About Tianna Cobb: Tianna Cobb is a Ph.D. student at the University of Oklahoma, where she is currently pursuing her doctorate in Communication Studies. Along with conducting research in the area of Organizational and Interethnic Communication, Ms. Cobb teaches an undergraduate course in Public Speaking, and has previously taught courses in the Principles of Communication and Sports Communication. She also assists Arizona State University with their online Master of Arts in Communication program, grading coursework and providing feedback to students.
Ms. Cobb holds a bachelor’s degree in Sport Management from the University of Texas at Austin. She completed her master’s in 2017, graduating from Texas State University with a Master of Arts in Communication Studies and certification in Communication Training and Development.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Tianna Cobb] I attended the University of Texas at Austin from 2011 to 2015 for my undergraduate degree. My undergraduate degree is in Sport Management with a focus on Coaching. I coached girls’ basketball at a local school in Austin while in undergrad. For my master’s, I attended Texas State University from 2015 to 2017 and majored in Communication Studies. While I was earning my master’s, I also received my training and development certification in the field of Communication through Texas State’s certification program. Further, throughout my time at Texas State, I taught the undergraduate-level Principles of Communication course and Sport Communication course. Lastly, I trained various students on campus in public speaking.
Since graduating from Texas State University, I moved to Norman, Oklahoma where I am currently earning my Ph.D. in Communication Studies at the University of Oklahoma. The focus of my studies resides in Organizational and Interethnic Communication. I also currently teach here at the university. I previously taught the undergraduate-level Principles of Communication course and I am now teaching the undergraduate-level Public Speaking Course. Additionally, I am working with Arizona State University in assisting with their online master’s program in Communication Studies. More specifically, I grade and provide feedback to students regarding their understanding, analysis, synthesis, and reflection of the material taught.
[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 Studies program at Texas State University?
[Tianna Cobb] Initially, I decided to pursue a master’s to supplement my Sport Management degree. I ultimately wanted to coach college basketball, and I believed that a master’s degree would make me a more attractive candidate. Further, a master’s degree in another field would allow me more flexibility in the case that I did not continue to coach. Immediately, a master’s in communication seemed like the perfect graduate degree to receive. Further, I could focus on Sport Communication which was an upcoming sub-field of communication studies. I was referred to Texas State’s master’s program by one of my mentors at the University of Texas. I quickly set up a meeting with the professors at Texas State. After the meeting was complete, I knew Texas State was a perfect fit not only for my academic interest but also personally. Everyone was so welcoming and enthusiastic to answer any questions I had regarding the program. Further, the head of department at the time personally addressed any of the concerns I had about the program. I also spent time with the current graduate students, and I was drawn in by the collaborative nature each of the students had with one another.
I was ecstatic to get accepted into the program. I also received an assistantship to teach the undergraduate-level courses mentioned earlier. I immediately fell in love with teaching and connecting with students at the collegiate level. I not only taught my students, but there was a multitude of things I personally learned with each class as well. It was at that time that my research and career focus shifted. Through conversations within the classroom, I realized that many of my students were experiencing some of the same social issues that I myself experienced. I quickly became intrigued with why such issues were occurring and how we could possibly change that. Everyone in my department was supportive and I received some of the best experience and training that greatly prepared me to continue my journey in academia.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Texas State’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?
[Tianna Cobb] Texas State’s program was structured so that one took the fundamental methods courses that were needed in order to take advanced courses. After the methods courses were complete, one could choose to take whichever content courses aligned most with their interest. To ensure that we were always on the right path, everyone reviewed their choice of classes with their advisor. Overall, Texas State emphasized the fundamentals of research (i.e., methods, credible sources, writing, etc.), critical thinking skills, and experience.
The critical thinking skills that I was taught at Texas State have been imperative in my current program. I am not only able to think openly, but also deeply from the viewpoint of various perspectives regarding the material I review. Further, I received a lot of experience in actually conducting research and completing articles within the program.
In addition to classes, one could also choose whether to complete a thesis or take comprehensive exams. I personally chose the comprehensive exams.
[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?
[Tianna Cobb] The comprehensive capstone exam was an approximately 75-minute oral exam. There was no written component. That oral aspect caused much of my nervousness regarding the exam. The format of the exam consisted of two departmental faculty members of my choosing, and the two members asked both methods questions as well as content questions regarding their courses. The method questions to an extent were universal and general. However, I was able to include my personal research interest within my answers. The component questions were more tailored to my individual course of study and the content learned in my courses.
In preparing for the exam, I reviewed all my notes and key readings in my methods courses and the courses I took with my two chosen professors. Additionally, I reviewed my notes in other courses that were vital in my research interest. After reviewing, I practiced answering mock questions with my peers to practice answering questions orally. Also, it is important to note that while faculty will not provide you with the exact questions that they will be asking, faculty do support students to an extent.
In terms of preparing for the comprehensive exam, I would encourage current and future students to take notes of the main points, key takeaways, supporting articles, as well as the key theorist and theories regarding each course you have. It would also be extremely beneficial to keep those notes together per class, along with the syllabus for the course, in a binder. Ultimately, one would have a binder of these notes for each course. Although note taking of this nature is very tedious, it saves a lot of time and effort in the end for comprehensive exams and afterward when one may need to reference certain material.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Texas State’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Tianna Cobb] Regarding courses, each of the courses I have taken at Texas State has been helpful. I have taken a class in nearly every sub-area of Communication Studies. As a result, I can draw from or connect to almost any area of communication because I have had those foundational courses. With that being said, the courses pertaining to my specific area of research have been greatly helpful, such as the organizational communication, organizational rhetoric, and training and development courses. Aside from the content courses, the methods courses have been tremendously beneficial. I entered my doctoral program with a vast knowledge of content and practice regarding an array of research methods.
In addition to the courses, the faculty at Texas State have been more than helpful. The faculty more than willingly worked with me so that I gained experience in conducting research and writing scholarly articles. Further, the faculty at Texas State have great connections, and in the case that I needed to connect with someone outside of school, my professors always knew the right person to connect me with. Texas State thoroughly prepared me for where I am today, and the faculty continues to be there for me and help out anytime I need it although I have graduated.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the MA in Communication Studies program at Texas 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 Texas State or another university?
[Tianna Cobb] The advice I would give students who are just starting an MA program in Communication Studies is to enter the program with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Take classes that interest you and are tailored to your future plans. Connect and build relationships with your fellow classmates and faculty members. Lastly, and most importantly, allow yourself to have time to rest and recoup. The program and courses will be overwhelming at times, and you will occasionally need to do something fun and/or relaxing. When those overwhelming moments do arise, rely on your classmates and be there for one another. It will go a long way.
Thank you, Ms. Cobb, for your excellent insights on Texas State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program!