About Jacqueline Zavala: Jacqueline Zavala is a Ph.D. candidate in International Education & Entrepreneurship at the University of the Incarnate Word, where she also earned her Master of Arts in Communication Arts with a specialization in Communication and Media Studies, and her Bachelor of Business Administration, with a focus in International Business. During her doctoral program at UIW, Ms. Zavala is also working as a Graduate Assistant in Professional Development. As she completed her Master of Arts in Communication Arts, she also worked on the UIWTV channel in Spanish, and completed international experiences to learn about media practices in Ireland and Europe at large. While working towards her Ph.D., Ms. Zavala also established her own digital marketing consulting business, and serves diverse businesses in Mexico City and other regions.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background? What motivated you to earn your Bachelor of Business Administration, Master of Arts in Communication Arts, and Ph.D. in International Education and Entrepreneurship, and how did these degrees combine to give you optimal professional preparation? Could you describe your position as a Graduate Assistant of Professional Development at the University of the Incarnate Word, as well as some of the past roles that led you up to this position?
[Ms. Zavala] In 2012 I started my Bachelor of Business Administration at the University of the Incarnate Word´s campus in Mexico City. I was motivated to study business because of my abilities to communicate, to build ideas, and my passion to connect with others especially outside my country. I always had the dream of studying abroad because of my strong belief that travelling allows you to expand your knowledge and experiences, this encouraged my decision to come to UIW´s San Antonio campus as an international student to finish my bachelor´s degree. I graduated in 2015 with my B.B.A and a minor in Marketing.
After graduating, I realized that I wanted to explore more about my passion for communicating through verbal and non-verbal strategies. Subsequently, I found UIW´s Master of Arts in Communication Arts program. I was accepted into the program and I was able to learn about social media strategies, communication, research, and video production. I became part of the UIWTV channel in Spanish and I was able to travel to Dublin, Ireland to study for a multicultural communication course.
After graduating with my masters, I started working on several independent communication projects for two companies from Mexico City and I also worked as a Senior Office Clerk for Citibank in San Antonio. After six months of experience at the bank and my independent projects, I was hired as a Radio Sales Executive at Univision San Antonio, Texas. Working for Univision was a great experience, because I was able to implement multiple communication strategies that I had learned through my time at UIW. My Bachelor of Business Administration gave me the opportunity to understand the elements of each business and client that I oversaw with my position. My minor in marketing background allowed me to understand how to prospect those clients with the right marketing and advertisement campaigns.
My Master’s in Communication Arts also allowed me to communicate all of those components effectively through different channels. I have always believed in a multidisciplinary education in which a student is able to increase their knowledge through multiple careers and not just one. This finally led me to the decision to complement my previous learnings with a Ph.D. in International Education and Entrepreneurship. I stopped working for Univision and started my Ph.D. with the eagerness and passion to learn and teach all that I have with others. So far, I have learned new research aspects and how to implement them to complement each of my careers. I have also conducted researched about cultures and methods of education and learned the international aspects of entrepreneurship.
While studying for my Ph.D., I additionally started working for the Office of Research and Graduate Studies, where I was part of an amazing team. Our mission was to help students continue their research, find professional opportunities while studying, and keep connected with their university. Nowadays I consult for businesses within Mexico City and started my own digital marketing business. Learning is a process and I highly believe that we must implement our talents to gain experience and find our passion. After these years of education, my mission is to serve others through my experiences and knowledge. Each of my previous job positions and mentors taught me important principles and practices for my professional life and have also built my character.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue your Master of Arts in Communication Arts at the University of the Incarnate Word? What were your professional goals, and how did you see the Master of Arts program at UIW meeting them optimally?
[Ms. Zavala] When I found the Master of Arts in Communication program at UIW, I felt connected with the mission of the program. Their goals consisted of cultivating our imagination and creativity by teaching us technical and theoretical skills to become effective and versatile communication professionals. The program characterized itself from others because of its unique blend of theory-driven and experienced-based classes. I was convinced to study my Master´s at UIW when I read about the experience and diverse professional backgrounds that the faculty offered. My professional goals through that time varied between working for a multinational communications company to expand my professional experience and the idea of starting my own digital communication business. I wanted to learn how to communicate with other businesses effectively.
Through my time studying the master´s communication program I wanted to improve skills such as: creativity, video production, multimedia platforms, and conducting critical analysis of communication in different cultural scopes. In the UIW master´s program I was able to travel to Ireland which allowed me to understand more about cultural, economic, and social differences. I also integrated the use of different multimedia platforms. I was able to implement social media strategies when working with the UIWTV Spanish channel at the University. Lastly, the program allowed me to have a more complete understanding of what I needed to become an effective professional and an individual who communicates with integrity.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is the University of the Incarnate Word’s Master of Arts in Communication Arts 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?
[Ms. Zavala] As I mentioned before, the Communication Arts program uses a unique blend of theory-driven and experienced-based classes where we can acquire the knowledge and skills to understand and access the media industry. When I started the program, I understood that the expectations for students to demonstrate intellectual imagination and professional creativity for a thesis or a capstone project, is to conduct critical analysis of mediated communication in both social and cultural scopes, and to make contributions to both academic and professional sectors in the field of communications, among others. The learning environment was always very engaging and diverse. I am sure that studying with such diversity expanded my learning experience and enriched my research and relationships.
The program requires a minimum of 36 hours of graduate study, which includes 12 hours of Communication Arts core courses, 18 hours of elective coursework and 3 to 6 hours of mastery level coursework. I really enjoyed the course Introduction to Graduate Studies in Communication, in which I was able to learn the importance of choosing a research topic for my capstone. I also received direction from my advisor to become a researcher and learned about the importance of communicating effectively.
The course Research and Writing Techniques allowed me to understand qualitative and quantitative research methods. Furthermore, I learned important techniques to help implement better style and comprehension when writing essays. I was passionate about the courses Video Production and Film Studies. In those I was able to create, produce, edit, and direct diverse projects such as short movies. Lastly, the course Intercultural Communication was my favorite. I took it in my last semester, and I was able to implement my knowledge and improve my learning experiences in Ireland. We traveled with the goal of understanding the intercultural behaviors and types of communications from a European lens.
Professors offered direct and thoughtful feedback for topic discussions in each of the courses given, which have helped guide me to complete each course and project with more efficiency and at a higher competency. All the knowledge that I was able to obtain in each of my graduate classes has made a positive impact in my professional career. After graduating, I started working at Univision San Antonio and I started to implement all the communication strategies, media production talents, writing skills, and other talents in my day-to-day work activities. I am convinced that my Master´s in Communication was a great decision and I have been able to use all those experiences in my current studies and professional adventures.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your final capstone project? What communication issue or challenge did you explore, and what was the structure of your capstone project? What advice would you give current and future students of UIW’s Master of Arts in Communication Arts regarding the successful completion of their capstone project (or thesis)?
[Ms. Zavala] I decided to do a capstone instead of a thesis because of my interest in creating something that people would be able to use on a daily basis. I have always had a strong interest in Human Development and Psychology topics. As a result, I started my investigation in Mental Health among students attending the University of the Incarnate Word. I conducted various interviews, surveys, and questionnaires with graduate students. Those consisted of asking them about their experiences with anxiety, stress, depression, cultural shock, and eating disorders. I received a great response from a large group of students.
The information gathered made me realize the importance of helping students to overcome such problems. After analysis, I created a website called Open Mind. The main goal of the platform was to help students in need of advice or mental health care. I talked with certified counselors, doctors, and nutritionists and decided to upload videos sharing their tips and scientific information to support students in need. Throughout my investigation, I was able to successfully implement qualitative and quantitative research to better student life.
My advice for those who are in the process of creating a capstone project is to start researching as soon as possible. If you find what you want to research about at the beginning, you will be able to connect the knowledge and experiences you gain from each of your courses during the Master´s program with your topic of interest and have more time to research. You do not need to have a hundred percent clarity in your topic of research, but it will be ideal if you start to brainstorm your passions and talents. Then, ask yourself, “How can I serve others with these talents?” and start to research from there.
Also, always talk with your advisor and faculty professors, as they represent a strong and helpful resource for this process. Identify which are your strengths and weaknesses and always focus on your strengths to make it easier. For example, if you really like to film, you are excellent with cameras, and you perceive yourself as a creative person, then you should focus on developing a film or documentary. Alternatively, you could look for a topic in the Film Industry that you may be passionate enough about to write a thesis on. It is always easier to work on a capstone or thesis topic that you are passionate to expand on.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from UIW’s Master of Arts in Communication Arts program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Ms. Zavala] During my time as a graduate student, I was able to develop a strong relationship with my advisor and faculty professors. I always had their support, even after my graduation. I got letters of recommendation for different job opportunities and counsels to apply to various companies. My classmates also played an important role because I stayed connected with them to continue working on personal projects. My classmates and I were able to contribute to each other’s professional development through ideas, support, and contacts.
After graduating from UIW, I kept connected with my friends and advisor, which helped me to get my job at Univision. My advisor and a friend who was also enrolled in UIW’s Master of Communication helped get me a tour visit at Univision. In that tour I was able to connect directly with the President and Director of Sales and the Radio Sales Manager from the network station. Having that opportunity allowed me to get an interview and later a full-time job. I am convinced that my communication strategies during the time of the interview process and knowledge from my master’s degree allowed me to become part of the company. I am convinced that UIW prepared me for my professional development and growth. Lastly, earning my Master’s in Communication gave me the social media and communication technology knowledge to start my own digital marketing business.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the Master of Arts in Communication Arts at the University of the Incarnate Word? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at UIW or another university?
[Ms. Zavala] For students who are considering enrolling in a master´s in communication program, I recommend that they identify all of the professional practices and areas that they feel passionate about, for example: writing, talking, researching, and filming. Identifying those will help you to decide what kind of communication professional you want to become, and it will allow you to decide if the program covers your needs.
I also encourage students who value diversity and engaging environments to strongly consider the UIW Master’s in Communication Arts. The program perfectly combines theory and practice to improve the learning experience of their students, all while cultivating an environment of diverse viewpoints, experiences, cultures, and talents. Make sure to read about the professional experiences of your professors because all of them have far-reaching knowledge in their fields and practical skills that can significantly improve your learning.
Throughout the program you will have helpful resources on campus and opportunities to travel abroad; make sure to consider those and engage with them as much as you can. Building relationships also plays an important role in your professional development, so my last piece of advice for you is: make sure to connect with your peers and faculty members/professors during your time as a student, as well as after your graduation. UIW offers plenty of networking and social events for students who graduate and want to keep connected with their campus and faculty.
Thank you, Ms. Jacqueline Zavala, for your excellent insight into the University of the Incarnate Word’s Master of Arts in Communication Arts program!