpersonal and media sides of communication. I work with an array of people on a day-to-day basis (coaches, student-athletes, staff members, university employees, fans, etc.) and understanding the interpersonal side of communication is insightful. Being able to study how the many different groups of people communicate only helps me do my job better.
Media studies was eye-opening simply because I, like many, consumed media so much and never stopped to think more in-depth or critically about it. As someone who works in the media field it is important to understand why you do what you do, why people react certain ways to media and how to avoid becoming the “mindless consumer” that so many of us easily get trapped into, with no fault to our own.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Oakland University’s MA 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 OU or another university?
[Max King] My advice to a student beginning Oakland’s MA in Communication program would be to explore all your options, even if it may be something you do not think you are interested in. When it comes to the academic side of the program, you will think you want to explore one of the fields of study but will probably end up finding an interest in another field. One of the best things about the program is every course offers different perspectives on an array of subjects. If you think you may be interested in a topic, continue to learn more.
The professors at Oakland are a great resource to have for course work or just to talk to. I had multiple professors offer to come to their office just to talk and make sure I was doing well. They genuinely care and their goals are to make you succeed in the program, so use them as much as possible as a tool to help you do so.
More broadly, for anyone who is considering a master’s program in communication, I would tell them to be as organized as possible. Find a technique that works best for you to stay organized and plan out everything you need to do. It will be overwhelming, it will be stressful, you will not understand all of the material, but everything will be fine and it will pay off in the end.
Another piece of advice I would give is, for as much as people will tell you to work hard and push yourself, what many do not tell you is to take time off. You will get burnt out and taking time away from your studies can be very effective. Give yourself a day, an hour, or whatever you need.
Thank you, Mr. King, for your excellent insights on Oakland University’s Master of Arts in Communication program!