About Megan Kendall: Megan Kendall is a Content Marketing Manager at Allied Solutions, a financial services company based in Carmel, Indiana. In this role, she helps develop and execute content marketing strategy, as well as assist with research initiatives and campaign execution. Before joining Allied Solutions, Ms. Kendall worked for Treefrog Marketing and Communications for over five years, primarily in the role of Content Director, responsible for overseeing all internal and external content initiatives at the agency.
Ms. Kendall attended Purdue University for her undergraduate studies, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing and English Literature, with minors in Chemistry and History. She returned to Purdue to pursue her master’s, graduating from their Masters of Communication program in 2018.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Megan Kendall] I received my undergraduate degree from Purdue University with a dual degree in Professional Writing and English Literature, with minors in Chemistry and History. After several years out in the professional work world, I returned to school to pursue a graduate degree in communication at Purdue University.
In between my degrees, I worked at a small, start-up marketing agency (when I started, I made employee #3!), eventually becoming the Content Director there. It was a great experience and really cemented my desire to eventually return to school to learn more about communication, especially when it came to social media communication. In that marketing role, I had opportunities to work across multiple channels of communication (think: web, social, print, press, events, public relations etc.) on behalf of our clients.
After graduating with my master’s, I returned to the professional world and currently work as a Content Marketing Manager at a finance company. The company is bigger, but the small, scrappy team dynamic relates back to my previous work. With this position, I’m back in the marketing role and support the business by developing and driving content marketing initiatives.
[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?
[Megan Kendall] I always knew I wanted to return to school, but after completing my undergraduate degree I wasn’t clear what I wanted to study, so chose to not immediately apply for grad school. I really enjoyed being an English major and valued the writing and communication skills gained, but felt I needed some professional experience in order to hone in on where my academic interests could be as a grad student.
While working, I found myself drawn to social media communication. I wanted to better understand how this communication style grew to become a part of our social landscape. Particularly, I thought it was interesting to see businesses engage with the platform, for both good and bad. It was this thinking that led me to begin researching different graduate programs to see what was available. I landed on communication because it seemed to be the perfect match of my English roots and marketing experience that would allow me to best answer this question—why does social media matter? This was a question that I could forward into a potential PhD track, but could also be valuable back in the work world.
Purdue’s program was appealing to me for a number of reasons. Most importantly, there was a home for social media research and there was a flexibility in the plan of study. I was looking for a thesis program that would allow me to build my own project, and give me the skills to pursue that project. Additionally, Purdue was very generous in their assistantship, and I looked forward to the teaching opportunities offered to master’s students. Ultimately, it was the new student welcome weekend where I made my decision. Meeting the students and faculty introduced me to a challenging program that offered a lot of academic and professional opportunities, and a group of people who were encouraging and supportive of my interests.
[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?
[Megan Kendall] Purdue’s program is really quite flexible in its structure. There are basic plan of study requirements, making sure you take classes related to your study area, and that you take both theory and method classes that could be in or outside of the department. The communication program is divided into different study areas (i.e., interpersonal, organizational, media, etc.) and I came in as a media, technology and society (MTS) student based around my social media research interests, which also helped inform my class decisions.
Research is a big part of the program at Purdue, so classes aim to best equip you to pursue research projects. In many of my classes, we were encouraged to build our final paper towards a larger research project. Classes were a mix of theory and method, but taught practical skills that could then be applied towards an assignment or paper.
My class choices focused on different types of methods. I learned practical skills for qualitative research, content analysis, network analysis and social media data mining and analysis. While my theory classes focused on media, crisis and social network communication. All of these classes coalesced to help me brainstorm and ultimately complete my thesis.
[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.)?
[Megan Kendall] Writing my thesis was one of the hardest but also most rewarding things I’ve completed. It’s definitely a challenging project to tackle, and I would be lying if I said it didn’t get overwhelming at times, but at the end of the day I’m proud of the final result. One of the biggest challenges was developing both the initial idea, and how I could successfully execute that idea. However, what grew to be the final topic was an organic process as I progressed through different classes and learned new skills, and had time to consider potential projects during my first year in the program.
At Purdue, the thesis process has three big components: a prospectus defense, actually doing the thesis, and then your final thesis defense. Both the prospectus defense and final defense were oral presentations with your full committee. I worked with my advisor to actually build out and refine the method, as well as write the final draft. For the prospectus, my advisor encouraged me to think of it as a proposal meeting to make sure the project idea is sound, and to receive any feedback before I started to really dig into the project, which was a helpful way to approach it. The final thesis defense was a review of what was accomplished, what I learned, and what my findings mean. Both of the oral defenses were a bit stressful just in their nature of presenting to three faculty members on my personal project, but it was also an opportunity to connect with communication scholars and discuss something I was interested in.
Specifically, my thesis was a qualitative content analysis about social media and crisis communication. I sought to measure social media influence for businesses facing a crisis situation, and explore why that matters in a corporate communication strategy. I built my thesis around a specific case, and ended up looking at Twitter with mined tweets and tracking how the company actually responded. Jokingly, I would describe my project as an attempt to find out if social media mattered. And the short answer is yes. Yes, it does.
My advice for those of you starting your thesis is to create a timeline, start a writing group, and communicate with your advisor. The timeline was helpful for me because it kept me accountable and allowed me to meet deposit deadlines at the end of the program. As soon as I passed my prospectus defense, I looked ahead to graduation and worked backwards to best schedule my time. Additionally, I highly recommend creating a writing group with several other master’s students. I connected with two others in my cohort and it was so helpful in managing deadlines, handling stress, and just working through the project together. We would meet for half an hour on a weekly basis and take time to update each other on what we were working on or any questions we had. Finally, my advisor was a great resource in answering questions and being an advocate for my project. Don’t be afraid to reach out, ask questions, and utilize their expertise.
[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?
[Megan Kendall] Yes, as a student my courses and coursework offered new things to learn, new applications to put towards research, and always an opportunity to improve my reading and writing. However, it was teaching, research, and travel that has been the most helpful to me in my career. Especially since I took a path to the professional world, these opportunities outside the classroom gave me practical, applicable experience that I have been able to adapt to professional settings at work.
For teaching, I was grateful the program allowed master’s students the opportunity to teach beyond the introductory speech course. In my two years in the program, I taught three very different courses, working with both freshmen and upper classmen, small classes and large lecture—it was a growth opportunity for me in developing public speaking and managerial skills in building my courses and running the class.
For research, I took advantage of several different opportunities to get involved outside of the classroom. I was a part of a couple research teams that created a project, gathered data, and analyzed our findings. From this, I was able to participate in several different conferences and also published a paper! Additionally, I was a research assistant on Purdue’s online master’s leadership team, where I was able to help behind the scenes on various projects and learn more about the online opportunities.
For travel, Purdue seemed unique in a sense that there are funds available for presenting and professional development. I attended and presented at NCA, but probably the coolest experience I had was traveling to Slovenia to present my research team’s work at an international PR conference.
[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?
[Megan Kendall] I think the best piece of advice I can give is to think about what aspects in and around communication really make you excited. Don’t be afraid to ask a big question—mine was “does social media matter? And if so, why?” This will help guide your plan of study, opportunities you take advantage of, and building your thesis. This is also partly self-preservation, if you’re not personally invested in your thesis topic, it’s hard to write it. But seriously, be excited about why you want to pursue a graduate degree in communication and really fight to keep that excitement alive as you begin coursework, projects, and teaching!
For students starting at Purdue, my best piece of advice is to get to know your fellow student colleagues, both in your cohort and those further along the program. One of the fun parts of the program is you’re not separated from the PhD students, so learn from them! And, reach out to the faculty—that’s the best way to learn about potential opportunities available throughout the program, whether that’s research, teaching, courses or other initiatives.
For anyone considering a communication degree, my final piece of advice is to not let the rigor of grad school work and schedules overwhelm you. Your life outside of coursework is real and the most important thing, so fight hard for that work-life balance. I strived to make social plans, and fought to build and maintain a routine (i.e., keeping “work” between 8am-5pm) or letting my students know I was unavailable after 9pm (and holding to that). These small boundaries allowed me to have a great graduate experience, where I am truly grateful for the many different experiences I was able to juggle, the thesis project I ultimately wrote, and the wonderful people I met in the program. Best of luck!
Thank you, Ms. Kendall, for your excellent insights on Purdue University’s Masters of Communication program!