C&IS Graduate Student Spotlight: Mackenzie Pike

Jan 28, 2020

This story is one in a continuing series of C&IS graduate student spotlights. These spotlights give insight into the academic and professional lives of master’s and Ph.D. students as they advance knowledge in their respective fields of communication and information sciences. The questions serve to highlight the many aspects of the graduate student experience as well provide guidance for prospective students. To nominate a current C&IS graduate student for a spotlight, email Cole Lanier at mclanier@ua.edu

Mackenzie Pike, a current graduate student in the Communication Studies program, discusses her time as an Accelerated Master’s Program (AMP) student. When she’s not studying people in the Human Communication Research lab, you can find Pike on the tennis court. Recently, Pike competed in the university-wide Three Minute Thesis competition and placed third as a first-time competitor. Here is what she has to say about her experience within C&IS:

Tell us about your experience in graduate school.

I entered graduate school in communication studies through the Accelerated Master’s Program during my senior year as an undergraduate student at the University. While the classes are challenging – especially while juggling teaching, research and extracurricular activities – it is the challenge that makes it so much more rewarding. I have had an amazing experience, as I have had the opportunity to focus on communication topics and research that truly interests me. I have also been able to teach sections of the “Critical Decision Making” courses. It is amazing to be able to guide students through a course and help share my love for communication and, more broadly, learning, with others. Graduate school at The University of Alabama has helped me realize my passion for research and learning and will guide me as I move forward with my education.

What is your greatest accomplishment in the program?

I believe my greatest accomplishment relates to my thesis: I tackled a project that examined power language in company financial statements. This means that I not only had to thoroughly examine the communicative aspects of financial statements, but I had to become well-versed in the nuances of accounting research as well. This inter-disciplinary project was very difficult to manage; after all, my undergraduate degree was in communication, so I had little to no financial background. It was very exciting to work through the project and get interesting findings! Not only do companies that use more power language in their financial statements make more money, but I also examined the companies with male and female CEOs. I found that companies with female CEOs actually make more money, but they also use power language differently than companies with male CEOs. While it was a challenge to tackle this project, the results were extremely rewarding!

What has been your greatest challenge?

My greatest challenge, like other graduate students, has been balancing school, teaching, research and my personal life. It is very easy to keep yourself constantly busy in graduate school but if you don’t give yourself time to decompress and relax, burnout is inevitable. Learning to work hard when I can and give myself time to do things that I enjoy really helps me recharge and prepare myself for the next challenge.

What advice do you have for students about to enter graduate school?

The biggest piece of advice I could offer a student entering graduate school is to engage in the academic community around you. The other students in your program can relate to your struggles and successes and will be your biggest motivators and cheerleaders! Some of my greatest friends have been found in this program and having them by my side has helped through the hard times of graduate school. It takes lots of hard work but staying on top of your work is really important. I was once told to treat my school like a 9-5 job – staying diligent not only helps prevent getting very behind on your work but also allows you to have time for yourself.

Why did you choose UA for your graduate studies?

I chose UA for graduate studies because it presented me with opportunities that I could not have found in other programs. First, I was able to participate in the Accelerated Masters’ Program, which allowed me to start my graduate studies while finishing my senior year of undergraduate classes. I also had the opportunity to teach classes that I was interested in and found value in – Critical Decision Making is an interactive learning experience that has helped me connect with students. Finally, I was excited to stay involved with the HCRL and my research community at The University of Alabama. I was encouraged to pursue research that interested me and challenge myself to ask meaningful questions. I am very grateful for my time at the University and the opportunities the program has allowed me to see to fruition.

Thank you, Mackenzie!