An open letter on the suspension of the communication graduate program

Dr. Darlene Weaver,

On behalf of University of Dayton department of communication graduate program students, we write to you to share a few thoughts.

In late July, communication graduate students and faculty were made aware that the communication master’s program would be suspended after 2025. This was a decision made by then-provost Paul Benson on his final day in office before retiring. Unfortunately, that leaves the aftermath of this wrongful decision on the shoulders of us as students and you as the new provost. 

While our beloved faculty, including communication department chair and professor Dr. Chad Painter and communication graduate program director and professor Dr. Alan Abitbol, have appealed this decision with your office, you have chosen to uphold the suspension despite empirical evidence of the viability of the program.

For that, it has become obvious to the graduate students of this department that we must be our own advocates. If there is one thing we know to be true of the communication students at the University of Dayton, it’s that we like to communicate. We are proud Flyers, and we are loud about it. With a decision that threatens our fond community for the students that will come after us, we are not ignorant to the decision upheld by your office, nor will we take the decision lying down. 

We implore you to carefully consider each and every future communication student that will miss out on the opportunity to learn, lead and serve by suspending this program. Please take the time to read through our personal testimonies on why this program means so much to us Flyers.

Student Perspectives

Yana Crossland-Wilson, graduate class of 2024

I began my graduate studies in the department of counselor education. My program was not a good fit for me, however, I desperately wanted to stay at UD. Working as a graduate assistant for the Dialogue Zone, I spoke with my supervisor and mentor Dr. Jason Combs about the possibility of transferring to the communication master’s program. I was referred to and met with Dr. Alan Abitbol, the director of graduate studies, who made me feel gladly accepted into the communication graduate community immediately. 

When I met with Dr. Abitbol, I was in the trenches of some of the most difficult times of my life – most of my family lives in Ukraine and the war there was just beginning. He was incredibly kind and offered me support for pursuing my studies moving forward. I remember this meeting so vividly to this day. I was in a very dark place and was looking for some sign that I belonged on this earth, as it seemed everything was out of control and impacting me negatively. Alan provided that for me, and I am continually reminded that I am where I’m supposed to be as I continue my journey in this program. The community I experience in the communication program has truly saved my life.

In addition to the camaraderie and support, I have received a phenomenal education here and I am very lucky to continue to do so. I have discovered a true passion for research through my classes and am on track to pursue a PhD after graduating in May of 2024. This is the first time I have ever had such a strong sense of direction and I owe it all to the communication master’s program. 

My heart broke upon hearing that this program was going to be cut. I am having difficulty understanding how a program that is so impactful, academically rigorous and representative of the community that UD claims to provide could be put into this position. I call upon you, Provost Weaver, to reconsider this decision. Thank you for your time. 

Katie Dawson, undergraduate class of 2023, graduate class of 2024

As I’m closing up my fifth and final year as a UD student, there is no other way I’d rather

finish my experience than by being fully immersed in the graduate communication

program. During the spring semester of my junior year, I was on track to graduate the following semester. However, I knew I wasn’t ready to stop learning in an academic setting. Secondly, I certainly knew it wasn’t time to leave the university that I knew and loved so dearly. That’s when I set up a meeting with Dr. Alan Abitbol and quickly became a Bachelor’s Plus Master’s student.

The communication graduate program was suitable for me as it’s compatible with my

goals of building community, enriching my communication education, and building

professionalism. My cohort of budding scholars is comparable to the community

component that is echoed on campus. We support one another academically, socially, and

emotionally. Throughout my undergraduate time, I was always yearning for a consistent,

supportive group of peers in the classroom. I’m grateful that this program has introduced

me to genuine, respectful, and thoughtful students that have become lifelong friends. 

This program has also led me to become a graduate teaching assistant in CMM 100. It’s been an honor to represent the university and the communication department in this role. This position has given me the opportunity to become a teacher and mentor for students trying to become confident speakers and civil members of society. I vividly remember taking this course in the fall of 2019, which happened to be my first semester on campus. I remember the nervousness I felt about starting this new season of life. My instructor was a communication graduate student as well, and he was able to meaningfully connect with students and create a comfortable environment because of the shared connection of being new students at the university.

Recognizing my own experience as a first-year student, I also attempt to create a

comfortable environment within my classes. I not only share enriching communication theories and knowledge, but I can provide students with information about how to navigate UD and utilize campus resources. Graduate students provide an alternative perspective when teaching undergraduate students. For example, I’ve found myself frequently saying, “I wish someone told me this when I was in your position” or “I remember feeling that way myself as a first-year student.” My passion to create an interactive, comfortable learning environment has been inspired by the efforts of the supportive and respectful faculty in the department. Their dedication toward student success in and out of the classroom is inspirational and reflects UD’s values.

I feel fully confident that this program has changed the trajectory of my upcoming career.

The experiences I’ve gained throughout the program have contributed to personal and professional skill development that I am fortunate to have before entering a full-time position. I am abundantly grateful for the opportunity to be a graduate student in the communication department, and it saddens me that this decision is on track to suspend the program.

There is too much value embedded throughout this program to prohibit future students to

experience the support and education that I’ve received throughout my graduate

experience. Through these testimonies, we hope that our voices can advocate for the

program that we cherish so dearly. It’s the least we owe to this program and the faculty

that have continuously provided unwavering support to us.

Alicia Donley, undergraduate class of 2023, graduate class of 2024

As a student athlete at the University of Dayton, the communication graduate department has deeply enriched my life in academics, personal growth, career development and my athletic pursuits. This program has encouraged self-discovery and boosted my self-confidence. 

What truly sets this program apart is the exceptional support it provides for athletes. The flexibility and understanding of faculty and staff allowed me to excel both academically and athletically. This program has helped me with essential time management skills, enabling me to maintain a balance between my academic commitments and athletic pursuits. The dedicated faculty have expanded my love for health communication and provided me the opportunity to pursue my professional career to work with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

I am forever grateful for the communication graduate department and the opportunities it has provided me. This program has elevated my academic, personal, professional and athletic facets of life. I wholeheartedly believe in this program and know that it creates excellence within our community and university. 

Tania Chanda, graduate class of 2024

As an international graduate student of the University of Dayton’s Master of Arts in Communication program, I am deeply concerned about the decision to suspend the program. This decision will have negative consequences for students seeking a graduate degree.

Personally, the program provided me with invaluable experiences that have changed my life. Before joining the program, I had an educational background in accounting from Bangladesh. However, when I joined the program, I was introduced to a whole new world of knowledge and skills related to communication. The program opened my eyes to the fascinating field of communication and its potential for personal and professional growth. I was so intrigued by this new field that I decided to take the thesis track and explore the field more deeply. This year, I plan to apply for a Ph.D. program where I can delve even deeper into the field of communication. 

The program’s faculty members are highly knowledgeable and invested in our success. Their unwavering support and guidance were instrumental in my academic and personal growth during the program. As an international student, I had numerous questions, and the faculty was always available to answer them with kindness and guidance.

The program was designed to foster a collaborative environment where students could work together to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. This collaborative approach instilled in me the confidence to work in teams and helped me to develop essential teamwork skills. Being part of such a supportive community has been a life-changing experience. All of my cohorts have pure bonding, trust, and solid connections. They have always been there for me in every step of my journey, which helped me feel visible and heard. 

Coming from an underprivileged family in Bangladesh, pursuing my studies in the United States would have been impossible without funding. However, as a graduate teaching assistant, I have been able to enrich my experience while also covering my tuition fees and living expenses. This opportunity has made my pursuit of higher education possible and has been a financial relief. I am confident that the program will continue to be a valuable asset to future students, just as it was for me. 

This master’s program provides a unique and invaluable experience that cannot be found elsewhere. It is an investment in the future of our students and our community. I urge the administration to reconsider its decision and preserve this important program for the benefit of future students.

Kaellyn Duerr, graduate class of 2025

I’m one of several working professionals in the graduate program. I’m taking classes at a slower pace to accommodate my work schedule and responsibilities. Getting a master’s while working has already increased my value to the organization in a variety of ways. 

Just today, my new boss was asking who might want to spearhead a rebranding and communication campaign for our department, and I said, “Well, I’m working on an M.A. in communication, would that be helpful?” He responded, “I just got chills. Yes, go for it!” It is gratifying and humbling to be able to put the things I’m learning into practice to serve my community. 

Having a master’s degree will open doors for me professionally, and I believe it would be a mistake to deprive future students of the opportunity to get an M.A. in communication from UD.

Sarah Frazier, undergraduate class of 2022, graduate class of 2024

When I came to the University of Dayton in the fall of 2018, I had no idea what I wanted to major in. I was recruited to play on the women’s golf team at UD, so that was the main reason why I chose the school. When I started to weigh my options for majors, communication stuck out to me because it was a major that had a lot to do with writing and little to do with math. Therefore, I chose to declare my major as communication with a journalism focus. 

Even though I probably chose communication as a major for the wrong reasons, I quickly fell in love with it. From the passionate professors to the lively students, communication forced me out of my shell and transformed me into a student I never pictured myself ever becoming. Not only was I participating in class, which I never did in high school, I was excited to come to class and looked forward to doing homework and writing papers, which was a completely brand new experience for me. 

I loved all of my four years as a communication major, and when I found those four years coming to an end, I realized I was more sad about school ending rather than leaving the social aspects of UD. Therefore, I prayed and asked God for guidance and felt myself called to pursue a master’s degree in communication and use my NCAA eligibility that was given to me by the COVID-19 pandemic and continue playing golf while going to graduate school. 

Like my undergraduate experience, I have loved every minute of being a graduate student at UD, but I now find my passion about the communication program at UD even stronger. Now, I am in classes where everyone participates in discussions because everyone is interested in the topic. I find myself challenging my own beliefs and knowledge through theoretical pieces we read in class. 

The communication graduate program has helped me blossom even more into being a version of myself I never knew existed and has given me a more diverse knowledge of communication from my graduate experience, since I decided to focus on public relations. 

To hear the communication graduate program is soon to be removed makes me sad beyond words. I can not emphasize enough how big of an impact this program has had on my life and the knowledge I have received as a graduate student here. The program is so special and is full of students who embody UD’s mission, values and genuinely are here because they want to learn. I beg of you, please do not end this program. It is so important to every single one of us and to take it away would be taking opportunities away from every single student who is an undergraduate at UD right now. 

Zoë Hill, undergraduate class of 2022; graduate class of 2024

I remember sitting in my academic advisor’s office when now-communication department chair Chad Painter poked his head in to suggest that I continue at UD through the Bachelor’s Plus Master’s program. I had passing thoughts of getting my master’s degree at some point, but I had no plans to do it right away considering the cost and time it would take. However, when I learned that I could do it in just one additional year and have my degree paid for by the graduate assistant program, I was immediately onboard to rearrange my academic schedule to join BPM. 

Not only has UD’s communication graduate program allowed me to actually get my master’s degree cheaply and quickly, it has allowed me more time with the people, organizations  and the places that are so special to me. 

During my master’s program, I have led the campus newspaper, Flyer News, to win multiple awards as editor-in-chief. I have had the opportunity to continue working with the amazing UD Magazine through my assistantship. 

I have also met the most intelligent and compassionate cohort of students that help me every single day when class or work gets to be too much. We each lean on each other to answer questions about assignments, we bounce academic research ideas off of each other, we get goofy in the comments of our Isidore discussion posts, we meet up for semi-weekly lunches when all our classes are asynchronous, we hang out with each others friends and family, we play in each other’s fantasy sports leagues and we rally around the program that has done so much for us. 

The innumerable and invaluable relationships each of us has built with each other solely derives from the existence of the communication graduate program, the faculty and staff dedicated to supporting us, and each of our own tenacity to learn, lead and serve. 

Nikki Huebner, undergraduate class of 2023, graduate class of 2024

I began this program the fall of my junior year during my undergraduate career. In all honesty, I blindly took a leap into pursuing a Master’s degree. While I was not entirely sure what taking graduate classes would entail, I can now confirm that it was one of the best decisions I have made. 

This program has strengthened my research, reading comprehension and writing skills more than I could ever have imagined. I truly understand now why having a master’s degree can give you an edge. The high standards this program has ingrained in me are something that will follow me for the rest of my career. 

This program has allowed me to research many of my interests in a professional and scholarly way. I will walk away with a graduate certificate in health communication, something I did not have the flexibility to pursue in my undergraduate. I have loved learning about the facets of this aspect of the discipline and hope I can apply what I have learned within the medical field in some regard. I have been working full-time while finishing this degree remotely which I believe is a unique aspect of the program. My professors are beyond understanding and would go to any length to support me and my classmates in being successful. 

Without this program, I would not have been connected with so many wonderful students and faculty. I believe wholeheartedly that without this program, a master’s degree would likely not have been in my cards due to personal and financial reasons. I know that being able to receive a master’s degree through the communication Bachelor’s Plus Master’s program will open so many professional and personal doors for me. I believe it is a disservice to past, current and prospective students to end this program. 

Annie Klausing, undergraduate class of 2022; graduate class of 2024

I have been given so many blessings and opportunities in my life for which I am grateful for – one being the University of Dayton’s communication graduate program. 

I am the assistant to the basic course director for CMM 100. I attended UD for a Bachelor of Arts for which I graduated in May 2022. I am in my final year of grad school, working closely with faculty to complete a thesis that analyzes whether women-identifying consumers associate the use of femvertising strategies with the companies that use them. I have been instructing classes on campus for three semesters, totaling five sections. 

Through my extensive experience at UD, I have several reasons as to why our program is valuable and your decision should be reversed. First, our graduate teaching assistants provide valuable lessons and perspectives in their classrooms. Second, the opportunity to teach CMM 100 and attend grad school should continue to be extended to interested students because of its intrinsic value. Third, the interconnectedness of the department mandates graduate teaching assistants as instructors, as there has not been a sustainable solution provided in replacement of the current structure.

Even though we are young, GTAs are capable of teaching valuable lessons. I know firsthand the irreplaceable value that a positive classroom setting can bring to both the instructor and the students. Our passion for our students reflects in their success.

For the last two semesters, students of GTAs have won first place in the campus-wide Persuasive Presentation Competition. To put that into perspective, that is first place out of approximately 900 students each semester. Because of this and numerous other examples, I have witnessed graduate students utilizing their strengths and intelligence to lead classrooms. We brainstorm creative and engaging ways to teach content and do so with high professionalism. We are an essential part of this department and deserve to have our voices heard.

Because of the intrinsic value of our program, the opportunity to teach CMM 100 and attend grad school should continue to be extended to interested students. Grad school opens many doors and I am disappointed and heartbroken to hear that this opportunity may not be available for future students. 

I know deep down it must break your heart too, because you have gone on record saying that: “It’s one of my greatest goals, that I help advance the work of supporting students for whom a University of Dayton degree might have seemed out of reach and find ways to not only continue to attract deserving students but also mitigate barriers to their success while they’re here.” I was one of those students that never could have afforded grad school because of my financial situation, until I was given the opportunity to be a GTA. Please don’t forget one of your greatest goals. I am going to be able to graduate and my life will forever be changed for the better. Others deserve that opportunity here too.

Discontinuing the communication graduate program would not only limit the higher education opportunities of UD students, but CMM 100 would cease to exist as an organized education system. There is a network of interconnectedness in our department that is being underestimated. 

A decision to discontinue the graduate program would make it impossible for the University of Dayton to continue operating at its current rate. Through the Common Academic Program, every student that attends the University of Dayton is required to take CMM 100. To fulfill this need, GTAs teach a total of 11 sections each semester. The overall SET scores have proven that GTAs are consistently ranked as effective by the students themselves. By terminating the graduate communication program, there is no one to fill these sections. 

I beg you to consider the implications of your actions. The faculty and staff of the CMM Department work diligently as is, and they deserve a fair and sustainable solution that considers their needs.

I beg you to consider reversing your decision. Our GTA instructors are effective, our graduate program is intrinsically important and our community is intensely interconnected. In suspending the graduate communication program, I fear that you will impact much more than you realize.

Dori Miller, undergraduate class of 2024, graduate class of 2025

I strongly believe suspending the UD communication graduate program is the wrong decision. UD’s CMM programs (both undergraduate and graduate) are unique and essential to this campus and students’ education. Being a communication major has changed my life through the content I learned and the people I met and worked with. 

While I haven’t always felt like UD was a place where I belonged, the CMM department is where I have felt at home all four years. The faculty in this department have worked so hard to know me and help me, and I have always felt seen, heard and respected here. The opportunity to be a part of the Bachelor’s Plus Master’s program meant I could continue my education at UD and earn a master’s degree. 

Without the BPM program, there is no way I could ever afford going to school anywhere for a master’s degree, especially not without taking on the intense burden of additional student loans. Earning a master’s degree can open many doors in life such as career placement and advancement and salary negotiation.

I am fortunate enough to be in what may be the last group of BPM students who can continue on in the program uninterrupted and still achieve my master’s degree in one additional year, as well as likely be a GA for professional growth and immense financial assistance. My heart breaks for all the students after me who won’t get the same life-changing experience and opportunity I did with BPM. Suspending this program is a wrong, unjust and serious decision that I pray you do not take lightly.

Emily Parker, undergraduate class of 2023, graduate class of 2024

I am deeply honored to speak on the profound impact the department of communication has had, not only on my life but also on the lives of others within our student body. During my undergraduate years at UD, I majored in communication management with a minor in psychology. 

My time understanding the human mind and behavior, as well as the theories and strategies of communication, were instrumental in saving lives through my role as the Student Government Association’s Mental Health Committee chair. Serving in this role for two years fills me with pride, knowing that I made a difference in people’s lives and persuaded others to utilize our mental health resources and live another day.

 To shed light on how I harnessed the power of communication to make a tangible impact, I have chosen to share a segment of my “Personal Statement” that I sent to President Spina — a personal supporter of my mental health journey — and the department of communication’s graduate admissions board. I share my testimony in hopes that you can see how not only am I grateful for my education within the communication master’s program but also how this program has and continues to help us students master the art of communication to save lives. 

“In the throes of my first year, I became entangled in an unyielding battle with depression and overwhelming thoughts of ending my life. The night of Feb. 22, 2020, marked a critical turning point when those ideations escalated into concrete plans. In a moment of darkness, I sought help from my resident assistant who contacted UD Public Safety and rushed me to the hospital to seek the mental health treatment I desperately needed. I am grateful to my RA and UD Public Safety, who rescued me and ultimately saved my life that night. 

On Feb. 22, 2022, coincidentally two years after my mental health incident, I organized a mental health “TED Talk”-style event called “Emily’s Story,” where I candidly shared my experience with depression, suicidal thoughts and life-saving intervention during my first year with over 150 students in attendance. Standing alongside a UD Public Safety Officer, a faculty member from the Dean of Students Office and the Director of the Counseling Center, the message of “Emily’s Story” to seek help, embrace on-campus resources, and survive another day was received by the audience. The impact of “Emily’s Story” was profound and made evident when a courageous freshman reached out to me afterward through a text. This student bravely confided in their struggles with suicidal ideation and planning. Prompted by the event’s powerful message, this student sought and received mental health support, enabling a safe return to campus. A week following their return, I had the privilege of meeting with this student over coffee. Listening to this student proudly share their story, a faint smile formed as I experienced an epiphany. I realized my story had saved a life. 

A couple of months later, I had the honor of meeting with the former President of Mental Health America. I shared my journey and the advocacy work I initiated at my university. As he praised my courage and resilience, the ensuing words surprised me and will forever remain etched in my memory. Capturing my attention, he said, ‘Emily, I’m immensely proud of you for seeking and accepting help to recover from the darkness. However, your story is not uncommon. There are hundreds of “Emily’s Stories” on college campuses, but we rarely hear of them unless they end in tragedy. While stories like yours are unfortunately common, your approach is unique. Instead of letting your story end, you chose to begin anew. Your brave decision to share it on a large scale made a significant impact. You skillfully communicated a call to action that saved a student’s life. That’s what sets “Emily’s Story” apart from the others.’ In that moment of profound connection, I embraced the silence of my revelation. The true essence of Mark Twain’s quote came alive, revealing my purposeful ‘why’ and calling: to harness the power of communication to save lives. 

Standing at the cusp of my journey, I am resolute in my choice to delve into the remarkable influence that skillful communication can wield. I aspire to advance my education at the prestigious University of Dayton and pursue a degree in the Master of Arts in the communication program. This specialized program will equip me with effective communication strategies and tools to help shatter stigma, foster understanding, and empower struggling individuals to advocate for themselves and embrace surrounding mental health resources. My vision is to assume pivotal roles in non-profit organizations, government agencies, and mental health institutions, leading communication efforts to drive social change and improve access to critical mental health services…”

I am grateful for the privilege of being admitted into the communication graduate program, which provides me with the opportunity to expand my knowledge and enhance my confidence in using communication to make a life-saving impact. In our society, there exists a pervasive stigma surrounding mental health and mental illnesses. The most effective means to break down this barrier is through open dialogue, public speaking events and presentations dedicated to education, awareness and suicide prevention. The department of communication master’s program is dedicated to educating and empowering individuals like me to convey the reasons for choosing life and to guide others in the process of seeking and accepting the resources available to support them. 

Daniel Peters, undergraduate class of 2022, graduate class of 2024

My time here at the University of Dayton will always be some of the most influential and impactful years of my life. This is where I found who I was and what my passions were. This is where my friends became family for life; where I met my fiancé and colleagues who I can always count on for guidance and inspiration. 

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity that was given to me in the summer of 2022 after I graduated from my undergraduate program. My grandfather suggested on my graduation day to look into graduate school, since then I haven’t turned back. When I found out that the communication department was losing their graduate program, I was devastated, shocked and heartbroken. Never would I have thought that I would be able to help teach the next generation of students, helping their transition from high school to college. 

Through the graduate program, I discovered an unknown passion I had for teaching. With the loss of the graduate program, there is a high chance of losing out on those UD students that love to teach — students that love the university enough to show what it means to be a Flyer to the incoming first-year students and those who want to make a difference by furthering their education. 

At the University of Dayton, we need to continue to soar together, as a united community. With the recent decision, it feels as if the community is shattered and that we are left to fly alone. The University of Dayton is an amazing place of opportunity. I wouldn’t be where I am and who I am today without the amazing and supportive people within the communication graduate program. 

Shania Weigandt, undergraduate class of 2022, graduate class of 2024

Throughout my time here at UD, I often think about what made this experience so special and unique. To me, it is the people who I have chosen to surround myself with during these last six years. Being given the opportunity to teach at UD has changed the game for me academically and personally. Teaching here has given me direct purpose and guidance, forcing me into challenges that have given me so much more than my undergraduate years. 

Within this program I have formed a family consisting of co-workers, leaders and educators. I cannot imagine how I would have ever felt fulfilled not having taken this opportunity to attend graduate school and teach. Teaching has provided me with independence, time management skills and the ability to help undergraduates connect academically. 

If this program were no longer available and I wouldn’t have had this opportunity, I do believe that a part of me would still feel hungry in terms of purpose. This program has given me the confidence to take risks and has fed my eager heart with learning while providing me the opportunity to share my learning with others I personally have connected with. I could not imagine being in any other place, surrounded by any other faculty while priding myself in any other way. Due to my experience here I have decided that I want to teach full time and continue my fulfillment of learning. Taking away this program is neglecting individuals the opportunity to further their education while also fulfilling others.

Nolan Watson, graduate class of 2024

The communication graduate program has allowed me to continue my education at the highest level at a very prestigious university. As a student athlete who would like to pursue coaching when I am done playing baseball here at Dayton, the communication graduate program is giving me skills that I can translate to any area of life. Learning how to deal with people and handle situations strategically is one of the most important qualities employers look for in the workforce. 

In this program I have learned how to do that at a high level, and I know it will be one of the contributing factors to my success when I start coaching at the college level. The professors hold us to a high standard and are preparing us for the next step in our careers, personally and professionally. I am very grateful for all the professors and students who I work very hard with every day in this program. 

Rachel Young, undergraduate class of 2023, graduate class of 2024

If you would have told me just over two years ago that I would graduate with my master’s in communication in May 2024, I would not have believed you. Without the University of Dayton’s communication master’s program, I am almost certain I would not be in graduate school right now, let alone just a semester and a half away from completing my second degree in five years.

In October of my junior year at UD, I met with Dr. Heather Parsons to plan my remaining undergraduate course load. Although I was pursuing a double major (communication and Spanish), I had started at UD with almost a full semester of college credit earned through high school AP and dual enrollment courses, so I didn’t need to fulfill many more requirements. With so few credits left to complete, Heather floated the idea of graduating early, but I did not want to rush out of college, especially because my freshman and sophomore years were disrupted by COVID-19. As Heather reviewed my progress and we discussed my options, I remembered hearing something about the Bachelor’s Plus Master’s program, so I asked her about it. Right away, Heather encouraged me to pursue the opportunity, and I met with Dr. Alan Abitbol a few days later to learn more about the program. 

Prior to these conversations, I had not entirely ruled out ever going to graduate school, but I certainly didn’t see it as my immediate next step. In fact, just a few weeks earlier, Dr. Cas Secrease and Professor Steff Sweet had asked if I had ever considered graduate school, and I replied, “Not really.” The more I learned about the BPM and the more encouragement I received from my family and other communication faculty members, the more it seemed like a no-brainer. To be able to start my graduate coursework as a junior without adding significant stress to my course load, graduate undergrad with half a master’s degree and finish the program in just one additional year was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. 

Finally, the chance to spend more time at a university whose Marianist values I so deeply resonate with and have had such an impact on me was a great blessing.

My master’s degree will put me on a level above most other 23-year-olds in the job search and give me a leg up in securing a position that allows me to combine my interests with the passion for strategic communication I have developed over the past four and a half years in the department of communication. 

Besides the professional advantages my degree will yield, the community I have found in my cohort is unlike any other community of which I have had the privilege to be a part. Having peers with whom I can have high-level academic conversations about my interests and passions is incredibly special. 

As many of our professors have shared, it is so important to have a strong support system in graduate school, and classmates are an essential component of such a network. No one else understands what it is like to be a communication graduate student at the University of Dayton, and our shared experience allows us to support each other in a multitude of ways, from brainstorming project ideas to encouraging each other when we are knee-deep in annotated bibliographies to cheering each other on at athletic events. I know my cohort is special, and we never would have come together without this program. 

As a communication graduate student at UD, I have had the opportunity to discover new passions by learning from incredible professors who are assets to this university. The thought of any of these talented, compassionate, intelligent individuals losing the opportunity to share their knowledge and passions with students seeking a higher level of understanding deeply saddens me.

Thanks to the communication master’s program at the University of Dayton, I am more knowledgeable and passionate about the field of communication than I ever thought possible. I know I would not have had the same graduate experience at any other university, and it hurts my heart to imagine other students will not have the same opportunity to further their education, develop an unmatched community and grow in the Marianist charism. 

Before being embraced by the department of communication, I wasn’t sure how to turn my passions into a career. The experience of studying in the department of communication is such a special one, and I implore you to reconsider cutting short and altogether eliminating this experience for future students.

Alayna Yates, undergraduate class of 2023; graduate class of 2024

The University of Dayton preaches vocation from the moment you step on campus as a freshman. I’ve known since high school that I wanted to study communication and specifically journalism, but it wasn’t until I joined the BPM program that I discovered I was truly embarking on the journey towards my vocation. I’m doing research and enjoying my studies now more than I ever had in my undergrad. I can actually see myself pursuing a career I’m passionate about in journalism and I’m excited about working in the media after I graduate.

As a member of the volleyball team who’s freshman year was thrown a little off-course by the pandemic, I was able to receive the COVID redshirt granted by the NCAA to give me an additional season of eligibility. Without the BPM, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get my Master’s in four and a half years and graduate after my fifth season next December. I take pride in being a student-athlete at UD and I cannot express how grateful I am for the opportunity the BPM provided me to leave Dayton with another degree while continuing to play the sport I love. Sadly, volleyball doesn’t last forever. So, when that moment comes that I have to hang up the jersey for the last time, I’m beyond excited that I’ll be leaving Dayton to pursue my vocation and have a successful career all thanks to UD and the BPM.

Alumni Perspectives

Johanna Schlegel, graduate class of 2023

I was lucky enough to be accepted into the communication MA program at UD all the way from Germany. It had always been my dream to come to the U.S. to study but due to a number of circumstances it just did not work out until my graduate studies. I found UD after a long time of doing research into graduate programs in communication across the U.S. UD was just the perfect fit for me: the size, the campus, the community. Without the communication MA program I would have never been able to attend UD and fulfill this dream. 

The program also allowed me to find my dream job in my dream city, and I now work for the German-American Chamber of Commerce in Chicago. I think a university greatly benefits from international students by adding diversity to the student body and the campus community. For many international students, like me, graduate programs are the only opportunity to be able to come to the U.S. to study at a university. Cutting the communication MA program would deprive students from all over the world the opportunity to come to UD. UD has a lot of graduate programs in sciences but very few in social sciences and arts, so cutting this program would be a great loss.

Rachel LaFerriere, undergraduate class of 2022, graduate class of 2023

Without my master’s from the communication department, I certainly would not be where I am now. When I applied to another graduate program at Carnegie Mellon University, I was told how impressive it was to have an M.A. already, and it helped me get a larger scholarship. My graduate degree from Dayton helped prepare me for Carnegie Mellon. 

Additionally, being a graduate assistant while in the communication graduate program directly led to me getting my current internship with the Pittsburgh Film Office. The things I learned as a grad student in the communication graduate department have helped pave the path I am now on. More communication graduate students deserve the same incredible opportunity that I had. 

There was much excitement surrounding your appointment to the University of Dayton as the new provost. Change is often a roller coaster as we said goodbye to then-provost Paul Benson who has been a friend to this campus for decades. However, after hearing from students, faculty and administrators on your experience and heart, we were confident that this change would be a good one for the university. We still have faith that you will succeed in your new role here, but initial moves being made by you and your office do not serve the mission of UD. 

Through the Autumn 2023 issue of University of Dayton Magazine, you shared the story of how your mother supported you as you were accepted into graduate school. 

“I didn’t know what graduate school meant, but I saw a poster one day in the hallway advertising a summer session at Oxford, and I applied… When I was accepted, I showed the letter to my mom and said, ‘Wow, I know I can’t go, but at least I got in.’ She went to the credit union and took out a loan so I could go.”

For many University of Dayton students and future students, graduate school is not out of reach, but it is about to be. The communication graduate program, and its many pathways have helped local, national and international students earn communication master’s degrees when that dream might not have been possible at other universities, especially not ones with the reputation and renown that UD has. 

Since taking on this project to save the communication graduate program, what has become obvious to us as a graduate cohort is just the number of people who truly love this program. We have heard from faculty, staff, friends, family and peers sharing messages of gratitude for using our courage voices to uplift this program. 

It is clear to see how the spirit of community manifests itself right here in the lines of these testimonials. Compiling and reading through these have made it so apparent the passion this community has for its communication graduate department faculty, staff and peers. There are names and stories not shared on this letter for many personal reasons, but know that the support for this program does not stop at the end of this letter. 

Every single person involved in this effort will receive their degree or already has. The suspension does not affect us directly, but it affects the sanctity of the community and for that, we were called to do this.  

We, the paying customers of the program, ask that you consider our emotional pleas to save this program that both means so much to so many and has produced hearty cohorts of alumni serving their communities. 

We appreciate your time and consideration.


The 2023 communication graduate program cohort

Yana Crossland-Wilson, Katie Dawson, Alicia Donley, Tania Chanda, Kaellyn Duerr, Sarah Frazier, Zoë Hill, Nikki Huebner, Annie Klausing, Dori Miller, Emily Parker, Daniel Peters, Nolan Watson, Shania Weigandt, Alayna Yates and  Rachel Young. 

And communication graduate program alumni

Melanie Crump Kiplinger ’18, Franchesca Hackworth-Smith ’21 Allison Heraty ’16, Kevin Kryston, ’15, Rachel LaFerriere ’23, Allison Moon-Shope ’15, Johanna Schlegel ’23, Nick Thompson ’23, and Leandra Watson ’15

Flyer News: Univ. of Dayton's Student Newspaper