About Sherianne Hermes: Sherianne Hermes is the Professional Standards Coordinator at Addison Consolidated Dispatch Center (ACDC), a police, fire, and emergency medical services 911 center in Addison, Illinois. There, she coordinates training of both current and new employees, manages ACDC’s CALEA accreditation, assists with the development and implementation of new programs and procedures, and handles the center’s public relations. Ms. Hermes worked as a dispatcher for over 14 years before being promoted to her current position, and is certified as both an Emergency Medical Dispatcher and a Public Safety Telecommunicator and Instructor.

Ms. Hermes holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies from Elmhurst College in Illinois. She returned to school in 2016 to pursue her master’s, graduating from the online Master of Mass Communication program at South Dakota State University.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?

[Sherianne Hermes] I work for Addison Consolidated Dispatch Center (ACDC) – a police, fire and emergency medical services consolidated emergency 9-1-1 center in Addison, Illinois. I was a dispatcher for over 14 years. In August 2017, I was promoted to Professional Standards Coordinator. I coordinate training, manage our CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) accreditation, and am responsible for public relations via community outreach, via website and social media. I am Emergency Medical Dispatch certified through the State of Illinois, as well as a certified public safety telecommunicator and instructor through the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO).

I earned a BS degree in communications at Elmhurst College (Elmhurst, IL), and this past May 2018, I graduated from South Dakota State University earning a Master of Mass Communication. I am a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society and Phi Kappa Honor Society.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the online Master of Mass Communication (MMC) program at South Dakota State University?

[Sherianne Hermes] While attending Elmhurst College initially as a music student, I decided to change my major to Interdepartmental Communications, a new degree program that commenced at that time. I was concerned about the job market in the music industry and was always drawn to communication and technology. After completing my first class, I knew I made the correct decision. My undergraduate degree focused upon organizational management, business communication, professional and personal communication, public speaking, collaboration, teamwork, and technology, a fundamental component in every class.

After working in the employee benefits field, I decided to return to public safety emergency communications after missing the gratifying feeling of helping others in need every day. (I worked for the Addison Police as a 9-1-1 emergency telecommunicator in my early 20s while I attended Elmhurst College part time.) Within days of my return, I knew I made the absolute correct decision. After a few years, consolidation with other local municipalities began, and I met my husband – a police sergeant, who also happened to be a criminal justice adjunct college instructor. He inspired me to obtain a graduate degree so I, too, could eventually teach.

I was eager to seek a graduate degree in the area of mass communications; however, I was limited to the online environment due the mandate of shift work. In addition, I wanted a smaller, more intimate program similar to my undergraduate environment, although that was a traditional campus-based program. South Dakota State University’s (SDSU) Master of Mass Communication program met all these requirements. Their program included courses which not only enhanced my communication skills, but prepared me well for promotion with my current employer.

[MastersinCommunications.com] How is SDSU’s MMC 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?

[Sherianne Hermes] Upon acceptance, SDSU’s student-centered online environment guided me successfully throughout the program. The program, the faculty, and the individual attention offered proved to be exceptional. Coursework began with “Introduction to Mass Communication.” The course presented not only concepts of Mass Communication but set the foundation for the entire program. The course was exceptionally structured in that it offered a programmatic study plan, to include parameters for the future final capstone project.

My plan of study included Media Law Case Studies, Conducting Professional Research, International Media, Mass Communication Teaching Methods, and my favorite, Cross-Platform Storytelling. Each course provided the building blocks for each successive course. Cross-Platform Storytelling was the catalyst for finalizing my final project, that of building the ACDC website and launching a social media campaign for the emergency 911 center.

Specifically, the coursework in my plan of study prepared me to understand mass communication methodology, analyze research methods, and provide an awareness of mass communication globally. Associated Press (AP) writing style was prevalent in many classes as an applied skill as was the use of technology, not only because of the online format, but because technology is integral in understanding and applying modern Mass Communication.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your capstone project? What communication issue or challenge did it address, and what were your primary deliverables (i.e. communications plan, tutorial, video, visual marketing materials, etc.)? What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully completing their project?

[Sherianne Hermes] SDSU offers several capstone options; I chose the masters project – to research website design and build a website and social media campaign specifically for my employer. The Addison Police Department (Addison, IL) emergency 9-1-1 center began consolidating with other municipal agencies about five years ago to form the Addison Consolidated Dispatch Center. As consolidation expanded to include numerous police and fire agencies, thus resulting in additional staff needs, the agency outgrew the current facility. A two-year project resulted in the opening of a new 20,000 square foot facility in April 2018. During this time, I was promoted and anticipated earning the MMC. I knew we needed our own footprint on the web and social media, similar to other consolidated centers in the area.

Cross-Platform Storytelling was the catalyst for finalizing my final project, building the ACDC website, and launching a social media campaign for the center. The instructor, also my advisor, Dr. Dailey, encouraged me in believing the project would be a success. While my discipline entailed a unique aspect of communication, coursework and assignments in every class provided application of emergency communication operations and administration, thus leading me toward preparation to complete the capstone. Throughout the final year of study, I completed the website, proposed a social media campaign to my employer, and all was launched in January 2018.

The capstone included the website, social media campaign, and a final paper describing the details and processes of the project, culminating in an online defense with two members of the SDSU MMC Department and an outside professional within a related field. The project and project defense were the most intimidating portions of the program. The worry was unfounded. SDSU provides a plan of study from the start, well-defined coursework that provides for a solid foundation toward the capstone project, and unsurpassed personal guidance, culminating into a professional, welcoming, final defense environment.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from SDSU’s Master of Mass Communication program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?

[Sherianne Hermes] Cross-platform storytelling and cross-platform campaigns have proven to be invaluable for my professional career goals. A solid understanding of applying concepts using technology, manipulating technology, preparing and executing a social media campaign plan were key in my capstone and beyond. SDSU courses pushed me to reach goals I had never imagined academically, professionally, and personally. SDSU coursework provided discipline-specific concepts as well as conceptual strategies, such as research methodologies, which I use every day in my profession.

Many classes required Associated Press (AP) writing style used in professional journalism. Because I am not a professional journalist, I had to learn with the assistance of my professors and classmates. While I enjoy academic writing, I realized it was not suitable for online articles and publications. Learning AP style prepared me to write content for my capstone project and to expand my writing for publication professionally and personally.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the online MMC program at South Dakota State 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 SDSU or another university?

[Sherianne Hermes] The smaller class size of the SDSU MMC online program is perfect for a student who wants a more personal experience within an engaging learning environment. Every step of the way SDSU offers personal assistance, encouraging students to ask questions of your advisors, about the plan of study, as well as your professors regarding classwork. The smaller class size also allows you to get to know classmates on both a personal and professional level. Network with classmates! SDSU’s online platform is perfect for classmate engagement and professors encourage it. Your classmates are one of your best resources.

Students contemplating a graduate degree in communication – my advice is research, research, and research as many schools as possible before applying to a program. Once enrolled, start the capstone project from day one. Initially, the capstone will undoubtedly appear overwhelming, but advisors and professors are there to guide you through the process. Use coursework in EVERY class to support the capstone project. By the time you are ready to take those final capstone credits, much of your capstone project components will be complete.

A Master of Mass Communication is applicable to a variety of disciplines, and programs offer various plans of study. There are many programs to choose from, and while tuition and fees are always a factor, the least expensive is not always the best option. Review program curriculum, and if a program interests you, contact an advisor for information. Most of all, look for a program with coursework that interests you and you will be successful.

Thank you, Ms. Hermes, for your excellent insights on South Dakota State University’s online Master of Mass Communication program!