About Marco Cadena: Marco Cadena is the Social Media and Field Producer at the Children’s Rehabilitation Institute TeletonUSA (CRIT). In this role, he develops social media content strategies and conducts research to establish best practices for customer engagement and marketing campaigns. He also coordinates video production events, operating equipment such as cameras, audio mixers, and lights to create compelling multimedia campaigns. Prior to his current position, Mr. Cadena was the UIWTV Communications Director at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), where he also earned his Master of Arts in Communication Arts. As Communications Director, he oversaw UIWTV’s Spanish news programming, wrote and delivered broadcast reports, and managed the UIWTV website and social media content.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background? Where did you earn your bachelor’s degree, and what motivated you to return to school for your Master of Arts in Communication Arts? May we have more information about your work at the University of the Incarnate Word as UIWTV Communications Director, and your current role as Social Media and Field Producer for The Children’s Rehabilitation Institute of TeletonUSA?

[Marco Cadena] I attended the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio, Texas for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees, from 2013-2019. My undergraduate degree is in Bilingual Communications with a minor in Spanish, and my graduate degree is in Communication Arts.

During my time as an undergraduate student, I served as the Communications Director for UIW’s student-run television station, UIWTV. With this position, I updated and monitored the station’s social media platforms, strategized online campaigns, and managed UIWTV’s website content. In 2017, I became the first student to have a Spanish news segment on air. During my time as a graduate student, I served as the Spanish News Director where I produced biweekly 30-minute long newscasts, tutored six bilingual sophomore and junior students, and filmed and edited the program as part of my capstone project.

Since graduating in May 2019, I began working at the Children’s Rehabilitation Institute TeletonUSA (CRIT) as a Social Media and Field Producer. At CRIT, I produce bilingual content for social media and the website, I design promotional material for events and mailing campaigns, and I write press releases and build connections with media outlets to spread the word about our mission of creating a more inclusive world for children with disabilities.

[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?

[Marco Cadena] At first, I did not consider pursuing my graduate degree at all. After talking to my advisor about my plans for after graduation, she presented to me the idea of pursuing a graduate degree in the Accelerated Bachelors to Master’s (ABM) program. The ABM program allows students to receive both undergraduate and graduate degrees in just five years instead of six or more. This time frame, along with the course load, and learning opportunities motivated me to fill out an application and eventually get accepted into the program.

As a graduate student, I was very excited at first to explore the 6000-level courses and to take classes with the same faculty members I had been around for the last four years, which ultimately also influenced my decision of applying to the program. UIW gives its graduate students the flexibility, freedom, and tools they need to complete the program in the time frame that best suits each student’s career path.

My personal professional goals included the production of bilingual content, whether audiovisual or textual. UIW’s implementation of bilingual courses throughout my undergraduate and graduate university years amplified my knowledge of the Spanish language utilized in media as well as my understanding of the Hispanic market. In-depth courses and seminars allowed me to showcase my creativity, to work in teams, and to explore my overall skills to better understand my progress within the program. As of now, I have accomplished my goal of creating and curating content in both English and Spanish by working closely with Univision, the United States’ leading Spanish television network, during each national fundraising telethon event to benefit CRIT.

[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?

[Marco Cadena] UIW’s ABM program is made up of four core courses: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Communication, Communication Theory, Writing and Research Technique, and Communication Research Methods. These core courses are intended to be taken during the last year of undergrad and/or the first semester of graduate studies to give students the necessary tools they need to ultimately complete their thesis or capstone project. As the title of each course suggests, these classes focus on writing and research techniques and an overall glance at the program, which facilitates the decision-making and creation processes of each student’s final project.

UIW’s ABM program gives students two options: writing a thesis or creating a capstone project. The first is a research-based project whose final product is a paper, while the latter can be any project that examines a student’s knowledge, interests, or expertise such as the creation of a website, a social media campaign, or a pilot episode of a TV show, to name a few. Ideally, these ideas evolve by exploring some of the many electives UIW’s ABM program has to offer. In the Communication Arts Master’s Program, students can find seminars in film and media studies, convergent media, media ethics, advanced media writing, and my personal favorite: bilingual communication.

During my time as a graduate student, I had three different jobs and was a full-time student. Balancing my personal, professional, and school lives was a challenge I was able to exceed due to strategic time management and by setting deadlines for each class assignment, while also working on my capstone project. Moreover, these organizational skills along with the improvement of my public speaking, writing, and marketing skills ultimately benefitted me, as I greatly use these in my personal and professional lives.

[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)?

[Marco Cadena] From the get-go, I knew that I wanted to do a capstone project because I wanted to put my knowledge and skills to the test in a creative way. However, selecting the main topic for my capstone project was a challenge in itself. For months, I went back and forth between two ideas until I realized that I needed to stick to my passion for storytelling and for creating bilingual content. Ultimately, I selected my advisor as my capstone chair, and two other communication arts faculty members and a Spanish professor as part of my capstone committee. Since day one, all four of them were supportive of my project and my progress by offering valuable constructive criticism which I applied to my capstone.

My capstone project, titled “Bilingualism in the Media: The Implementation of the Spanish Language in a Student-Run Media Outlet” consisted on the creation of six news programs that aimed to promote the use of the Spanish language and the importance of accommodating, through bilingualism, to the wants and needs of growing sectors of the population, in this case, those of the Hispanic community. During the creation of these programs, I tutored six bilingual sophomore and junior students as they participated as anchors and reporters in segments such as news, entertainment, sports, human development, and trends. I revised and edited scripts, as well as produced, filmed, and edited each of their segments to build complete broadcasts that were later posted on UIWTV’s YouTube.

Having other students as part of my capstone project resulted in a challenging experience as they all had different school and work schedules, which made it difficult to plan filming sessions with the entire group. Some students filmed one day, and the rest on another. Ultimately, through the magic of editing, each broadcast was coherent and flowed effectively from one segment to another. UIW’s disposition to allow students to use their software, computers, cameras, equipment, offices, and classrooms to complete any type of school project is also very helpful. This all allowed me to work on my capstone late at night and early mornings without any complication.

In April 2019, I presented my project at our annual “Meet the Masters” ceremony where students, faculty members, and families learn about the thesis or capstone projects graduate students have put together for the last several months. I was lucky enough to have some of the students I tutored present at the ceremony, as well as my capstone chair and committee. People in the room asked questions about the process as well as the results of the project, which in comparison to the English broadcast, our show attracted double the audience online and on social media. A couple of weeks after my presentation, I got my capstone and its paper evaluated and approved, and a week later I walked the stage at graduation.

[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?

[Marco Cadena] As CRIT’s Social Media and Field Producer, I write, edit, and manage large amounts of information in English and Spanish that find their way to flyers, informational packets for families, exercise video tutorials, press releases, social media publications, mailing campaigns, and even speeches. Undoubtedly, the skills I use most often in my current career are the ones I learned in my Writing and Research Technique and Bilingual Communication courses. I did not only learn to appeal to the masses through an image or a textual caption, but also to organize my ideas, set deadlines, and to edit my craft, as at times we can say so much by saying or showing so little.

Working with children and their families from all over the United States and even other countries has allowed me to take a closer look at the world of disabilities from many perspectives. Writing about children and their conditions has influenced me to acquire a unique style of writing to tell each story with the respect and merit it deserves. My Media Ethics graduate course taught me to be inclusive, respectful, and also accurate in the representations of the lives of our families and the history of our center. Moreover, my entire undergraduate and graduate experiences successfully prepared me for the ever-changing world of technology by giving me a better understanding of how people consume news and leisure content with the pass of time. UIW taught me that is it okay to evolve, to take risks, and to not be afraid of failure as we all learn from mistakes.

[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?

[Marco Cadena] The biggest piece of advice I have for other students that are considering applying for a Master of Arts degree or are currently in the program is to select courses and thesis or capstone topics that interest you. You will be working on this project for months, so make sure it is about something that you have a passion for that will ultimately help you in your future career. Also, do not stress if you suddenly change the topic of your project. With strict deadlines and organization, it all works out at the end. Ask for help if you need it, and consult your thesis or capstone chair if you think you have arrived at a dead-end.

Most importantly, if your university does not have a focus on the area that interests you, create it yourself. For several years, UIW’s communication department paused Spanish programming because other students were simply not interested in producing bilingual content. It was not until I came along and showed interest in creating Spanish broadcasts, that UIW had the first continuous Spanish programming on the Internet. Communications is such a broad term, but at times the type of communication that best fits our career path is simply not at-hand. Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with stepping out of your comfort zone and creating the learning environment you need to better prepare yourself for your future career. Enjoy the experience, explore your creativity, and do your best each day; you’ll be surprised by what you might be able to do.

Thank you, Marco Cadena, for your excellent inside into the University of the Incarnate Word’s Master of Arts in Communication Arts program!