What Graduates Say About the M.A. in Communication

Kelly Jackson

Master of Arts in Communication Graduate, 2017

Senior Communications Specialist, Missouri Department of Transportation 

Describe what you do as Senior Communications Specialist:

I manage the statewide paid media campaigns, and special communications projects and programs for the MoDOT office of Highway Safety and Traffic. This includes management of the web page and social media pages.

Were there any specific course topics that were especially useful to you?

In the M.A. courses in digital healthcare, I learned about the advancements of digital communication and a lot about the healthcare field. It was great to be able to step out of my field of expertise and branch out into other topics of professional communication.

What knowledge or skill do you believe is most critical to the communication field today?

Digital communication has greatly changed the way we communicate. Fortunately, we can embrace technology and adapt to the communication needs of diverse audiences.

Why did you choose to get a Drury University M.A.Comm. degree?

I completed my undergraduate degrees in Communication and Public Relations at Drury. So, when I was considering a graduate degree, of course my first choice was Drury. The class options, from seated to online and blended, all worked well with my professional and personal schedules. My entire Drury experience was wonderful.

Do you have any favorite memories from your time in the M.A.Comm. program?

It was wonderful learning alongside other professionals in my field. Being able to incorporate actual work experience was very beneficial in the learning process. The friendships I made through my graduate experience with fellow students, faculty and staff will last a lifetime.

Another favorite memory of mine was when Dr. Taylor whispered in my ear as he hooded me, “It is done, and done is good!” He helped me realize that there is a finishing point, it’s within reach, and it’s there for all of us.

Do you have any advice for professionals currently considering or starting a M.A.Comm. degree?

Go for it! The faculty and staff at Drury are so very helpful in the process of enrollment and scheduling. They will work with you to make sure your dream becomes a reality.

Nigel Holderby

Master of Arts in Communication Graduate, 2014

Undergraduate Degree Housing Interior Design from Southwest Missouri State University (currently Missouri State University), 1996

Regional Director of Communications, American Red Cross - Colorado & Wyoming Region

Describe what you do as Regional Director of Communications. 

I am responsible for all external and internal communication for the five chapters that make up the Colorado-Wyoming region. I coordinate all of our chapters’ social media, and relations with our media partners. I make sure people know how they can get help as well as how they can give help.  On top of that, I make sure our volunteer team has all the information they need to help the communities we work with. Right now, we have volunteers deployed from our region that are supporting 22 different disaster relief operations around the country.

Are you currently using social media to help offer relief for organizations?

Absolutely! I just got back from a deployment in Dallas responding to Hurricane Harvey, and then went to Orlando to respond to Irma and Maria. We use digital volunteers to monitor social media for any assistance needed. We have found that people will use social media when they can’t get through on a phone line or they don’t know who else to call. We are able to provide individuals with information that saves lives via social media.

How has your M.A.Comm. degree prepared you for your current role?

I would not be here today as a regional director of communications for a two-state region for the American Red Cross if I did not have the knowledge of my communications degree and the actual experience of being a part of the program at Drury. It changed my life and significantly added to my credibility.

In college, I studied interior design and worked as a virtual assistant, eventually starting my own business as a virtual manager of peoples’ calendars and appointments. In 2007, I started volunteering with American Red Cross. During that time, they were just starting to recruit digital volunteers, allowing me to be instrumental in the creation of this new initiative. In 2011, I became the Communications Director for the Southern Missouri Region. Shortly after I attained my master’s degree in 2014, my position was eliminated due to organizational restructuring.

When I signed up for Drury it was really about getting the piece of paper that said, “I am smart enough to do this job as a communicator and that I can apply for other jobs if I ever need to.” Well, I got into the program and it was so much more than that. It was eye-opening. Everything that I learned gave me more knowledge and more skills than I had before. It really brought me to where I am today. I honestly believe if I had not done that, if I hadn’t gone through the program and attained my master’s in communication, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. I wouldn’t have been looked at as someone who had that skillset to manage two states.

What did you learn from the degree program that you were not expecting to learn?

I got a clearer realization about the importance of staying current in the communications field. It is a field that changes on a regular basis and you have to be really open to learning new things. I love having an intern that works with me. I learn just as much from my interns as I could ever learn in a classroom, because it is changing so much and the people that are doing it now are learning and have more knowledge that I have, even a few years ago. The biggest thing is recognizing that I have completed my degree and learned all those lesson’s they taught in class, but it doesn’t mean much if I don’t continue to learn and expand my horizons to keep me current in the communications field.

What knowledge or skills are most critical in the communications field?


I rely on the relationships that I am able to build with my media partners, community partners, with other organizations, to help broaden the reach of the information that I need to share.

If we are just stuck in a silo, and think we can do everything on our own, we are not good communicators. Building and maintaining those relationships with key partners is critical.

Do you have any favorite memories of your time in the program?

Some of my favorite memories are of the people I went through the program with and the relationships that I created with them. I am still connected with a lot of those people now. I may not see them all the time, but we are friends on social media and we are still connected. It helped me realize that I had something to give. I was doing this job while I was going through school which gave me a really unique perspective and one that I felt was valued by my classmates and by my professors. The fact that I felt so encouraged to share my experiences in the classroom, gave me the opportunity to connect with the material in a different way. That’s the thing that I valued in the program. We were all individuals and our professors really respected our various expertise in how we can add value to that class by asking us to participate in ways that may be outside-the-box or nontraditional in a classroom setting.

Do you have any advice for professionals currently considering starting a M.A.Comm. degree?

I would say go for it! Having that next level of education to add value to what you are contributing in your role as a professional is never going to be something you regret.

I feel so much more connected to the work that I do. I do have a greater level of confidence to walk into a room and say, “This is why we are doing this. This is how we are doing it,” and to believe that I am credible.

Advice for others?

I think it is important for people to not think that they are too old to earn a master’s degree. I was almost forty when I returned to school and questioning whether it was really going to add value to my future. For me, it changed my life, and opened doors for me that I would have never had the opportunity to walk through.

It was also an opportunity for me to be a role model for my daughters to show them that anything is possible and if put your mind to it, and you want it bad enough, then you can have it.

Kim Crist

Director of Operations for Mercy
Mercy Hospitals - Springfield Region

Master of Arts in Communication - Integrated Marketing

Kim Crist

When I first graduated with my BA from Drury, I worked at entry level jobs in the social services field. I anticipated that one day, I would be able to make the transition to marketing and communications, my true interest. Not until I decided to pursue my M.A. from Drury in Communication, did I see my career take off.

When a marketing position opened at Mercy, it definitely played a role in being offered the job and to this day, my former boss talks about how that degree set me apart in a field of qualified candidates. After 8-1/2 years in Marketing and Communication department at Mercy, I can safely say that an integrated marketing strategy is one fully utilized in the "real world". It's how businesses set themselves apart, diversify their assets and make a mark as a brand.

Today, as Director of Operations for Mercy, I manage several hospital departments. It's more of a business role but one that also relies heavily on strategic communications in order to be successful. I've taken my degree along with my experience and I'm leading teams towards more streamlined communications and helping them understand the importance of public relations, marketing, advertising and organizational communication both within their department, and as a professional.

Adam White

Strategic Business Developer
Cerner Corporation

Master of Arts in Communication - Integrated Marketing

Drury's M.A. in Communication, especially its focus on integrating theory and application, and close relationships with faculty, prepared me well to progress in my career at Cerner.  Drury's well-rounded offerings have helped me progress as a leader.  I attribute the majority of my professional development to the education and social relationships that I received at Drury University.