About Hayley Hollis: Hayley Hollis is an Adjunct Faculty Member at both Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, and Lone Star College University Park in Houston, Texas. She teaches Public Speaking, Interpersonal Communication, and Business & Professional Communication courses in both traditional classroom and online settings. In addition to this, Ms. Hollis is also currently pursuing her Juris Doctorate at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, all while working as a Law Clerk for Liberty Mutual Insurance.
Ms. Hollis holds a bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communication from the University of Texas at Austin. She earned her first master’s in 2010, a Master of Education in Educational Technology Leadership from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. In 2016, she graduated from Sam Houston State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Hayley Hollis] My educational background is as diverse as my professional background. I began my studies at the University of Texas at Austin in 1995, entering the first class in the Corporate Communication BS program, during which time I was working in theatre management. Upon graduation from UT, I continued working in corporate management. After many years working in administration and corporate management, I sought a career change to something more fulfilling. I earned my Texas Teacher’s Certification to teach Speech in grades 8-12. I began teaching speech and coaching debate at Waller High School in Waller, Texas, which was an amazing experience. It allowed me to incorporate my background in communication studies and love of public speaking.
Teaching reignited my own desire to learn. While at Waller, I earned my M.Ed. in Educational Technology Leadership from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. I became the campus technologist at Waller High School and worked to implement new educational technology tools in the classroom. During my time at Waller, I earned the Cambridge CELTA certification in Budapest, Hungary. The internationally recognized certificate allows me to teach English as a second language to adults. In deciding my next steps, I determined that a master’s degree in communication would provide the tools needed for the next step in my educational and career trajectory. In 2016, I completed my master’s in communication from Sam Houston State University. I worked as Dr. Rick Bello’s graduate assistant throughout the program, which was a great experience! With my combined degrees, I had the opportunity to begin teaching college students in 2015. I have since been teaching Public Speaking, Interpersonal Communication, and Business & Professional Communication both face-to-face and online for community colleges across the nation. I currently teach courses at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, and Lone Star College University Park in Houston, Texas.
Originally, I was planning to pursue a doctorate in communication upon completion of my communication master’s. However, I determined that a different doctorate should be accomplished first. I will be graduating with my Juris Doctorate in the spring of 2019 from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the online Master of Arts in Communication Studies program at Sam Houston State University (SHSU)?
[Hayley Hollis] My original motivation for pursuing a master’s degree in communication was for eventual acceptance in a communication doctorate program. After completing my M.Ed., but prior to admission to Sam Houston’s program, I had researched the cohorts that had been admitted to the doctorate programs I was interested in applying to. One theme was apparent in reviewing the students’ CVs, a master’s in the discipline was going to be a necessity. Another motivation for pursuing my master’s in communication was to build the qualifications to teach communication courses at the college level.
Having attended many events on the Sam Houston campus with my students and having peers that graduated from SHSU, I had a very positive attitude towards the college and was pleasantly surprised when I began my research on programs and found that not only did SHSU have a master’s in communication program, but it had positive reviews and the curriculum was available online. The campus was a couple hours away from my home, making a face-to-face degree prohibitive while working full-time, but the online option provided me the opportunity to work with a fantastic faculty and staff while completing my degree remotely.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please elaborate on your experience in SHSU’s online MA program? How is the program structured? Were courses asynchronous, synchronous, or a combination of both? Did the school’s online platform enable you to interact with faculty members and classmates?
[Hayley Hollis] The structure of the online courses was consistent throughout the program. Most of the courses required discussion boards each week, where the students would pose questions based on the curriculum and delve deeper into the course concepts. The majority of courses required a literature review due at the end of the course, but the professors allowed the students to propose their own topics based on individual interests. The available courses rotate, so you begin the online program based on the courses that are available that semester. The structure of the program allowed me to complete the degree in two years without difficulty.
The courses were asynchronous but did allow for excellent communication opportunities between the students and faculty. The professors often participated in the discussion boards, provided timely feedback on the assignments and were responsive to any concerns and questions. While I was an online student, through my work as a graduate assistant and coursework, I developed a rapport with the faculty and felt as part of the Sam Houston community.
[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?
[Hayley Hollis] I completed my comprehensive exam in a single day, though it was an option to split it up over two days. I was able to drive to the campus to complete the exam, but I believe that I could have found a testing center to take the exam from if I had not been able to go to campus in person. The exam covered each of the courses I had taken, so it is customized to the individual course of study. The exam was structured by course and each question was given an approximate time limit that should be spent on that question.
In preparing for the comprehensive exam, I looked back over the syllabus from each course to identify all the components we studied in each class and reviewed my notes from each course. The professors provided sample questions and areas of focus for each subject to help me prepare for what I could expect on the exams. I completed each sample question by preparing full essay answers. That exercise proved to be invaluable as it allowed all the concepts covered on the exam to be fresh on my mind, which was helpful, as the exam was closed book. While taking it was mentally taxing, I felt the concepts covered by the curriculum were well represented in the comprehensive exam.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from SHSU’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Hayley Hollis] In my career path, the courses in Interpersonal Communication and Race & Gender have been extremely valuable. While I had taught communication courses at a high school prior to completing the master’s degree in communication at SHSU, the theoretical analysis and application have made not only my curriculum more robust in the classes I teach, but I have been able to improve relationships with my students, as well as friends and family.
I felt the courses that addressed changes in communication technology were fantastic because those changes impact our daily lives and the future of interpersonal communication. By understanding how society’s interactions are evolving, the program provided a deeper awareness of changes in communication and how technology impacts how we communicate.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Sam Houston State University’s online MA in Communication Studies 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 SHSU or another university?
[Hayley Hollis] The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to maximize your time. Time management was vital to my success in the program. In my experience, I was working full-time as well as attending SHSU as a full-time student, so my schedule was full. However, even with balancing life, work, and school, success in the program can be achieved by ensuring that all deadlines are met. The majority of classes required weekly readings and discussion boards, so much like a face-to-face class, it makes the course more interesting and interactive if everyone has completed their readings and can add to the discussion. The literature reviews that you must write for most courses will take some time to research and prepare, so the earlier you can start on that the better.
Thank you, Ms. Hollis, for your excellent insights on Sam Houston State University’s online Master of Arts in Communication Studies program!