Shana Makos graduated in 2006 with her B.A. in Communication Studies and a minor in Public Relations. Shana lives in Champaign, Illinois and is getting her Ph.D. in Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In this alumni spotlight, she talks to us about what she’s been up to since graduating from Chapman and why she decided to pursue her graduate degrees. If you want more insight into the graduate school experience, you can connect with Shana via LinkedIn.

Shana Makos ’06

You are currently pursuing your Ph.D., tell us a little about that experience.
I am a Ph.D. Student and Graduate Teaching Instructor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In this role, I teach classes such as public speaking and interpersonal communication to undergraduate students. In addition, I am working toward earning my Ph.D., and I specialize in interpersonal communication research. I want to help us better understand how interpersonal relationships impact an individual’s health, particularly within the LGBTQ population.

You took a break between your undergrad and grad degree programs. What did you do before deciding to get your Ph.D.?
Prior to beginning my Ph.D. program, I worked as a curriculum designer for my Sorority, Gamma Phi Beta. In this role, I developed an online and in-person educational curriculum for our undergraduate and alumnae members. It is because of my experience in the Sorority at Chapman that I learned about the career path of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Plus, I can thank my time as a staff writer for The Panther Newspaper for helping me become a strong writer. I chose to work in Fraternity and Sorority Life because it allowed me to give back to the organization that shaped me as a woman during my undergraduate career. Also, I was able to work with undergraduate students, something I also developed my passion for teaching during my service in the offices of Orientation and Admission while I was an undergraduate student at Chapman.

Why did you decide to pursue your graduate degrees?
I decided to pursue my graduate degrees in communication because I want to learn about how we can improve people’s lives through communication, particularly those with marginalized identities. We have the opportunity to better someone’s life each time we communicate, and that’s not something to take for granted. I love learning, and I especially love hearing stories about people. As a researcher, I often get to interview people and learn about their lives. Being a Ph.D. student means I get to practice how to conduct quality research and be an engaging, helpful teacher. Being in academia means you get to spend a large portion of your time thinking, and there are not many other jobs where you can do that!

How has your communication degree benefited you in your career?
Strong communication skills are the cornerstone of professional and interpersonal success. Being a strong communicator has helped me network with people for new opportunities, and the communication classes I took helped provide the foundation for my academic pursuits.

What courses or professors helped you the most in your career journey?
The professors in the Department of Communication Studies were central to my success at Chapman, including Dr. Jennifer Waldeck, Allen Levy, Jerry Hicks, and Dr. Kevin Jones (who is no longer at Chapman). These professors helped me develop my love for communication studies in organizational, media, journalism, and interpersonal communication. It is primarily because of them that I decided to pursue my Ph.D. in Communication.

What advice do you have for undergraduate students or recent graduates?
Pursue graduate-level studies only if it is something that truly speaks to you, and if you have a plan as to how it will help you in your career. You should also seek out graduate programs with full funding. MA and Ph.D. programs will often pay you in exchange for you teaching or serving as a research assistant! Because of this, I have earned an MA and am working on a Ph.D.… and I was paid to do it!