About Ryan Bince: Ryan Bince currently serves as the Administrative Assistant to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. Prior to his current position, he worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Syracuse while pursuing his M.A., and also spent a year in the Social Science Research Office at Cornell University. Mr. Bince was recently accepted into Northwestern University’s Rhetoric and Public Culture Ph.D. program, and plans to enroll in Fall 2019.
Mr. Bince earned his bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College in 2013, with a major in Speech Communication. In 2017, he completed his master’s through Syracuse University’s Master of Arts in Communication and Rhetorical Studies program.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Ryan Bince] I completed my B.A. in Speech Communication at Ithaca College in 2013. During my career there, I completed a variety of internships in public relations, political communication, political research, and at a speakers’ bureau. My application featured all of this internship experience and a rich breadth of extracurricular activities—especially Model UN. I worked in a social science research office at Cornell University for a year before enrolling in the Communication and Rhetorical Studies M.A. program at Syracuse University. I completed that program in May 2017 and was promptly hired for a job in the administration at Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences. I currently work in that administrative position, but I have also accepted an offer to enroll in Northwestern University’s Rhetoric and Public Culture Ph.D. program in Fall 2019.
[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 Communication and Rhetorical Studies (CRS) program at Syracuse University?
[Ryan Bince] To be perfectly honest, I sought graduate education because I felt that my undergraduate degree did not satisfy my desire to learn about communication and rhetoric. I also felt that having a B.A. was good, but might not set me apart from all the other young people coming out of college searching for quality jobs in what was (and still perhaps is) an unforgiving world to seek work in. As bachelor-level degrees become more common, I think that master’s degrees are becoming the next distinguishing educational credential for job seekers.
Two of my favorite professors at Ithaca College had completed the Communication and Rhetorical Studies M.A. at Syracuse University and I wanted to follow their example. Because of that, this program was my top choice. I hoped that going there would help me grow in ways that would make me more like those older mentors. Those hopes were well placed. The program has developed a well-earned reputation for generating high quality, professional, critical scholars who are talented teachers to boot. It prepares alumni extremely well for work both in academic and professional sectors. I am very happy that I decided to apply and enroll in this program, particularly.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Syracuse’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?
[Ryan Bince] The program’s structure is fairly loose. There are two required courses that must be taken in the first semester. One is a rhetorical theory course and the other is a discourse analysis course. The remainder of your time in the program is relatively unstructured, though there is a minimum number of credits (24, if I recall correctly) that must be taken in the Communication and Rhetorical Studies department. By taking advantage of the opportunity to take courses outside of the department, many students are able to complete supplemental graduate certificates, especially one offered by the Women’s and Gender Studies department. If you stay on track through the program by completing nine credits per semester, you’ll be able to afford a final semester with only six independent study credits. This will effectively leave you with no coursework and ample time to focus on your thesis or comprehensive exams during your final semester in the program.
[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.)?
[Ryan Bince] The thesis was my first massive writing project. My project particularly investigated the rhetorical-political potentiality of art communities by looking at DIY punk scenes on a local and international scale. My research process involved grant-funded travel to visit punk scenes and to attend shows and festivals in Europe and the United States. I conducted interviews and personally observed the communities to inform my research. In the end, I concluded that DIY punks oscillate between outward, public, expressly political work and internal, emotional, deeply personal work. In the end, that oscillation productively mixes the political with the personal and vice versa. I also found that the networks of communication and collaboration being constructed by punks to enable international touring and music sharing can be and occasionally are used for large-scale activist ventures.
For students completing a thesis, my first piece of advice is to carefully choose your advisor. I was lucky to have someone that I worked well with, but all students require different kinds of mentorship. Choose someone you get along with and seems genuinely excited about your project. Second, choose an object of study that people care about and will find relevant, exciting or important—something people can relate to. Once you have your object, choose a question that really matters to a large number of people, that you feel is reasonably answerable, but whose answer requires a touch of nuance and will drive the reader to a new understanding of the capacities of communication and rhetoric.
My third piece of advice is to avoid biting off more than you can chew. You don’t have to incorporate every concept you come across during your research. You don’t have to say everything that can be said about your object, you just have to answer the question. Finally, rely on your fellow graduate students. Writing a thesis is a monumental task and it can make you feel small and incapable. Your cohort will be right there with you, and they will be some of the only people in your life who can understand the emotional weight of graduate school. Building a trusting and mutually supportive relationship with your fellow grads will be a benefit to your whole cohort in both the short and long term.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Syracuse’s Master of Arts in Communication and Rhetorical Studies program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Ryan Bince] The faculty in CRS are phenomenal mentors and are extremely well connected in the field. Most students who enter this program intend to pursue academic careers as faculty. This program will not only teach you an enormous amount of timely information about the fields of communication and rhetoric, but will also outfit you with a strong sense of those fields professionally. You will be connected with faculty at most of the leading Ph.D. programs in communication and rhetorical studies around the U.S.
The CRS program is most helpful in that it is extremely rigorous for a program that terminates at the M.A. level. From what I gather from my fellow graduate students who have now enrolled in Ph.D. programs elsewhere, CRS graduates complete the program more than prepared for the challenge of a Ph.D. program.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Syracuse University’s MA in Communication and Rhetorical 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 Syracuse or another university?
[Ryan Bince] For students starting the Communication and Rhetorical Studies M.A. program at Syracuse University, my advice is this: prepare yourself for two years that will challenge the foundations of who you are and what you know. This program is intense. It is massively rewarding, but also incredibly difficult and stressful. Be sure to take care of yourself by setting aside time for leisure and exercise. Take care of your body and commit to a steady sleep schedule. Make friends with your fellow graduate students and seek them out for a sense of camaraderie. Finally, try your best to take at least one course with every graduate faculty member in the program.
It’s difficult to give advice to students who might be starting a communication M.A. anywhere because there is an enormous variety of programs out there. Some focus on technical communication, some focus on professional communication industries like public relations or advertising, some deal with communication sciences and disorders, and others deal with cultural studies and rhetorical theory like CRS did. Because of that, I guess my advice is this: don’t be afraid to cross the boundaries between all the varying kinds of communication studies. There are important intersections that cross each of our fields, and the coming turns in the study of communication will necessitate that we work together. So don’t be afraid to do that. Your work will be all the more exciting for it.
Thank you, Mr. Bince, for your excellent insights on Syracuse University’s Master of Arts in Communication and Rhetorical Studies program!