Imagine walking up to someone you’ve never met in person and feeling totally comfortable giving them a hug and greeting them like an old friend. Seems unusual and potentially uncomfortable, right? Well when I saw my fellow communication masters classmates at our Purdue graduation, that’s exactly what happened, without any hesitation. More on that later.
Finding a MS in Communication Program
When researching online communications graduate programs, a completely online program seemed to have its pros and cons. On the bright side, it would be perfect for my hectic lifestyle, and would allow me to stay in my current city and still have access to an outstanding educational opportunity at a renowned school like Purdue. On the other hand, I’ve been one that has always thrived working with others in-person, where we could converse and exchange thoughts and ideas easily while building long-lasting relationships. I wondered – would I be missing out on a vital piece of the masters experience going totally online?
Once the MS in Communication program began, I found out very quickly that was a strong “no.” Although we weren’t in the same classroom together, my classmates and I still enjoyed the same back-and-forth idea banter on our discussion boards and reading reviews. Additionally, there were a number of group projects throughout the course that gave a number of us more opportunity to engage in-depth and really get to know each other. Some of my favorite moments in the entire program were the conference calls with my project teammates.
Building Strong Relationships with Communication Graduate Programs
Another factor that played into the surprisingly strong relationships we built was the continuity throughout each class. From start to finish, there was a core group of us who spent each session working together – that’s almost two full years of seeing the same names and faces show up in your discussions. As our time in the program progressed, we started to interact less like strangers on a computer screen, and more like long-distance friends and colleagues. Our greetings became more personal, our inside jokes grew and our academic-focused talks improved, as we were able to shed some of the pretense that comes with a discussion with someone unknown.
Not only did this make the experience more enjoyable, but it also allowed us to learn so much more from each other. There was little apprehension to bring up a different perspective or a viewpoint that was in contrast to one held by a classmate – we were able to be respectful while challenging each other to grow and be the best we could be within the program.
Graduating with a Masters in Communication Degree
Now, back to that chilly December day in West Lafayette. Clad in our caps and gowns, still in disbelief that our time as graduate students was over so quickly, we gathered in the Armory to prepare for the graduation ceremony. Slowly, we began to look around and recognize faces we’d seen for the past couple of years on the computer screens. A couple of glances to ensure that person was who we thought it was, and then we all converged in a big group, with the aforementioned hugs and laughs – to someone on the outside looking in, it would have seemed no different than the interactions among four-year undergraduate classmates.
One of the best parts of this surprising aspect of the Master of Communication program was that these relationships didn’t end when we walked across the stage. From LinkedIn groups to emails, we still stay in touch with our group, and I for one don’t think that will change.
I went into my time as a Purdue Communications Master’s student with little expectation to come out with much more than a quality education – and I’m very glad I was wrong in that thought.
Find out more about advancing your career with a Master of Science in Communication with Purdue University online. Request more information or call 877-497-5851.
About the Author
Matthew Harris graduated in December 2015 with a master's degree in communication, and is currently the Communications Manager in charge of all public relations, internal communications and social media management for Addison Whitney, a global branding firm. Matthew received his bachelor's degree in Communication from Appalachian State University, and has spent time in communications and public relations spanning the athletics, non-profit and corporate industries. Matthew lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife and three-year old son.
*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.