I had the pleasure of working with the graduating class of 2014 in the Knight School’s Master of Arts in Communication program at Queens. As their capstone advisor, I was privileged to wade through the mountains of writing they produced, and to provide notes on each to help them improve. Based on their work, I know that each student learned some things in the process. But this post isn’t about their learning. It’s about mine.
Research comes in many shapes and forms.
This class’s thesis projects included 4 content analyses, 2 autoethnographies, 2 rhetorical/critical analyses, 2 focus group designs, an ethnography, a survey design, an in-depth interview design, and a strategic communication plan. I learned from my colleagues on the faculty as they advised students on these methods, some of which I had little experience with previously. In the process of these projects, I also saw the pitfalls and sticking points inherent to each method. I have a better understanding of and appreciation for research methods in their many forms.
An Institutional Review Board (IRB) exists for a reason.
IRB can be a dirty word on many campuses, and when an IRB over-steps its boundaries, it may come by those criticisms honestly. In sum, the job of the IRB is to protect the interests of the human subjects involved in research. As researchers, one of our obligations is to negotiate our work with IRB to ensure that research can maintain its focus and honor its participants.
Education changes people.
Discovering your passion can be a lifelong process. When students choose to focus their work on ideas they find truly engaging, they develop projects that lead them to new adventures and inspire others.
Masters theses average 13,500 words.
And I read every single one. For each thesis. Five times.
Degrees impact families, not just students.
At commencement, each student was surrounded by family and friends. These networks of support have worked alongside their graduates through late nights, paper writing, exams, and research. They’ve been cheerleaders, coaches, confidants, and supporters, and their work of encouragement is vitally important to student success.
I once had a dean who reminded me to ask myself, “What are you learning?” In academia, I’m always looking ahead to the next project, the next research, the next class. Rarely do I take the time to reflect. Commencement seems an appropriate time to pause and celebrate learning. Thanks to the Class of 2014 for sharing these reminders and lessons with me.