About Chelsea Moss: Chelsea Moss works as a Development Associate for the ETV Endowment of South Carolina, a nonprofit that fundraises for the programming on SCETV and SC Public Radio. In her free time, she loves to travel both within the states and internationally, as well as support the theatre scene in Greenville by attending national touring shows and local productions. Ms. Moss is also a member of the Piedmont chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and serves on her local National Philanthropy Day committee.
Ms. Moss earned her undergraduate degree from Bob Jones University, graduating in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication. In 2018, she graduated from Purdue University with a master’s degree in communication, focusing on Media, Technology, and Society.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Chelsea Moss] I attended Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, completing my undergraduate degree in 2016. My time at BJU was packed full of extracurricular activities that supported my major in Journalism and Mass Communication and my minor in Theatre Arts. My senior year included an internship at our local NBC affiliate station, WYFF News 4.
Following graduation, I moved to West Lafayette, Indiana, to pursue my master’s in communication from Purdue University. My program consisted of a major in Media, Technology, and Society, and a minor in Family Communication. During my time as a graduate student in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue, I was amazed by all the opportunities available to me. I taught a few undergraduate courses in public speaking and mass communication and society, served as a teaching assistant for a television production course, served as Vice President of Professional Development for Purdue’s Communication Graduate Student Association, and worked as an intern at Purdue’s Military Family Research Institute during my second year of school.
Since graduating from Purdue in May of 2018, I have moved back to the Greenville area and begun working at the ETV Endowment of South Carolina as a development associate. My primary responsibilities include donor cultivation and stewardship, where I’m using my writing skills, interpersonal communication abilities, and survey design knowledge. I regularly travel around the Upstate meeting with our donors, thanking them for their support, and hearing their feedback. I am also a member of the Piedmont chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and am serving on the National Philanthropy Day committee as our local chapter prepares for our November event to recognize philanthropy in the Upstate.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Masters of Communication program at Purdue University?
[Chelsea Moss] I was interested in pursuing graduate work at some point, but wasn’t sure of the timing. Before heading into graduate school (and even while in graduate school), I was unsure where specifically within the communication field I saw myself after graduation, whether it would be something more within the broadcast field or something more in the public relations/communications realm.
While taking a communication course my senior year of college, my professor mentioned to me that I should consider graduate school and, specifically, Purdue. I looked into the program online and saw that one of their five focus areas was media, technology, and society. I was especially intrigued by this sector of the communication field and wanted to understand more of the theory behind all the practical, hands-on skills I was learning as a broadcast major. One thing led to another, and I took advantage of any Purdue connections I had to learn more about the program. Speaking with Melanie Morgan-Collins, Director of Graduate Studies for the Brian Lamb School, was very helpful, and hearing from a few other Bob Jones connections who had also studied at Purdue and gave glowing reviews was also quite influential. Pursuing a master’s in communication would open up a number of doors for me upon graduation and extend my skill set and make me more desirable as a job applicant.
As far as deciding on Purdue, attending the BLSC’s grad student welcome weekend in February was extremely eye-opening. I got to meet students that I would later be going through school and life with, hear about teaching and research opportunities, and get a feel for the department vibe. One of the most impressive things to me about this department was that multiple people told me how it’s not a competitive environment. What I mean by this is that there are plenty of opportunities for everyone, if you’re accepted into the program you’re automatically funded, and everyone wants everyone else to succeed at their work. After being a part of the program for two years, I can say that this was by and large quite accurate. I also loved the flexibility of the program to really make it into what you wanted.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Purdue’s Masters of 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?
[Chelsea Moss] Purdue’s program is structured with a good deal of flexibility. There are five general focus areas (public relations, organizational communication, interpersonal communication, health communication, and media, technology, and society), but you can really make your own hybrid program by mixing a major and minor together as I did (MTS major and family communication minor). Everyone has to take a methods course and their focus area’s basic theory course. The biggest thing to remember when developing your plan of study, however, is that there has to be a common thread to your courses so they work together to make up a major and minor(s). There’s definitely wiggle room to make the argument for why x, y, and z courses go together to support your major, but it’s helpful if you think about it from the beginning so you’re not left without a proper foundation when you go to write your thesis or take comprehensive exams. You can decide whether you’d prefer to write a thesis or take comprehensive exams. The non-thesis route requires a few extra classes and a series of comprehensive exams.
One of the best pieces of advice I heard in grad school was to make your classes work for you. Get the most out of them as possible. In my case, my second semester of grad school included a content analysis methodology course and a family communication course. Not only did these two courses (and the two big term papers they required) set me up beautifully for my thesis, but I ended up asking both of the professors to be on my committee (one as my advisor and one as a committee member). Heading into the thesis process with these experiences under my belt and these two faculty members on my team made the incredibly daunting task of writing a thesis seem much more achievable. There’s no shame in making a course paper work towards your other academic research goals!
[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.)?
[Chelsea Moss] To be honest, I was somewhat terrified of writing the thesis. Attending grad school was a big learning curve for me as I was making the shift from a very hands-on, practical undergrad program to a very theoretical, research-oriented master’s program. However, writing the thesis gave me invaluable experience, not only in research skills, but in project management, data collection and analysis, and training skills as I worked with undergraduate research assistants.
Working with my advisor, I gradually honed in on an effective way to combine two of my biggest interests: the role and influence of fatherhood and the television sitcom’s role in society. Since I had just done a quantitative content analysis study for my content analysis course, it was a natural fit to use that methodology to study family sitcoms from the 1950s through 2009 and see what types of social support fathers gave their children in these shows and with what frequency. I also wanted to see if there were any significant correlations between these findings and mothers’ employment status, the family’s socioeconomic status, and gender of children.
The Brian Lamb School offers exceptional resources for student research. I was able to work with two dedicated undergraduate students who both received academic credit for their assistance on my project, and I received financial support for the purchasing of television episodes I needed to code for my project. Together with my research assistants, we coded 120 episodes, breaking them down into five minute units. I used an existing social support behavior code (Cutrona and Suhr’s 1992 Social Support Behavior Code) and made additions and modifications for the development of my codebook.
I found both of my defenses (prospectus and final defense) to be very rewarding and (dare I say) wonderful experiences! It was truly an honor to sit around a table with three brilliant minds who had taken the time to read my work and offer constructive critique on my project. In my case, both defenses were essentially conversations where my advisor had a few questions for me to answer (which he gave me ahead of time), and then I answered other questions from my two other committee members. Especially with my final defense, the suggestions of my committee encouraged me regarding the significance of my findings and gave me helpful suggestions that ultimately led to a stronger final product.
My advice to other students regarding the thesis would be to pick something that is significant to you, and do your homework before you ask a professor to be your advisor. Having the right advisor in your corner is crucial to a positive thesis experience (yes, such a thing does exist). Ask around and get the opinions of current advisees of the advisor you’re considering. Each advisor has their own editing style, working-relationship style, and standards. I knew my advisor was going to settle for nothing less than excellent, but he helped me reach this level of excellence and see my full potential. When you have the right advisor, they will provide guidance on proper scope of project (my advisor steered me away from one of my proposed ideas as it was more dissertation size than thesis size).
One other piece of brutal thesis advice – remember that at the end of the day, you need to be willing to accept edits and make whatever changes your committee deems necessary so that you can pass your defense and graduate. That being said, fight for the topic you’re passionate about, but be flexible and willing to surrender on suggested changes as you really don’t want smaller requests (running another type of data analysis or rewriting a section of your thesis) to keep you from graduating on time!
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Purdue’s graduate communication program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Chelsea Moss] While the masters in communication program at Purdue is quite research oriented and is certainly an ideal fit for someone looking to progress within the academic world, I think it’s important to note that it can also provide a unique experience for someone interested in heading for industry upon graduation. My key piece of advice for this latter demographic, however, is that your experience and industry preparation during grad school will largely rest upon your own shoulders. For example, an internship was definitely not a requirement (and was not necessarily the norm) for grad students in my department, but my internship at MFRI was perhaps one of, if not the, most influential things in my landing the job I have now and giving me the experience necessary to succeed at my current job.
While the CGSA (Communication Graduate Student Association) and the Lamb School are making an increasing effort to be mindful of students looking to pursue non-academic jobs, it will be up to you to take advantage of those networking opportunities. Most courses I took didn’t provide very hands-on, practical learning like my undergraduate program did, but the critical thinking, writing skills development, and public speaking and interpersonal communication skills you develop will be helpful for literally any job you pursue after graduating. The academic rigor at Purdue does a terrific job preparing you for future study within academia as well.
The teaching opportunities are truly phenomenal at Purdue. For being such a research-intensive institution, they do a remarkable job at preparing students to be quality teachers as well. Just during my time as a master’s student, I got to be the primary instructor for two different courses (Fundamentals of Presentational Speaking and Mass Communication and Society) and serve as a teaching assistant for Television Production. Your first semester, you also attend an orientation program for those new to teaching public speaking at Purdue. This orientation and all the assistant directors of the course do a great job equipping you with everything you need to do a great job teaching Com 101 and setting you up to be a good teacher beyond this class. I absolutely loved my time teaching at Purdue and working with the wonderful students there!
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the Masters of Communication program at Purdue 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 Purdue or another university?
[Chelsea Moss] For those specifically starting at Purdue, know that you are about to experience a wonderfully rich, fulfilling two years. You will be pushed academically beyond what you thought possible, but you will grow exponentially as a result. The faculty at Purdue are so very supportive, so don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, or even set up a time to chat and get their advice.
No matter where you’re getting your master’s, take advantage of as many opportunities as you can! Most of your grad school experiences will be very translatable into an industry position after you graduate, but it’s up to you to seek out these opportunities and make your experience in grad school all that it can be! Also, try to connect with your cohort as much as possible. These people and the others in your department will be your lifeline as you all go through the process together. If you isolate yourself, you’ll miss out on what the grad school experience is really all about.
Thank you, Ms. Moss, for your excellent insights on Purdue University’s Masters of Communication program!