About Megan Wieser: Megan Wieser works as a Media Relations Specialist for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). She joined the University Marketing and Communications team in December 2014, and in her current role, is responsible for producing news items and videos that highlight SIUE’s academic successes and achievements, as well as those of its students, faculty, and alumni. Ms. Wieser’s previous experience includes working as a Media Production Specialist for Signature Medial Group, and Reporter/Producer for WEAU 13 News.
Ms. Wieser holds a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. In 2017, she completed SIUE’s Master of Arts in Applied Communication Studies program, with a specialization in Public Relations.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Megan Wieser] I earned a bachelor’s in broadcast journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2009. I later completed a master’s in applied communication studies, with an emphasis in public relations, from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2017.
I’ve worked for SIUE in University Marketing and Communications since 2014. As a media relations specialist, I promote the University by producing and sharing content in written and video form that highlights the many achievements of SIUE students and alumni, the research and creative activities of faculty, institutional advancements in higher education, and high-impact community engagement practices happening across the institution.
While completing my bachelor’s, I worked part-time at WEAU 13 News in Eau Claire. Upon graduation, I took a full-time position at the station. I worked there in various roles, including audio and graphics production, news producing, news reporting and anchoring.
When my husband and I moved to the St. Louis area a few years later, I helped bolster the communication efforts of Signature Medical Group, as a media production specialist. I incorporated video into their marketing efforts, using my “one-man-band” skills from my newscasting days to gather and create new content. Video creation included, but was not limited to, patient testimonials, features on surgical procedures, physician profile pieces, patient education, features on SMG run programs, community outreach, and more.
[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 Applied Communication Studies program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE)?
[Megan Wieser] Once I transitioned from broadcasting to public relations, I found my passion for my work increase. I chose to pursue a master’s in communication to gain a competitive advantage in the workplace and set myself up for future climbing up the institutional or corporate ladder should opportunities present. At the time I was considering gaining an advanced degree, I was working full-time and had two children under age three at home.
I ultimately chose SIUE’s program, because it offered an array of coursework and presented it in mostly online or hybrid formats. I was able to take the majority of my classes online, while still making important connections with my professors. All were incredibly communicative and accommodating with their schedules.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is SIUE’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?
[Megan Wieser] SIUE’s applied communication studies graduate program features four specializations, including public relations, corporate and organizational communication, interpersonal communication, and health communication. It’s structured as a two-year program and concludes with one of three exit options: comprehensive exam, applied project or thesis.
As a professional in the field, I was thrilled to be able to apply my course content and research immediately in my workplace. I was a focused, adult learner who was pursuing my degree to gain new knowledge that I could directly incorporate into my work.
I chose to focus much of my research throughout the program on crisis communications, media framing and executive communication. My coursework in corporate social responsibility, organizational culture, social media for public relations and nonprofit public relations proved hugely beneficial in my growth and development. My assignments involving reflective and inquisitive blog posts, as well as research projects I conducted, helped me build a strong foundation in theory and research methods. I was then able to expand existing scholarship by analyzing real-time examples of PR crises and corporate social responsibility success stories and applying best practices.
[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?
[Megan Wieser] I was incredibly nervous about the comprehensive exam, as I tend to feel test anxiety. I prefer to write papers! Luckily, this exit option is a mix of both. First you complete the written exam, which is divided into two parts with a morning working session and an afternoon session. Then, once you’ve passed the written portion, you schedule an oral defense with the three faculty members you’ve chosen to be on your exit committee. Exit committee members are those you have worked with most extensively throughout your studies. Often their expertise spans the program course topics.
To prepare for the written portion, I assembled two large binders that included the most pertinent notes, papers and study guides from my courses. The first section of the exam features questions related to the program’s two core courses: theory and research methods. No notes may be used. Therefore, I studied my coursework extensively. The second section includes questions related to your specialization. Notes may be used for this part. The length of each written answer is generally four pages.
For the oral defense, my committee asked me questions that required me to expand on the reasoning behind my written answers. It was an opportunity to underscore my understanding of the material and express how I will be able to apply it in my career.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from SIUE’s Master of Arts in Applied Communication Studies program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Megan Wieser] My graduate studies at SIUE absolutely prepared me to advance my career in public relations. The research I conducted in crisis communications, media framing, public relations and more has allowed me to contribute important, evidence-based ideas and best practices. I appreciated that the required coursework covered the key points of public relations, but that there were also ample opportunities to expand my knowledge through chosen elective courses.
Students can also choose to fulfill their credit hours by taking a couple classes offered outside of the department. The efficient layout of the program combined with diverse course offerings, makes SIUE’s applied communication studies graduate program a valuable option for students who want to advance their knowledge and skills.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s MA in Applied 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 SIUE or another university?
[Megan Wieser] My advice to students just beginning the program would be to read the fine print on every assignment, meet the requirements and then add value to your own future by finishing the assignment completely and to the best of your ability. Second, I would suggest taking the time to meet the faculty. Learn about their experiences and expertise, and share your hopes and plans. They are all supportive and are there to help you achieve your full potential. Lastly, consider what makes you most passionate within your specialization. Decide what intrigues you most or what topics you think could be further explored. In doing so, you can build expertise in one or two specific areas through research paper assignments and projects.
In my studies, I was all about application and value. I wanted to soak in as much new information as possible, so I could complete my degree knowing I had added value to my life and expanded my likelihood of success in my chosen career. I believe completing a master’s in public relations has given me a competitive advantage in my work as a professional communicator for a higher education institution.
I knew when I started my master’s that there would be major challenges and triumphs ahead, but that I would never regret getting an advanced degree. I was right. It was hard, fulfilling, and absolutely worth it.
Thank you, Ms. Wieser, for your excellent insights on Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Master of Arts in Applied Communication Studies program!