About Rita Hourani-Ndovie: Rita Hourani-Ndovie works as a Corporate Support Coordinator for WKAR, a public radio and TV station owned by Michigan State University (MSU). Prior to joining WKAR, Ms. Hourani-Ndovie was an Administrative Coordinator at the environmental services company Fibertec IHS for three years. Her resume also includes positions as Media and Web Consultant for MSU’s Upward Bound program, and Office Manager for Woody’s Oasis in East Lansing, Michigan.
Ms. Hourani-Ndovie graduated from Michigan State in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Communication. She attended Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan for her master’s, completing their Master of Arts in Communication program in 2018.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Rita Hourani-Ndovie] I attended Michigan State University (MSU) for my undergraduate degree and Oakland University (OU) for my graduate degree. I studied communications during my time at both, and earned a specialization in public relations while at MSU. My master’s degree was in communication with a focus on media studies.
While I was in graduate school, I worked full time as an administrative coordinator at an industrial hygiene company. A few months after graduating, I accepted a position as an office coordinator for the corporate partnerships division at WKAR, a public TV/radio station affiliated with MSU. Even though you appreciate your education more as a graduate student, your heart is always with the institution you completed your undergraduate degree in, and I’m so happy to be back at MSU working in media!
[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)?
[Rita Hourani-Ndovie] After graduating with my undergrad, I knew I wanted to go back for my master’s degree, but I wasn’t sure what program would be a best fit for me. As I pursued different professional careers, I realized how valuable the concepts I learned in my communication program were. I wanted more in-depth knowledge within the field so I began to research different communication programs in the state of Michigan. I had to choose a program that would still allow me to work full time as I was also saving for a wedding. OU’s program offered night classes and was close enough that the hour-and-a-half drive to and from home was worth it.
After meeting with the director of the communications program at OU and learning about the courses offered, I knew it was the program for me. The three communication focuses were culture, media, and interpersonal, and all the related courses were very interesting to me. I started out interested in the cultural courses, but after taking a media course I changed my study plan. I was drawn to the study of media, identity, and representation. My research was mainly concentrated on reality TV and the representation of women. I loved learning more about a topic that has the potential to influence a huge portion of the population. I’m hoping that my research will help me as I pursue my professional career with TV and radio.
[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?
[Rita Hourani-Ndovie] OU’s program is theory based and emphasizes the use of different research methods. There are three core courses, two of which all students have to take: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Communication and Philosophy of Communication Scholarship. The third core class offers students the option to choose between qualitative or quantitative methods in communication, of which I chose qualitative.
Another component to the program is the exit option. Students can choose between taking a comprehensive exam, writing a thesis, or a creative project. I chose to take a comprehensive exam, which entailed writing essays in response to questions about each course I took within the program.
I would say the skills I found most useful in my classes were my qualitative research skills. Most of my research papers used textual analysis, a qualitative research method, to examine how identity was embedded in different TV shows and movies. I also used feminist rhetorical criticism, another qualitative method, to analyze a speech given by actress Anne Hathaway advocating for paid parental leave in the United States. Using these methods helped me get a much deeper look into my topics and contribute something different to the communications field through my analysis.
[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?
[Rita Hourani-Ndovie] The comprehensive exam was the final step in obtaining my degree. There was a lot of pressure to do well on it, not just because I wanted to pass, but because I wanted to make my professors proud. The point of the exam was to measure my understanding of the core concepts covered in the classes I took. There were two parts to the exam, an in-house exam and a take home portion. For the in-house exam I was asked five questions, the topics of which covered the five classes I took outside of my focus, which was media. The take home portion was tailored to my media courses, it involved three long essays for each media course I took and one essay that combined concepts from my research and all three of my classes. In total I had to write nine long essays, which was somewhat overwhelming, but I had all semester to prepare!
The first step in preparation was to gather all my materials from my classes in order to be organized and know where all my previous research and notes were. The second step was to contact my former professors and ask them if they could provide me with a direction to go in and ideas to focus on. All of my professors were very supportive and obliged, and gave me concepts to concentrate my studies on. For the next couple of months, I made study guides, reread some chapters, and made flashcards. In order to make sure I put in enough time to review the necessary material, I wrote my study sessions in my calendar. My advisor told me to devote as much time studying for my comprehensive exam as I would have to another class. Honestly, it was difficult to stay disciplined on my own, but I knew if I didn’t dedicate time to studying I wouldn’t be confident about taking the exam. Even though the process was stressful, and at times difficult, it was definitely worth it and I passed! I couldn’t have done it without the support of my advisor and the rest of the faculty at OU to which I am so grateful for.
[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?
[Rita Hourani-Ndovie] As an administrative coordinator, the theories I found the most useful to apply to my profession were the ones I learned in my organizational communication class. Dealing with people on a day-to-day basis, it was helpful to understand how different organizations were structured and what that meant for communicating different concepts and ideas. I was able to recognize how my company was structured based on scientific and classic management theories which helped me navigate certain situations.
[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?
[Rita Hourani-Ndovie] My advice for incoming students would be to work closely with and cultivate positive relationships with the OU faculty. They were great at guiding me and answering all my questions, whether about specific classes or the program as a whole. I would also say, don’t stress too much about which exit option to choose. No matter what, you will have the support you need for success from the faculty and your cohort. The biggest difference between graduate school and undergrad is the support you get from the small community that forms within your program. When I felt overwhelmed and defeated by coursework, it was encouraging to know that I wasn’t alone and I had people around me who wanted to help and support me.
Going to graduate school was one of the best decisions I made, it was tough, but worth it. I completed my degree in two years while working full time and commuting three hours roundtrip to every class. I want anyone out there who wants to continue their education but has certain obstacles in the way to know that it’s possible. You might have to make a few sacrifices along the way, but you won’t regret it!
Thank you, Ms. Hourani-Ndovie, for your excellent insights on Oakland University’s Master of Arts in Communication program!