When Nancy Meador graduated from Arkansas State University with a bachelor’s degree in communications in 1990, a hashtag was still a regular old pound sign.
Fast forward to today. She’s enrolled in the Master of Science in Media Management, Digital Management Track online program at #AState. Meador, the communications coordinator at First Electric Cooperative Corporation in Jacksonville, Arkansas, is on pace to graduate in December 2019.
“Since the creation of the internet and social media, the field of communications has changed completely,” she said. ”Social media is a powerful, effective, efficient way to communicate with stakeholders. I wanted to learn as much about it as I possibly could, so when the online media management program came along, it was a perfect fit for me.”
Meador enrolled in 2016. However, she took some time off while switching jobs and resumed in January 2018 to take advantage of her company’s tuition reimbursement program.
”A-State was my first choice,” she said. ”I found out about the program because I had worked for Arkansas State University-Beebe, which is a community college in the A-State system. [Graduate Program Director] Dr. Gil Fowler, who was a journalism professor when I was an undergraduate student, told me about the program.”
The flexibility of the online format allows Meador to maintain a full-time job while enhancing her knowledge of all things social media.
”It is very manageable,” she said. ”I can work on classwork at night and on weekends — and do it at my own pace, which I enjoy. Seven weeks is just enough time. When you are pushed to the limit and don’t think you can read another textbook or write another paper, the class is over. Then, you get a small break and start over.”
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Meador, who grew up in Sherwood, developed a passion for journalism while attending Sylvan Hills High School. She graduated from A-State with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations after working on the newspaper staff and in the communications department.
”I went to Arkansas State because it was the top school in the state for journalism,” she said. ”For me, it was all about storytelling. Since I earned my bachelor’s degree, I have worked in marketing and public relations, which I love because of the creativity.”
During a stint of almost three years at ASU-Beebe, Meador was director of marketing and public relations, which helped her transition into the MS in Media Management online program.
”This is my first experience taking online courses,” she said. ”It helped to come from a college background. I was familiar with Blackboard because that is what our students at ASU-Beebe used.”
So far, COMS 5463: Interactive Advertising is her favorite course in the master’s program because of its applicability to the use of website analytics at her job with First Electric. However, Meador has already taken away broader lessons from all of the courses.
”You are always learning about theories and how to be a critical thinker,” she said. ”It makes you stop and think before you draft a news release or post something on social media about what message you are sending and how it will be interpreted by your stakeholders.
”That’s something you don’t think of, coming from graduate school when you are doing all of these academic papers and learning all of these theories, but I find myself referring back to those theories more and more, like the Uses and Gratifications Theory.”
Although Meador is an online student, she is thoroughly enjoying the chance to reconnect with her alma mater in person.
”It adds a lot to it,” she said. ”I have been able to go back to campus a couple of times. It has been great to meet my online professors face to face and shake their hands — especially in a place where I spent four years of my life. It was cool to see my old stomping grounds.”
Meador also appreciates the level of support she is receiving from those professors.
”The faculty at Arkansas State is top notch,” she said. ”They really want you to succeed. They are very passionate about their students and the program. All of my professors go above and beyond to help me. They will give you their cell number and say, ‘Call or email me any time of the day or night so I can help you.”’
Interacting with her fellow students is another element of the online program that Meador enjoys.
“Because it is an online class, you might think that you will never meet other students or have any communication or collaboration with them, but that is not necessarily the case,” she said. ”I have met some good friends and have also made good connections through the online program. It is great to work together and support each other through the whole process.”
As an added bonus, Meador has been in school at the same time as her son, Bailey, who recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture business from Arkansas Tech University after two years at ASU-Beebe.
”We did homework together,” she said. ”He checks up on me to make sure I am getting my assignments done on time, and I did the same for him. We help each other out. My son is very excited for me. I was also just inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha, which is a huge honor.”
The online MS in Media Management program is giving Meador the tools to use social media to its full potential and paving the way for career advancement within her current company, which she loves.
”I have recommended the master’s program at A-State to several others who are now enrolled,” she said. ”It’s nice to be able to mentor them and tell them what the expectations are for certain classes.
”I tell them that they should not be afraid of the program, there is support there and they can do it. It’s worth the time and the effort you put in it. You should always strive to be a lifelong learner. You are never too old to learn, and I think that is what keeps you young. ”
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Learn more about the A-State MS in Media Management, Social Media Management Track online program.