About Paige Wolf: Paige Wolf is the Director of Communications at the Fiesta San Antonio Commission, which hosts an annual historical and cultural celebration attended by over 2.5 million people. As Director of Communications, Ms. Wolf oversees promotional and educational content production for the Commission, including managing the Fiesta San Antonio’s website content, community outreach, communication and coordination with event partners, and the Fiesta Magazine. Prior to this position, Ms. Wolf was enrolled in the Master of Arts in Communication Arts program at the University of the Incarnate Word, where she also earned her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background? What motivated you to earn your Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Communication Arts from the University of the Incarnate Word, and how did these degrees combine to give you optimal professional preparation? Could you describe your position as Director of Communications at Fiesta San Antonio Commission?
[Paige Wolf] I attended the University of the Incarnate Word for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees from 2014-2019, with my undergraduate studies being from August 2014-May 2018, and my graduate studies from May 2018-May 2019. Both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees are in Communication Arts with a concentration in Media Studies. I also minored in English during undergrad. The way I earned my master’s degree was not the traditional two-year route. The program I was in at UIW was called the Accelerated Bachelor’s to Master’s (ABM) Program, where if the student met certain requirements (for example, one requirement was a cumulative 3.5 GPA at the time of application during a student’s sophomore year), they were automatically accepted into UIW’s Communications Arts graduate program and did not have to take the GRE.
I was one of the students who was automatically accepted based on my GPA and other required factors for the program. I had also been talking with the Director of the Communication Arts Department, who ultimately ended being my thesis chairperson, about wanting to get my master’s degree since I was a freshman. He said this program would be perfect for me. After being accepted into the ABM Communication Arts Program, I began taking graduate courses in my junior year of undergrad. By the time I was finished with my senior year, I had already taken four graduate classes, leaving only six classes (18 hours) left to complete my master’s degree.
During my one year as a full-time graduate student, I worked part-time on campus for the Office of Campus Engagement as the Communications and Marketing Graduate Assistant, which allowed me to gain more professional experience before entering a full-time position, all while still learning and researching for my thesis. During this time, I was also working part-time in retail, for a wedding coordinator as their Social Media Coordinator/Assistant Wedding Coordinator, and also doing an internship that summer. Juggling being a full-time graduate student, three part-time jobs, and an internship was definitely challenging, but so worth it in the long run. I learned more during this period of my life than I ever had before.
Soon after graduating with my master’s degree in May 2019, I started my job as Director of Communications at the Fiesta San Antonio Commission. The Fiesta San Antonio Commission coordinates the event “Fiesta San Antonio” which is the nearly 130-year-old, 11-day festival in San Antonio, Texas that is attended by more than 2.5 million people every year. In this role, I have applied several things I learned in college. The large aspects of my position include management of the Fiesta San Antonio website, content creation, serving as the editor-in-chief for the Fiesta Magazine, and establishing varied communications amongst the media, the 100+ nonprofits who participate in Fiesta San Antonio, and our members.
I’ve always loved learning, and I wanted to learn as much as I could, so I knew the next step in my academic career would be working toward a master’s degree. Luckily, I already knew what I wanted to research for my thesis because it was a topic I was passionate about (social media impacting anxiety and depression). I also wanted to earn my master’s degree because bachelor degrees are becoming so common nowadays, and I wanted to stand out in the job candidate pool. About 9% percent of the U.S. population have a master’s degree, whereas nearly 35% have their bachelor’s degree. I wanted to make myself stand out when it came time to get a job. Going that extra step in my academic career shows that I am dedicated and committed, not only to my education, but also to my career.
[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?
[Paige Wolf] I decided to pursue my Master of Arts in Communication Arts at University of the Incarnate Word because of the points stated above, and also because of the Accelerated Bachelor’s to Master’s (ABM) Graduate Program. For young students who already know they want to earn a master’s degree, this program is a great way to go because you save time and money. Typical graduate school usually takes two years, if not more, but with the ABM Communication Arts Program, you can begin taking graduate classes during your junior year of undergrad, therefore finishing at least a semester, if not a year, of graduate school before you are even done with your undergraduate studies. And if you continue to be a full-time graduate student the following year (taking 9 hours per semester) after you finish undergrad, you will have completed a master’s degree in one year. Another reason I wanted to pursue my master’s degree at UIW was because I already knew all of the professors because of my time there as an undergrad. They personally knew me, my potential, areas where I needed help, and what my strengths were.
I did not have a specific job position in mind for after graduation, but I knew I wanted to excel in whatever position I was in. I knew the knowledge I would receive from working toward a master’s degree would help me better prepare for anything, not only knowledge learned through the academia side of it, but also the knowledge learned through the dedication and commitment you have to put towards working for your master’s degree.
[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?
[Paige Wolf] UIW’s Master of Arts in Communication Arts program is structured where the classes of “Introduction to Communications Graduate Studies” and “Writing and Research Techniques” are the first graduate classes you will take, whether you take the traditional graduate degree route, or the ABM Program route. During these first base courses of grad school, you will start to think about what you want to do for your thesis or capstone, and how to write and structure your capstone/thesis. For me personally, I felt the program (and the professors) really emphasized the importance of choosing a subject that you are passionate about…something you want to invest your time and energy in. If you are going to be spending two years of your life working toward something, you have to enjoy it!
I had a general idea of what I wanted to research for my thesis, but had trouble narrowing down exactly what area to focus on. My thesis chairperson helped me for months in guiding me in the direction I was searching for, but just couldn’t quite pinpoint on my own. Another aspect the program emphasized is that your thesis chairperson, co-chairs, or any of your professors are there to help you! I knew if I ever felt confused or unsure of something in my thesis, or even regular coursework, I could always go to my thesis chairperson or any of my professors.
Strategies and skills I learned in my classes were crucial to me writing my thesis, and are still prevalent in my professional career today. For example, a few classes I took (undergraduate and graduate) required projects and assignments to be completed through computer programs such as Adobe InDesign or Illustrator. In my current job position, I use Adobe InDesign every day. Also, being a communication arts major (and an English minor), writing papers was a huge aspect of all of my classes. With each assignment, paper, and essay I wrote, my writing improved every time, which only prepared me for the most important essay of my academic career: my thesis. In relation to my current job position, I write every single day, whether it’s for the monthly newsletter, press releases, or the Fiesta San Antonio magazine. Going in to a job with these skills and already knowing how to use certain programs is crucial, and UIW definitely prepared me for that for my professional career.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experiences completing your thesis? What communication issue, challenge, or research question did you explore, and what were your final insights and takeaways? How has your thesis enhanced your work post-graduation? 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?
[Paige Wolf] In the beginning, I did have trouble narrowing down what exactly I wanted to research for my thesis. Ultimately, my thesis research studied how social media impacts anxiety and depression. My main research questions were: RQ1 – How is social media use related to an individual’s anxiety and depression? Is it positive? Negative? And how is social media use related to the quality and quantity of offline interactions? What about self-esteem and confidence? And RQ2 – How does social media use impact interpersonal relationships? Family? Friends? Romantic relationships?
I created a survey for undergraduate communication arts students to participate in. The survey consisted of open-ended questions and also several Likert-type responses including scales such as Gosling’s Ten Item Personality Inventory (TIPI), Rosenberg’s Self Esteem Scale, Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 item (GAD-7), and the Patient Healthy Questionnaire-9 item (PHQ-9). I was fully expecting to be using quantitative data based on the fact that I used several Likert scales, but to my surprise, the qualitative data spoke volumes. The open-ended questions students answered showed in words the impact that social media had on their mental health, and I wanted to use their powerful responses in my data to show that sometimes words are just as significant at numerical data. My study ended up being a mixed methods approach since I used both qualitative and quantitative data.
For quantitative research, I found several findings leaning toward the social media platform, Twitter. The results stated there was a positive correlation between frequency of Twitter usage and Anxiety (GAD-7 scale) and Depression (PHQ-9 scale), a negative correlation between frequency of Twitter usage and individual’s rating of life, self-esteem (Rosenberg’s self-esteem scale), and emotional stability, and lastly, a negative correlation between emotional stability and Anxiety (GAD-7 scale) and Depression (PHQ-9 scale). Other social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat showed similar leanings, but the statistical significance was only upheld across the Twitter platform. That being said, there was an interesting finding about my results. If you read above, you can see that the results of each of the aforementioned measurements can feed into a loop – one thing causing the other and creating a domino effect – however, I do not know the ordering direction of this loop. For example, does anxiety cause the desire to spend more time on Twitter, or does spending time on Twitter cause anxiety? I would recommend looking further into this loop for future research.
I knew my research for my thesis would be relevant then, and at least for the next several years to come because social media is ever-growing. Even now, post-graduation, there are things that occur in my life every day that relate to my research, whether it’s personal or something I see on the news, because social media always plays some sort of role. The point of my research was not to say that social media is terrible and can ruin your mental health. Social media has created opportunities the world has never had before through networking, staying connected with friends and family, and sharing memories. The purpose of my work was to show that while social media can be all of those things, there is also a dangerous side to it, and I wanted to shed light on these potential issues in order to educate myself and others. Completing my thesis was one of the best feelings ever! I knew all my hard work and dedication paid off the moment I had completed it.
[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?
[Paige Wolf] The experiences I had and the connections I made throughout graduate school have been extremely helpful in my career path. Of course, the academia side of graduate school teaches skills, knowledge, and research work, but the actual “do-it-yourself” experiences are where I learned the most. Through internships, thesis research, and networking, I created connections that have aided my professional career.
[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?
[Paige Wolf] My advice to any student who is considering earning a master’s degree, in any field, is to know the amount of time and work you will have to put in. It is definitely not easy, but so worth it. Graduating with my master’s degree was one of the most rewarding experiences because I set out to do it for myself. On top of hard work and dedication, you have to have your heart in it. Choose a thesis or capstone topic that you are passionate about and want to learn more about. This will be two years of your life, and you need to invest in something that is worth your time. Enjoy your time doing it and remember every experience!
Thank you, Ms. Wolf, for your excellent insight into the University of the Incarnate Word’s Master of Arts in Communication Arts program!