On mastering communication and my mini graduate

master mama

Ok, world record books, listen up. My baby recently graduated from a master’s program! She attended classes (in utero), patiently let me write my thesis during maternity leave, and sported her own mini cap and gown. Yep, she’s quite the accomplished 12-week-old. Ha!

All jokes aside, it was a thrill to graduate last week from the Master of Professional Communication program at Weber State University. Being in the Class of 2014 came with special allure during the university’s 125th anniversary year. You can see sheer joy in this picture. I felt such relief to have pulled off my degree as an exhausted new mom, and literally could not have done it without an ultra-supportive husband. He’s the best.

There are many reasons folks go after advanced degrees. I wanted to polish my skills, and increase my professional confidence (double check). Besides the new line on my LinkedIn profile, less in my bank account, and a fancy piece of paper for my wall, what did I get out of grad school? Allow me to share a few key takeaways.


This very blog was launched as part of an Advanced Writing class assignment in summer of 2012. It’d been a long-time desire of mine to start a blog, and getting school credit (and editing on my initial posts, a la Dr. Josephson) was enough to jump-start a launch. I made a marketing plan, threw myself a “blog party,” and here you are, reading the outcome. By having a digital platform, I’ve had many, many people approach me who I never would have met otherwise. It’s been wonderful to make these new connections and learn so much from professionals featured on Spotlight Saturdays.

New video skills

I’d never once edited a video before the MPC. After a summer of practice in our New Media class, I felt comfortable enough to try my own video. Little did I know it would go viral. My pregnancy announcement on YouTube has had 38, 600 views to date.

Published master’s thesis, presenting at an international conference

It’d been one of my goals of grad school to be published. That meant I needed to write an original paper worth publishing. I learned through the process that sometimes when you shoot for the moon, you hit it head-on. I submitted an abstract of my thesis topic awhile back and was delighted to be not only accepted, but asked to present at an international corporate communication conference. My thesis is titled, “Perceptions of Thanks in the Workplace: Uses, Effectiveness, and Dark Sides of Managerial Gratitude,” and it was the most challenging academic project I’ve ever done. After nearly 150 hours recruiting, researching, data-analyzing, writing, and editing (all during pregnancy and maternity leave), I’m really pleased with the result. I’ll be sharing key findings on this blog in the coming month, so stay tuned.

2014 Graduation hoodingConflict resolution capabilities

The class that stretched me most was Clair Canfield’s “Conflict Resolution” class and his “trust the process” mantra. Before that eight-week block class, I saw conflict as something to be avoided. He opened my eyes. I came away liberated from old fears, willing to see conflict (two parties expressing seemingly opposing needs) as an opportunity. Don’t make me mediate Russia and Ukraine, but I do have tools now to creatively work through my own personal conflicts.

Associations with intelligent professionals and mentors

Our 22-student cohort has spent many, many hours together in the past two years. I spoke at our master’s hooding ceremony, and as I shared then, I literally have learned from every one of my student peers. We’ve laughed together, worked through group projects, and shared much of ourselves.They are a fun, talented bunch, and I will miss them. I’ve also really appreciated the supportive MPC Director and my empowering Thesis Committee. Kathy, Sheree, and Susan, your belief in me and my ideas has helped me believe in myself.

My mini graduate

Saved the best for last. My favorite line of my 46-page thesis is in the Acknowledgements section: “And finally, thanks to little Lydia, who made the author a mother during the course of this research.”  Being her mother is the best thing I’ve ever done, and having her during my master’s program made it all the more memorable.

In sum, I grew in grad school. Grew my skills. Grew my network. Grew a baby. You can say I’ve gained two new titles in the past three months, both of which I cherish. Call me Mama, MPC.

Mama and me graduation day

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