How well do you know your SoC professors? Dr. Michelle Miller-Day has been teaching communication courses at Chapman University since 2012. Her research is at the intersection of interpersonal, family, and health communication. She is particularly interested in mental health, submissive communication, and substance use prevention. She is also a professional actor and has an M.F.A in Theatre. 

How did your career begin?

“I was always involved in some way with academia. After graduating with my undergraduate degrees in Communication and Psychology from the University of Southern California, I worked as a Forensics coach (competitive speech and debate) at UCLA. At the same time, I pursued my Master’s degree in theatre at USC. Then I worked as an actor in L.A. for several years before moving to Phoenix, AZ.

My experience coaching competitive speech and debate led me to a position coaching forensics at Arizona State University. I moved out of that job when I was asked by an ASU professor to work on a grant-funded community project to reduce gang violence in Phoenix. I worked on this project in grants management and conflict mediation for several years before pursuing my doctorate. I realized I needed the Ph.D. to get federal grant funding (of my own) to make a difference in the world and to be able to teach.

In the last phase of my career development, I finished my second master’s degree (Communication) and my doctorate (Communication), then applied and interviewed for tenure-track faculty positions. I was offered a few jobs. I accepted an offer at the University of Memphis (where I met my husband). I was at the U of Memphis for four years when I was recruited to join the faculty at Penn State University. I was at PSU for 16 years when I was recruited to join the faculty at Chapman. Here I shall stay!”

How do you think students can set themselves up for success during their undergraduate studies?

“One piece of advice I share is to keep a journal, log, or spreadsheet describing each paper and project (individual or group) that you do in each class during your undergraduate studies. In this journal, discuss the topic, what information you took away from the project, what skills you learned  (even as simple as “I learned to work with difficult team members!”), and how that information might be applied to a career. Believe me, when you are a senior and ready to interview, you will likely NOT remember papers and projects you did your freshman or sophomore year! Job interviewers love asking interviewees about any projects they did in school that might demonstrate any knowledge or skills they can bring to the table. Reviewing these projects and selecting a few examples before a job interview can be helpful.”

What benefits did continuing your education have on your career?

“I could never have become a university professor had I not earned my doctoral degree (Ph.D.). That is a minimum requirement. To obtain the doctorate, you first need to complete the Master’s degree. These are research degrees. This continuing education taught me the research skills I still use today!

Consider continuing your education with a graduate degree. A Master’s Degree can set you apart from other applicants. At Chapman, you can pursue the 4+1 program and earn your Master’s Degree by taking graduate classes in your senior year and completing graduate coursework in only one-year post-grad!  This results in up to a 40% discount on tuition for your graduate education.”

How did you navigate job searching?

“I recommend that students cast their net widely and not limit themselves to a specific geography. Once I opened myself up to apply to positions that were not in Southern California, my options increased, and I was placed in the work of having a choice of positions rather than just taking the first offer that came along.”

What advice would you give students just beginning to apply for jobs?

“What is YOUR story? Avoid sending out the same cover letter and resume to each potential employer. You are communicators. Decide what story you want to tell for any specific position. For one job, you may want to emphasize one experience, skill, or interest; for another, you might want to emphasize something else! Tell your story and link it to how you can help the employer to add to their story.”

A big thank you to Dr. Miller-Day for her time and advice. For more information on the School of Communication’s graduate programs, please contact Graduate Director Michelle Miller-Day ( or visit

–> Connect with Dr. Miller-Day on LinkedIn.

Dr. Miller-Day working on her research.