About Tiffany Wang, Ph.D.: Tiffany Wang is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Montevallo in Alabama. She currently teaches undergraduate courses in communication research methods and family communication, as well as coordinates a Foundations of Oral Communication course. Before earning tenure, Dr. Wang served as an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Montevallo for nearly six years, and worked as a Graduate Teaching Instructor and Associate Course Director at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln while pursuing her doctorate.
Dr. Wang holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies from Texas Christian University. She earned her master’s at TCU as well, graduating from the school’s Master of Science in Communication Studies program in 2009. In 2012, Dr. Wang completed a Ph.D. in Instructional and Interpersonal and Family Communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Dr. Tiffany Wang] I attended Texas Christian University for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Communication Studies from 2004 to 2009. During my first year as a graduate student at TCU, I worked as a Lab Instructor in the Business and Professional Speaking course. In this role, I prepared and taught lectures and labs. During my second year, I worked as a Lab Instructor and Associate Course Director in the same course. In addition to teaching responsibilities, I also wrote and edited instructional resources, trained and mentored new lab instructors, and filmed instructional videos. While I was pursuing my graduate degree at TCU, I also worked at the TCU Office of Extended Education as the Intern Coordinator for a federal grant that was administered through that office. In this role, I wrote and edited grant reports; designed and implemented a student internship program for non-profits; and recruited, coordinated, and oversaw student interns.
During my second year of my graduate degree at TCU, I decided that I wanted to complete a doctoral degree so that I could pursue a tenure-track faculty position at a teaching institution. After applying to several doctoral programs, I decided to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where I studied Instructional Communication and Interpersonal and Family Communication from 2009 to 2012. While I was completing my doctoral degree, I worked as a Graduate Teaching Instructor and Associate Course Director. In these roles that built upon the skill sets I developed at TCU, I prepared and taught several different stand-alone classes, supervised undergraduate Instructional Assistants, mentored new Graduate Teaching Instructors, and managed Personalized System of Instruction classes.
Following the completion of my doctoral degree, I accepted a tenure-track faculty position at the University of Montevallo, a small public liberal arts university in Alabama. From 2012 to 2018, I served as an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and Basic Course Coordinator, earning tenure and promotion to Associate Professor of Communication Studies this spring. In this role, I coordinate the basic course; teach undergraduate communication courses; advise undergraduate majors; and serve on program, department, college, and university committees.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Master of Science in Communication Studies program at Texas Christian University?
[Dr. Tiffany Wang] Although I was confident in my major and degree choice as an undergraduate student at TCU, I was unsure about what career I wanted to pursue following the completion of my undergraduate degree. I had worked as a student worker at the Office of Admissions and Student Development Services, so I was strongly considering pursuing a higher education staff position. As my graduation date neared, I talked to several of my faculty mentors as well as the Career Services Office to see if my mentors had any insights on what I should do post-graduation. They suggested that I pursue a graduate degree so that I would have more career opportunities and the potential for greater career advancement. Because I wanted to stay in the Dallas-Fort Worth area near my family and be a part of a small cohort in a supportive program, I only applied to TCU because I wanted to continue studying with my faculty mentors in the Department of Communication Studies.
As I started my graduate degree, I was most excited about the opportunity to take graduate coursework with many of the professors I had taken undergraduate classes with. I was also quite nervous about the prospect of preparing and teaching my own lectures and labs because I did not initially have a strong interest in teaching. Although I did not go into graduate school with plans to earn a doctoral degree and become a faculty member, I quickly realized that I wanted to pursue teaching full-time because I enjoyed teaching and mentoring students as well as studying Instructional Communication.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is TCU’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?
[Dr. Tiffany Wang] TCU’s program includes required courses in communication theory and research methods as well as a wide variety of elective seminar options. I liked the flexibility of being able to select elective seminar options that fit my research interests in Instructional Communication and Interpersonal Communication so that I was well-prepared to write my thesis during my second year. Through TCU’s social scientific program focus, I was exposed to a wide variety of theories, methods, and real-world applications. My faculty mentors at TCU made a strong effort to include skills and strategies that could be applied in both career and academic contexts, because we had graduate students who were transitioning directly to a professional opportunity post-graduation as well as graduate students who were pursuing advanced academic and professional degrees post-graduation.
As I prepared for further graduate study in pursuit of a career in academia, I was able to learn how to read, annotate, and analyze primary and secondary sources; develop a research interest grounded in the Communication Studies literature; and write and edit a thesis that was ready to be peer-reviewed for potential academic conference presentation and journal publication. With strong support and mentorship from my faculty advisor and committee members, I was able to present my thesis on the top three paper panel at a regional conference and publish my thesis in a regional journal within a year of graduation.
[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.)?
[Dr. Tiffany Wang] Going into the thesis, I knew that I wanted to study an Instructional Communication topic. After talking to my faculty advisor, I decided to focus on studying students’ perceptions of instructors’ nonverbal immediacy behaviors using a quantitative survey research design. As I began to explore the literature and start my literature review, a Communication Studies scholar published a journal article on my initial thesis topic. Going back to square one and selecting a new thesis topic was discouraging. However, my faculty advisor and committee members helped me identify new hypotheses and variables that would still allow me to retain much of the work I had already done on the initial topic. After I collected data, my faculty advisor helped me run and interpret the data in his office. When there were no significant findings, he helped me determine how I could explain these non-significant findings in my Discussion section in a way that would still allow me to present and publish my research.
After the challenges experienced during the thesis writing process, the oral defense of my thesis went much more smoothly. My faculty advisor and committee provided helpful feedback on how I could improve my writing, posed interesting insights on potential directions for future research I could pursue as I earned my doctoral degree, and challenged me to answer tough questions that pushed me to think critically about my research topic. Looking back on the research and writing process, I would encourage students to be proactive in discussing any problems that may arise during the writing process with their faculty advisor so that they can get the help and support they need to be successful. I would also encourage students to pilot potential thesis topics when possible in seminar courses to get a feel of the literature and the direction you want to take your thesis.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from TCU’s MS in Communication Studies program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Dr. Tiffany Wang] In my full-time teaching position where I teach and mentor undergraduate students, I find myself drawing upon my experience from TCU’s MS in Communication Studies program daily. Working in a liberal arts environment that shares many of TCU’s core values, I model my teaching and mentoring philosophies on the excellent TCU teachers and mentors I had the privilege to work with as I pursued my B.S. and M.S. in Communication Studies at TCU. In my program, I teach both the communication theory and research methods courses. In these courses, I emphasize the importance of thinking about how these concepts inform one another. Methodologically sound research is informed by a strong theoretical foundation. Theoretically grounded research should use appropriate research methods. Research questions or hypotheses should guide your methodological decisions. One of my favorite aspects of my position includes the opportunity to mentor undergraduate researchers as they complete directed studies. I am able to use what I learned through the research and thesis writing process to help undergraduate students design and write their own research projects and prepare their writing samples for graduate school applications.
In addition to being prepared to create original research and mentor undergraduate students as they create their own original research, my strong background in teaching has prepared me to be an effective teacher and mentor at an institution that strongly values teaching. In fact, teaching comprises 60-75% of how I am evaluated annually. Through the teaching and leadership experiences I had early on in my academic career, I was able to pursue additional teaching and leadership experiences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that prepared me for my current position. Recently, I have been able to see several of my undergraduate students pursue graduate study at outstanding graduate programs including my alma mater TCU.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Texas Christian University’s Master of Science 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 TCU or another university?
[Dr. Tiffany Wang] I have three pieces of advice for incoming graduate students. First, read broadly and deeply to prepare for your classes each week. Find time to meet with your faculty mentors during their office hours to discuss your research interests. Second, take teaching seriously. Many doctoral programs and companies are looking for strong teachers. Third, find time to build collegial relationships with your peers and professors. Do not be afraid to ask for help and support. Be generous in providing help and support to others when asked. If you invest time in cultivating your relationships with your peers and professors, you will have a strong personal and professional network for life.
Thank you, Dr. Wang, for your excellent insights on Texas Christian University’s Master of Science in Communication Studies program!