Every year the National Communication Association (NCA) chooses only approximately 35 doctoral students, from among a national pool of applicants, to participate in its prestigious Doctoral Honors Seminars (DHS). In 2018, the NCA chose SC&I’s doctoral student Katie Kang. The seminar was held at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee from July 23-26, 2018.
Kang was thrilled to have been given the opportunity to attend, knowing it would benefit her tremendously. “Sometimes, I feel like I have a narrow view because I have presented my work only in the field of organizational communication,” Kang said, explaining why she applied to attend the seminar. “I wanted to broaden my perspective as well as connect with others who study communication from diverse perspectives. Since I knew each participant’s dissertation work became a center of the seminar, I wanted to receive feedback from other faculty mentors as well as other grad students in other communication disciplines.”
In addition, she said, she knows she will be able to directly apply what she learned at the conference to her work, and she said the networking opportunities at the conference were very helpful.
“The feedback and suggestions I received from the seminar will be integrated into my dissertation data analysis and publications," Kang said. "Also, I received advice related to the job market. This valuable advice will be a big portion of my work in the future. Networking with other colleagues from different field is amazing (way more than I expected). Our pod members were enthusiastic and supportive even after the seminar. We are actually helping others to recruit participants and share job-market related materials. Also, I find that we all have a lot in common (struggles). Sometimes, scholars are isolated since we work as independent researchers. By knowing that others suffer as well, I feel so connected with others and relieved about my current situations.”
Communication Chair and Professor Craig Scott, who wrote Kang’s recommendation for the DHS application, said, “Katie Kang was well-suited for this program because she is a promising doctoral student who is in the middle of her dissertation efforts and she is preparing to hit the academic job market this fall. Having served as a faculty mentor a few years ago, I knew the value of the Doctoral Honors Seminar for sharing one’s work and for networking with other top doctoral students and faculty.”
He also added that it was an honor for the department as well as Kang, “Because they only select about 10-12 doctoral students nationwide in the social sciences, this is quite an honor for Katie and for our doctoral program,” Scott said.
This year’s seminar was titled “Communicating Intersections.” Explaining the main themes addressed in the seminar, Kang said, “I was a part of ‘Social Science’ pod. Within the pod, 12 students were chosen from interpersonal communication to organizational communication. Among many sessions during the seminar, two major sessions were really related to ‘Communicating Intersections.’
“First, when each student presented on-going dissertation project, we all had really interesting feedback and provocative plans for future research since we all have different backgrounds within sub-disciplines of social science.
“Second, when we discussed the community-level impact of our research, I found opportunities for future collaborations. Similar to what I have shared, it is difficult to find someone who experiences similar challenges or encounters solutions that I need. By sharing each participant’s research experience, we found that we had similar problems. Although we are not from the same field, we shared how we have overcame or struggled. Based on our group discussions, we have helped each other to take research in a better direction. Even faculty mentors were very supportive and receptive about how we all as scholars deal with problems (mental health, imposter syndrome, job market, research direction, etc).”
The three faculty members Kang met and worked with at the seminar included, Kang explained, “Dr. Steven Wilson, Dr. Kate Magsamen-Conrad ‘12 (a SC&I alumna now at the University of Iowa), and Dr. Carlos Aleman. Each mentor played a unique role during the seminar. I really appreciated Dr. Kate Magsamen-Conrad's insightful and honest sharing about her job market search and the tenure process. Also, I really admired Dr. Wilson’s theoretical suggestions and his sharing related to community-based research. Dr. Aleman’s helpful advice related to teaching and working community literally made a difference during the seminar. Especially, I loved our pod members' (12 females) enthusiasm and support during the seminar. After each day, we hung out altogether and explored Nashville. We plan to meet in NCA and collaborate for next year’s NCA conference.”
Kang, who expects to graduate in May 2019, decided to come to Rutgers when her master’s advisor (Kang received her master’s degree in Communication at California State University, Northridge) suggested she choose Rutgers so she could work with Professor Craig Scott because she was interested in online anonymity.
Currently analyzing data for her dissertation, Kang said, “My dissertation work is to explore organizing processes through anonymous communication in the context of Alcoholics Anonymous, the most well-known social support organization in the U.S. I attended AA meetings for 9 months and conducted survey and interviews in four AA groups.”
The Ph.D. courses she liked the best, she said, were “Organizational communication (Professor Scott) and interpersonal communication (Professor Jennifer Theiss). I just learned a lot in those courses and found my passion as a researcher.”
Asked if she has advice for any potential Ph.D. students, Kang said, “If you want to pursue your career as a communication scholar, you should apply this seminar. It is such an honor to spend a summer with outstanding colleagues in the field. You will learn a lot from each other and make really good friends who understand your work/struggle/experiences as well as give great advice you could not get anywhere else.”