Here I am manning the front desk in the Journalism and Media Studies department

Journalism and Media Studies M.A. Program: Reflecting on my First Year as a Graduate Student

As I near the end of my first year of graduate school at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg in the M.A. Journalism and Media Studies program, I’m taking the time (in between final projects and research papers of course) to reflect on a year of growth and education in the USFSP Journalism and Media Studies program.

Before I began my application process for grad school I asked myself a few questions:


  • What kind of program am I looking for?
  • How many years do I want to spend pursuing a M.A.?
  • Where do I desire to live during/post graduate school?
  • How much money am I willing to  invest in a Masters degree?

These questions were completely different than the questions I asked myself as an eighteen year old high school senior preparing for my first year of college. The stakes are higher and the dreams are bigger, graduate school is the real deal and making sure that you know what you want in your personal and professional life is paramount.

After doing extensive research I was able to narrow down my choices to three schools and USFSP was a perfect match. I have enjoyed my experience at USFSP and the Journalism and Media Studies program has been everything I hoped it would be.

What are the specifics of the Journalism and Media Studies Program?

The M.A. in Journalism and Media Studies program provides career preparation in journalism while providing a foundation for those students who elect to continue their studies on the Ph.D. level, or plan to use the M.A. as a qualification to teach at the college level. Students are allowed to take classes part time or full time, the program also lets students sample the program by taking up to 12 hours of graduate credit as a non-degree-seeking student before being formally admitted. The full program is offered on the St. Petersburg campus, although students may choose electives at any USF campus with permission of their faculty adviser.

The Journalism and Media Studies Department offers two Master of Arts degrees: the traditional program in Journalism and Media Studies and the fully on-line Master of Arts in Digital Journalism and Design.

USFSP sign in front of Nelson Poynter Memorial Library

USFSP sign in front of Nelson Poynter Memorial Library

I’m enrolled in the traditional program which prepares students for careers in print, electronic and digital media or for college-level teaching. The traditional program has allowed me the flexibility to take online and face-to-face classes. The program normally takes two years to complete with a requirement of 36 hours. There are also several opportunities to work in the community, the Neighborhood News Bureau is a working newsroom that provides Journalism training for undergrad and graduate students.

Students also have the opportunity to study and work at the Poynter Institute. The Poynter Institute is a school for journalists, future journalists, and teachers of journalism dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders. It is across the street from the USF St. Petersburg’s campus.

The Digital Journalism and Design program (DJD) is a fairly new addition. The program was launched in the Fall of 2012, and is a 30-credit program that is typically completed in a year and a half.

Working as a Graduate Assistant

Although a rewarding experience grad school is tough to say the least, the rigors of coursework, and trying to maintain a healthy social life can be a daunting task. Most graduate students work in addition to maintaining a half or full-time course-load, and depending on a graduate students course load and time constraints, the schedule can be grueling. I have had the pleasure of working for the Journalism department as a graduate/teaching assistant.  As a graduate assistant I work 10 hours per week as an assistant to one of the faculty members in the department and as a friendly face for visitors and students who come into the office on a daily basis.

The experience’s that I’ve had in this program thus far have been amazing and I can’t wait to see what else is in store as I prepare to take on another year as a graduate student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Coach Taggart with students

Locker Room Lunch with USF Football Coach Willie Taggart

Regional Chancellor Bill Hogarth and USFSP Student Government invited the USFSP community and the public to a special lunch with USF football coach Willie Taggart.

During his visit, coach Willie Taggart talked about USF football and how to be a leader on and off the field. Lunch and an extended, in-depth question and answer session was part of the fun.


Bulls head football coach Willie Taggart.

Get charged up with Bulls head football coach Willie Taggart at the University Student Center

USF head football coach Willie Taggart will discuss leadership on and off the field during “Locker Room Lunch” at USF St. Petersburg April 19 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the University Student Center Ballroom. The lunch is free and open to the public.

Taggart took over as Bulls head coach in December after three seasons as head coach at his alma mater, Western Kentucky, where he led a dramatic turnaround for the Hilltoppers. Before WKU, Taggart enjoyed a successful run at Stanford, helping build the Cardinal into a national power.

A Bradenton native, Taggart is known for his enthusiasm and high energy. He will be joined at the lunch by Jim Louk, the Voice of the Bulls. The program will follow an informal talk show format, with questions from the audience.

The event is presented by Interim Regional Chancellor Bill Hogarth and USFSP Student Government, with support from Wells Fargo. Additional support comes from the Tampa Bay Times, Harvard Jolly and Progress Energy. Space is limited so reserve your spot today.

“We are excited to welcome Willie Taggart to USF St. Petersburg,” Hogarth said. “He has brought a new level of intensity to the Bulls football program, and he’s a great role model off the field as well as on.”

Harborside Activites Board

True Life: I’m a Student Leader

Alarm goes off, it’s time to brush the teeth, do the hair, and put on some “dress for success” clothing. Look at the mirror one last time before heading out the door with the words in my head, “Students look up to you daily, so leave the problems here, and smile on.”

The Daily Grind

Every day when I head out the door, I do have to keep in mind that any negative action I can do will revert back to me as a leader on campus. I am normally a polite person to begin with, but even little things like being late to meetings or joining in on inappropriate jokes can be a bad idea. I try me best to smile and greet all the students who walk by, so that they know if they have a question about the campus they shouldn’t be afraid to come up to me and ask.

After class I usually go to the Harborside Activities Board office in the new Student Life Center to log in my work hours and make sure everything is in check. I will have an up-to-date chat with Ryan Hughes, our graduate assistant and Lauren Dakers, the president. During the rest of my office hours, I would just answer phone calls and emails regarding different programming companies giving our organization ideas on what we can bring to our campus to entertain the students. Honestly, it is tons of fun to do this all. I love it!

Event Day- What happens?

We plan our events months prior before it actually happens. That way we are ready to go with no hesitation.

Bumps in the road occur every now and then, though how do we become stronger without tackling mistakes?

The Directors of HAB reach out to the rest of the members for volunteer opportunities at our events, such as sign-in tables or hosting and mingling with the crowd. Whenever we bring a comedian or any Stage Act performer, the members of HAB greet them and meet them first behind the scenes before they even go on stage. How cool is that?!

I remember during Welcome Week, we brought the comedian Mike E Winfield. Anna, the Stage Acts Director, couldn’t greet Mike because she was in class, so it got turned on me. I was so excited but nervous because it was the first time I got to be the pointee to the comedian!

Our HAB Cinema Series are somewhat of a big deal on campus haha. After renting out the theater at Muvico for the Twilight Premier, students could just not stop talking about HAB. It was such a successful program and we plan on doing more in the future (so be on the look out..)

When we have movies in the USC Ballroom, that is like our own “on campus movie theater”. We have rows of chairs lined up in front of a giant projector screen with refreshments on the side.

Frank, the Director of Film, does a great job organizing his cinema series.

After a couple of hours for a program we put on, when the students leave and the time hits 10 or 11 PM, us in HAB gather our belongings, give ourselves our last few roles of the night (who would take the stuff back to the office, who will alert that the program is done etc) and call it a night. And lets not forget homework and classwork that needs to be done the next day!

Pros and Cons?

Being a student leader definitely has pros and cons. The pros? We get to not only be a role model for many other students, but we get to inspire them to also become one of us. The cons? Well, just knowing how to balance it all. Though if this is a passion- it won’t be difficult to do so.