Continuing the adventure in graduate school

While on a research trip, Kimberly Nelson interacted with the ko’ko’ and other native birds at a captive breeding facility in Mangilao, Guam. Photo courtesy of Dara Wald

By Kimberly Nelson, graduate student in journalism and mass communication

There was no experience like it: sitting on the porch of a coffee shop looking out toward calm bright blue water, outlined with light tan sand and palm trees. I remember the scent of salt water and coffee curling its aroma around my nostrils — a joyous “scentsation.”

There I sat with my major professor working on the research that brought us to Guam for 10 days. We were investigating different stakeholder groups’ perspectives about the invasive species on Guam and wildlife management’s ability to mitigate the issue. This is a topic I never thought I would work on. In fact, I never imagined my experience at Iowa State would literally take me halfway around the world to study communication.

Roughly six months later–one group publication and two co-authored book chapters down–I’m still trying to grapple with the fact I have had so many opportunities as a graduate student in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication master’s program.

When I applied to graduate school I knew I wanted to study science communication. My coursework, research projects and graduate assistant responsibilities have all contributed to this goal. Each experience has made me more confident in my abilities to understand and conduct research. I’ve a ways to go before I feel like an expert, but I certainly feel more ok saying, “I don’t know.” And I have my Greenlee professors to thank for that.

Being able to say, “I don’t know,” makes me willing to research answers; to find the closest version to the truth in that moment; to learn more. Saying, “I don’t know,” is empowering.

Before beginning graduate school, I thought it was a sign of weakness to admit a lack of knowledge. Contributing to the larger body of knowledge is an ongoing process, and that is what scholars who have spent years studying, researching and publishing do. Ultimately, that adds to our collective understanding of how best to communicate about science.

The opportunities I have been afforded in graduate school have not only made me more confident in my abilities but are also helping me see my future more clearly. When I first started school, I had no idea where I was going to go after graduation. Now, I know I’m applying to leading doctoral programs outside of Iowa. I don’t know where I will be in a year. But I do know I have the support of my graduate committee and other Greenlee professors who have been rooting for me the entire way.

Kimberly Nelson is a second-year student in Greenlee’s master’s program. She’s also a graduate student instructor and research assistant. She received her B.S. in English from Buena Vista University, and has worked as a proofreader and project manager at Meyocks.

Interested in graduate school? Greenlee’s flexible master’s program offers both academic and professional tracks. Learn more about the application requirements. This year’s application deadline is March 1, 2018.