A portfolio prepared and presented by David Owens-Hill representing the work-product of the Master of Arts in Organizational and Strategic Communication completed at the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina.
About the Candidate
Candidate for Graduation, May 2012
Master of Arts in Organizational and Strategic Communication
James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte
About the Program
Though I entered the Master of Arts in Organizational and Strategic Communication program in the Fall of 2009, I elected to matriculate through the 2010 catalog. As written in 2009, the program concentrated primarily on Organizational Communication; by moving forward one calendar year, I added a strong concentration in Strategic Communication theory and practice. Additionally, this catalog introduced a new method of course progression that allows the student to select from any course offering as a breadth course as long as core requirements are met.
The Queens University of Charlotte 2009-10 course catalog describes the Master of Arts in Organizational and Strategic Communication this way:
The Master of Arts (MA) in Organizational and Strategic Communication program blends theoretical and practical understanding of the central role communication plays in achieving organizational effectiveness. It highlights the ways social interactions and symbols shape meanings for organizational events and behaviors. Students are better able to understand a variety of organizational activities, such as leadership, group dynamics, human resource functions, conflict management and negotiation, and global, multicultural communication.
Students also learn best practices for communicating strategically in a digital age. By integrating marketing, public relations, and advertising efforts, organizations can most effectively analyze multiple adudiences’ needs and create and distribute messages that achieve organizational goals. Students will study a variety of strategic communication initiatives and situations including crisis communication, organizational image and branding, corporate social responsibility, and communicating through digital media.
The program seeks to develop students who are astute consumers, creators, and critics of organizational and strategic communication. The ethical and social implications of current organizational activities are highlighted to assist students in navigating through today’s complex world of work.
The program includes 36 credit hours of coursework. A student completes 15 credit hours of course requirements and an additional 21 hours of coursework of his or her own choosing.
My particular course progression, in order, is as follows. Courses in bold are core requirements of this program:
- Research Proseminar
COMM 602, Dr. Kimberly Weller Gregory, Fall 2009
- Theories of Organizational Communication*
COMM 604, Dr, Kimberly Weller Gregory, Spring 2010
- Integrated Strategic Communication
COMM 605, Dr. John A. McArthur, Spring 2010
- Best Practices in Strategic Communication
COMM 626, Dr. Leanne Pupchek, Summer 2010
- Critical Perspectives in Organizations
Comm644, Dr. Kimberly Weller Gregory, Summer 2010
- Ethical Issues in Communication
COMM 614, Dr. Leanne Pupchek, Fall 2010
- Group and Team Dynamics
COMM 617, Dr. Janet McPherson, Fall 2010
- Crafting the Message
COMM 643, Dr. Leanne Pupchek, Spring 2011
- Innovation and Creativity
COMM 643, Dr, Kimberly Weller Gregory, Summer 2011
- Strategic Crisis and Issues Management
COMM 633, Dr. Kimberly Weller Gregory, Fall 2011
- Topics in Organizational Culture
COMM 661, Dr. Janet McPherson, Fall 2011
- Capstone Seminar
COMM 675, Dr. Kimberly Weller Gregory, Spring 2012
Reflecting on my time in the Master of Arts in Organizational and Strategic Communication Program
I wandered into a classroom in the then-unnamed School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte in the fall of 2009 completely unprepared for what was to come. My undergraduate program in Studio Art with a concentration in Graphic Design felt miles-and-miles from the courses outlined in the Organizational Communication program, but I trusted the admissions counselor and friend that sought me out for the program and immediately fell in love with the notion of learning again.
Being a big-believer in preparedness, I had sharpened all my pencils, bought a new notebook and dressed a little nicer than I normally would have for the first day of class. I anticipated the first day of school feelings from my childhood, those mixed with excitement and anxiousness. I knew that I was ready to pursue master’s coursework, but I was unsure exactly how the communication program at Queens would benefit my current career. As it turns out two and a half years later, that benefit would be completely unrelated to my love of this program.
Let me take a small storytelling aside at this point in our narrative, an indulgence that will be rare in the summary blog posts for future courses but that is important to understand how I landed in the Dana building that fall. I was a good student in my undergraduate program. I loved design and worked hard to be a good designer. I was not, to the frustration of my classmates and professors, interested in “achieving my full potential.” Many, many times I heard from my advisors that I had the potential to be great but routinely spread myself too thin. Here’s why: I wanted to be an architect. I chose my undergraduate institution specifically for this reason and stumbled blindly into my love for design in one of those rare moments where the Universe provides for your future without your knowledge or explicit consent. I didn’t excel in architecture; I did excel in design. In a personal statement written for another purpose, I explained it this way:
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be an architect. Problematically, I didn’t want to actually design space; I wanted to mediate meaning through the idea of space. I could never be a practicing architect because my interests were in the theories of interaction and proxemics. I decided, also, that the glacial pace of construction would impede my effectiveness in exploring multiple theoretical approaches simultaneously. I chose instead a graphic design program rooted in studio art making and art history theory—I believed the world could be changed through proper, well-executed design. By controlling and altering a user’s environmental experience a good designer can encourage social change. Can propel egalitarianism. Can guide other humans to conclusions in support of the greater good.
Self indulgent, I’ll admit, but I honestly believe every word. The important part of the statement, however, comes next:
It is a noble approach, and one in which I still believe wholeheartedly, but design isn’t enough. I can contribute to a visually-mediated conversation, but first I must help my audience become conversant in interpreting the message.
It is this notion of interpretation—the logical next-step to design—that lead me to the MA Comm program at Queens and that has guided my scholastic efforts for the last two and a half years.
Aside, over. Those familiar with the program, more specifically those that have gone through it, will probably say the same thing about the Research Proseminar course: it’s hard. It is especially hard for students who haven’t been in school for a while, and compounded once again for those of us who did not study communication, public relations, or social theory. My background in the humanities (the undergraduate program from which I matriculated had a strong art history component) laid a framework within which to understand the concepts covered, but the communication-specific terminology and practices presented a challenge.
After some time in the workforce—specifically a career path centered on nonprofits— I am no longer one that will accept defeat easily. I decided on the second or third night of Research Proseminar, while struggling to understand the research methodology that would become so important to my future coursework and academic inquiry, that I would never again be accused of not reaching my potential. As I progressed through the coursework required for my degree, I grew to love practically every concept we covered. Each time a new theory was introduced I considered not its practical application but the source-work that was involved in crafting that idea. I came to love theory, which, unfortunately, came at a cost.
Many of my classmates looked for the “so what” of communication theory. They wanted practical tips and applications that they could add to their toolboxes and take to work the next morning (all language borrowed from professors, friends, and syllabi over the years.) I didn’t—and don’t—live at the intersection of theory and application. I understand the importance of application, but don’t necessarily search for the practical applications contained in the societal theory “greatest hits.” At first, I chalked this up to my role in design. Most of the practical applications were established for people who have a more traditional role in communication. Sure, I craft messages and understand that design without content is frivolous, but my role will never be one that addresses crisis management or that will mesh with the immediacy of public relations. I enjoyed learning these practices none-the-less, and here’s why: the Master of Organizational and Strategic Communication program at Queens awakened my love of learning.
Had it not been for those wonderful folks who convinced me to start the program—and the wonderful, smart, capable people I met while there, I would not have fully understood how much I yearn to learn every day.
It is because of the support and inspiration of the faculty and my classmates in the James L, Knight School of Communication that I am actively searching for future academic opportunities. Though my time in the hallways of the school building winds to an inevitable end, my love of learning is ingrained and is a newfound part of my self-actualized identity. I carry regrets from my undergraduate experience, but will carry no such regrets as I graduate with a Master of Arts in Organizational and Strategic Communication in April, 2012.
The remainder of this portfolio is dedicated to the work-product and reflective thoughts of my time in the program at Queens. I would posit that, though critically important, the best is yet to come. I plan to continue pursuing academic inquiry on my blog, www.owenshill.com, and will seek truth (with a lower-case “t”) at every turn while I make sense of our world through an academically focused, communications lens.
A Chronological Method
The remainder of this portfolio will follow the chronological progression of my coursework. The general format for entries is as follows:
- The name of the course, course number, and professor will title each entry
- A copy of the course syllabus will launch each entry, followed by a general reflection of my experience
- “Below the jump” (items below a horizontal line on each page) readers will find a copy of the work product—including assignments, papers, and presentations—for each course.
Here’s a special note. I subscribe to the theory that academic inquiry and aptitude compounds upon itself. In that vein, I elected to upload, where possible, the final versions of my coursework with comments from my professors. My original intent was to include the versions of these documents with edits made, revisions considered, and polish applied; instead, I decided that seeing my submission to the faculty and their comments back would show a progressive understanding and help to expose my development as a student in this program.
One of the benefits of an electronic portfolio is the easy insertion of interstices. As the underlying nature of my academic interest, I plan to capitalize on this every now-and-again.
I would be remiss to discuss my time in this program without giving a hat-tip to the wonderful people I’ve encountered along the way. My classmates have all been amazing and helpful in unique ways, from offering support when the going got tough to backfilling when the work was overwhelming, I can’t say thank you enough.
Learning, and communication, is a collaborative endeavor and I have been privileged to share my time with the stellar scholars I’ve met along the way.