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Arkansas State University

David Chaffin And The Online Master’s Degree Program

A-State MSMediaMgmt Grad David Chaffin

David Chaffin with his wife, Ginger, and children, Bailey, Summer and Dawson, at his personal commencement ceremony.

David Chaffin is experiencing role reversal. After documenting higher education journeys for the last 16 years, the videographer for a Dallas-based firm now has his own tale to tell.

“Media is all I have ever known and wanted to do,” said Chaffin who enrolled in the online Master of Science in Media Management program, Digital Management track at Arkansas State University. He graduated in May 2021.

In the online program management (OPM) space since 2007, the company Chaffin works for helps universities offer degree programs online. He was already familiar, therefore, with the flexibility of online learning through his position as director of video production. Plus, he was eligible for employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement covering almost half the cost of the degree.

“The online format was absolutely manageable,” he said. “There is certainly a lot of work, but it wasn’t overwhelming. There were a couple of classes where I took a day off from my job to get a big project done. I planned on that, so I wasn’t taken by surprise.”

After enrolling at A-State in 2018, Chaffin liked that he could tailor the master’s degree to his specific area of interest.

“My first class was Communication Regulation and Policy, which was interesting and a great class to start with,” he said. “In that course, you could select a topic for a paper based on whatever you’re interested in that relates to media law, so I chose Fair Use, which I’d always heard about but never really understood. Now I feel like an expert in it.

“Most of the classes gave you the ability to choose a topic you’re interested in. I would always choose video, video marketing, online video. It was nice to not be pigeonholed into doing something that the professor recommends that I wasn’t really interested in. It made the program so much more relevant for me.”

Depth of Field

Chaffin was raised in Wichita Falls, Texas, where he developed an early love for soccer and video production.

“When I was 12 years old, my dad came home with a very early VHS video camera,” he said. “I immediately started making videos. I got a map of the world out of National Geographic and put it on the wall behind me. I clipped out articles from the newspaper, sat behind a desk and read the news.

“I made videos with friends. We did a horror movie one time with fake blood. A few years later, my dad helped nurture my interests when we used the local cable company’s public access channel to produce a TV show about the local soccer association — he hosted it, and I produced it.”

After landing a position at the local CBS affiliate right after high school, Chaffin gained valuable experience while earning a bachelor’s degree in mass communications. He graduated from Midwestern State University in 1992.

“I was at the television station throughout college,” he said. “I worked my way up to director of the 6 and 10 o’clock newscasts. Once I got that job, I knew that’s what I wanted to do the rest of my life.”

Integrated Marketing Communications was Chaffin’s favorite course in A-State’s online M.S. in Media Management, Digital Management track program.

“If I were only going to take one class in the program, that would be the one,” he said. “It covers the entire range of digital marketing and has good, interesting assignments. It culminates with a paper that requires you to do a full campaign with all of the justification and planning that goes into it for a business of your choice.

“I did my paper on a small side business that a friend of mine owns. I gave the completed paper to him so he could, hopefully, incorporate some of those ideas. It was nice to be able to do something where I could see it helping a friend.”

Frame-Worthy Finale

Though graduation day at Jonesboro was not in the cards for Chaffin, he still had a commencement ceremony, with his wife, Ginger, and children — Bailey (22), Summer (20) and Dawson (17) — helping create a lifetime memory.

“Ginger did way more than I thought she was going to do,” Chaffin said. “She turned it into a full-on, personal, private graduation ceremony. I had A-State send me my cap and gown, and my wife got graduation gowns for herself and our three kids to wear during the ceremony. She acted as the president who welcomed everybody to the ceremony.

“They played Pomp and Circumstance while I walked in and took my seat. My son did the invocation. My middle daughter gave the commencement address, which is cool when it’s focused entirely on you. After her great speech, which she wrote that morning, my other daughter did the ceremonial conferring of the degree and placed the master’s hood over my shoulders. It was awesome.”

A-State shared Chaffin’s Facebook post about the commencement ceremony on its main web page, giving his journey wider exposure.

When I was talking about graduating a couple months ago, my mom, Thelia, practically got giddy,” he said. “‘This is so great. I can’t wait,’ she said. She and my dad, James, are still proud of their eldest son for getting a master’s degree, even though I am 51 years old.”

Chaffin also created a Facebook group for A-State Master of Science in Media Management students to connect and discuss the coursework. He hopes to see the group grow.

“My tips for potential students are very practical,” he said. “One, you are going to use APA style with every paper you write, which was new to me. It’s so much easier to bookmark a couple of key pages I referred to a lot for citations, so I recommend people buy the book and have it sitting by their study area with sticky notes for the citations.

“Second, you are going to be using the internet a lot, finding articles and web pages and resources. I highly recommend creating a folder of bookmarks and putting that on your bookmarks bar. Third, when doing a research paper, always check the references at the end of the articles you find. Doing this helps you find additional articles.”

Chaffin is grateful to have had the opportunity to earn an advanced degree, broaden his horizons and create his own narrative.

“The program helped me understand what other people in the company do,” he said. “I learned about SEO, user experience, content marketing, landing pages and more — all of which are the main focus of other people’s jobs, but understanding their jobs helps me be better at my job.

“It gave me a broader understanding of the big picture of everything involved in digital marketing. A lot of it also helped me in the specific area of video production because of the projects I chose. It was a great experience.”

Learn more about A-State’s online M.S. in Media Management program, Digital Management track.

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