About Adam Rainear: Adam Rainear is a Communication and Media Studies Ph.D. student and graduate teaching assistant at the University of Connecticut. His area of research includes connecting science and risk, specifically in the fields of meteorology and weather communication. He has worked for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Climate Central, the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist, and the Rutgers Energy Institute, as well as contributed to a number of news organizations.
Mr. Rainear holds bachelor’s degrees in both Meteorology and Journalism and Media Studies from Rutgers University in New Jersey. In 2016, he graduated from the Master of Arts in Communication program at the University of Connecticut.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Adam Rainear] I earned my undergraduate degrees in Meteorology and Journalism/Media Studies from Rutgers University. During my time at Rutgers, I had the chance to engage in tons of broadcast, journalism, and communication experiences – including multiple internships at news stations in the meteorology departments. Additionally, I spent a lot of time working for and with the Rutgers University Television Network, where students can work first-hand with equipment and resources that provided an awesome chance to earn skills. After Hurricane Sandy affected New Jersey directly, I became less interested in becoming a broadcast meteorologist, and much more interested in understanding the societal, individual, and social science factors which influence people’s choices about the weather. Communication made sense as a field for graduate programs, since it is so closely related to journalism, and I began applying to programs which seemed to fit my research interests.
I joined the University of Connecticut in 2014 as a Master’s student, and continued on in the Ph.D. program beginning in 2016. During this time, I have been a graduate teaching assistant, teaching undergraduate courses ranging from Introduction to Communication to Digital Production. I’ve had a great opportunity to work in different course sizes, structures, and course types. Additionally, during this time, I’ve been able to research numerous aspects of weather communication – mainly focused in the new communication technology realm.
[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 program at the University of Connecticut?
[Adam Rainear] Hurricane Sandy is the most obvious answer to me. Seeing a natural disaster like that first-hand, rather than through news coverage or social media, really changed my perspective on disasters. I was really making a total shift in career path at this point, since broadcast meteorologists typically stop at a Bachelor’s degree – and I knew that earning a Ph.D. and working in academia was becoming my new focus. The similarity between journalism and communication made the program choices easier, but I did apply to some more specialized and non-communication programs as well.
I joke with a lot of prospective students that UConn was actually my last choice when I started applying – but only because I really didn’t know much about the program itself. Once I visited, I fell in love with the campus and department quickly – and I could see so many ways to use my skills and interests across the University. I really wanted a program and school that would allow me to work across disciplines, and the way UConn’s program is structured with coursework and research requirements, this was entirely feasible. I’ve been able to remain a part of non-communication professional societies – in addition to the National Communication Association and International Communication Association – and this has only helped to further round out my research skills.
I was a little uncertain about teaching at first, mainly because I had no experience in that area. But, the program does a great job of mentoring the incoming students almost immediately, so that they can succeed in the classroom. The job placement of recent graduates from UConn is pretty strong, and the locality of the school with respect to my home in New Jersey was also nice.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is UConn’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?
[Adam Rainear] UConn’s program allows students to take tracks/concentrations based off their research interests. Most students in the same cohort take methods and theory courses together, which really facilitates strong relationships between the students. Quantitative methods and theory development are definitely two of the concepts most emphasized in the program, which was extremely beneficial to me without a “true” communication background.
The advantageous thing about the program is that there is also a lot of room for customizing your course selection. I’ve been able to supplement my quantitative methods skills with mixed methods and qualitative courses, and I’ve taken multiple courses external to the department that are specialized to my research area. In almost all of my courses, I’ve developed a research proposal, or at the least the backbone to a future research proposal that can be easily parlayed into a conference paper or publication. Right in the first graduate course (COMM 5001 – Intro to Graduate Research), you get a great introduction to how academia works. You spend most of the semester learning how to write academically through an individualized project, while also learning different statistical concepts, how the field works, and some other professional development-type aspects. Many students get at least a conference paper out of their first graduate course – if not more – and I think this experience really pushes you to work harder as you see the fruits of your labor right away.
[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?
[Adam Rainear] The comprehensive exams take place around the middle of your final semester as an M.A. student. The examination is a closed-book written exam, which are responses to three open-ended questions. Typically, the questions include a methods question, theory question, and a more specific question related to your research area, and you have two hours to complete each question. All three allow you to incorporate your specific research background and interests, but directly applying them to a novel question, idea, or debate in the field. Once finished, there is an oral defense of the questions for further clarification and scholarly dialogue between the committee and student.
In preparing for the exam, I spent much of my time returning to courses I took early in the program – to refresh my knowledge in specific areas. Also, as you progress through the program and learn more, it is easy to look back on a topic and consider it different than how you learned it. The faculty keep the examination questions relatively unknown to the students but offer suggestions of areas to specifically hone in on from previous courses and research that might be useful to return to.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from UConn’s Master of Arts in Communication program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Adam Rainear] I believe UConn’s focus on new technology, in addition to how open the research is (across faculty, labs, etc.) were most helpful to me. Being able to dive right into research and be a part of a lab teaches you so much about both communication research, but also how to work in a collaborative and creative environment. The teaching mentoring and training is second-to-none. There is so much time dedicated to helping students feel comfortable in the classroom on their first day, that it’s hard to go in feeling unprepared. The skills I’ve gained from both experiences are definitely ones I will carry throughout my whole life.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the University of Connecticut’s MA in Communication 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 UConn or another university?
[Adam Rainear] If you feel comfortable with your selection in graduate program – then the world is your oyster. The field of communication is so unique yet useful across nearly any discipline. I’ve had some of my undergraduate students from other majors tell me that skills they learned in a course helped them get a job offer. If one really thinks about it, almost every single job listing places ability to communicate with others as a required and necessary skill.
If someone truly enjoys the field and their role in it, then being active in specific groups and clubs (or the department) is only going to further that passion and make you better at what you do. Sometimes students get lost or disappointed when trying to seek out opportunities, but these experiences lead to some of the best friendships, mentors, or just a fun time to break up the monotony of courses and school. Also, the field isn’t going anywhere. Humans are communicative creatures and just have shifted the ways in which they communicate.
Thank you, Mr. Rainear, for your excellent insights on the University of Connecticut’s Master of Arts in Communication program!