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Keeping up with Drury's Department of Communication

MA Alumni Profile: Jeffery Riggins

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Earn a master’s degree? Jeff Riggins reveals the benefits of investing in yourself

by Jeff Riggins, Account Manager at HealthTronics, Inc.

In 2009 at the ripe old age of 44, I announced to my family and friends that I intended to earn a master’s degree.  As expected, I encountered a fair amount of skepticism.

  • “How will you find the time?”
  • “What will you do with the degree?”
  • “Will you make more money?”

My answer was simple, honest and direct, “I don’t know.”

Though I could not foresee the ultimate outcome, I knew that if I passed on graduate school I would always wonder what might have been.   I feel strongly that investing in yourself is a smart use of your time and money.

Before I began my graduate program I imagined nervous students sitting around a graying professor discussing abstract theories published in difficult to read academic journals.  Boy, was I wrong.

The Communication faculty members at Drury are well respected researchers and teachers in their fields but more importantly to me, they are young and dynamic.  I enjoy interacting with brilliant people that while securely grounded in the traditions of their disciplines, are also tuned into the ever changing world in which we live in.  Rather than sitting in a semi-circle discussing hard to understand theories Drury’s professors bring in active professionals to interact with students and help bring theory to life.  Our classes worked closely with nonprofit organizations and businesses in the community on semester long projects involving direct application of course content.  We also did a fair amount of the semi-circle thing from time to time.

I cannot say enough about the faculty.  They take a genuine interest in their students and feel great pride in their achievements.

Once, while working on a class project I looked up and noticed that there were three professors holding Ph.D.’s from some of the best schools in the world for their disciplines (media, marketing and rhetoric) all bent over desks working with students one on one.  The ratio in that room was one Ph.D. for every three graduate students.  Stories like this one astound my friends with graduate degrees from different institutions.

I began the MA in Communication program at Drury in January 2010.  At the time I was employed as a director at a cloud based healthcare software company with a competitive compensation and benefits package but limited upward mobility.

I worked full time over the course of my two years of study at Drury.  Though I missed some television shows and read textbooks rather than fiction novels I never felt overwhelmed.  In order to ensure my success I prioritized my activities in this manner:

  1. Family
  2. School
  3. Work

Two years of night classes flew by.  When I graduated in December 2011 I had a better job with a different company.  I was enjoying a 45% salary increase, superior benefits and potential for upward mobility.

The question is, “how much of my success may be attributed to my decision to enter graduate school?”  Once again, “I don’t know.”

But, what I do know is that while interviewing for my new position I was able to reference projects and research completed during my degree program as well as easily field questions regarding the current state of digital media in our industry and beyond.  Drury prepared me well both in the classroom and out.  I left school with an impressive digital portfolio and a widely expanded professional network.

As I continue to move ahead in my career I stay in touch with my professors and seek their guidance on a regular basis.  I also gladly help out if there is anything I may be able to do for them (e.g. my company has provided several internship positions and the students they sent to us have been amazing).  I truly appreciate the friendships I gained and the opportunities that have been made possible by earning my MA in Communication at Drury.


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