March 7, 2023

Succeeding in Butler’s online classes is about more than just hitting the books. Students in the online Master of Science in Strategic Communication (MSSC) program are typically busy professionals looking for impactful career development pathways that both align with their goals and let them continue working full-time. Butler’s program offers a curriculum that’s equal part rigorous and flexible. It merges theory and practice in class sessions featuring live debates, presentations, and breakout group discussions. Distance learners receive the same level of robust academic and career support as students who enroll in the on-campus master’s programs.

That said, students in Butler’s online MSSC classes do encounter challenges along the way, and it’s up to each graduate degree candidate to find workable solutions. What follows is a collection of advice from distance learners who chose to pursue Butler’s master’s in strategic communication online and have found unique ways to thrive in the program.

Get to Know Butler University Ahead of Time

“I would say that prospective students should attend a webinar with one of the admission counselors and talk to professors! You’ll see very quickly that these are folks who remember your name and treat you like a professional. Ask as many questions as you can; connect with current students; follow Butler’s social media; and dig into the program’s information on the website!” – Erick Collings, Director of Branding and Marketing at Eastern Kentucky University

“One of the most helpful things was the orientation that we went through. It was really beneficial to learn what to expect. You’re going into a graduate program, so there’s a lot of writing and an expectation that you’re going to be able to take concepts and apply them in the real world. Being prepared for that caliber of writing papers and making connections between concepts and real-world, applicable examples, is advice I would give future students.” – Ashley Murcia, Communications & Employment Branding Strategist at The Suter Company



Visualize Success and Trust That You’re Ready 

“Don’t sell yourself short. You were selected to be a part of this program because of your qualifications, so while at times it might feel like you don’t belong, believe in yourself and keep pushing forward. Also, they aren’t lying about needing to dedicate 20 hours per week to succeed in this program. Do not procrastinate.” – Kara Sikorski, Business Development & Marketing Specialist at Faegre Drinker

“Do this for YOU. The amazing thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you. Take the time and effort to invest in your future; you won’t regret it.” – Cara Short, Communications Specialist at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education

“From my perspective as someone who has been out of higher education for a long time, I’d tell anyone who is thinking about considering this degree to go for it – but, also plan for it! It does take dedication and focus, but with the right support structures in place, it’s absolutely doable!” – Ashley Murcia

“Commit to the program. They say you get as much out of the program as you put into it, and I agree entirely. The more you invest, even if it’s just in things like the relationships you build, the more real and fulfilling it feels.” – Erick Collings

Build Your Support System, In and Out of the Program

“I looked to trusted friends and family who could help fill in the gaps where needed, but I also took a look at my commitments and prioritized them. I had to ask myself, ‘Are there things that I need to step back from a little bit?’ I did that in some of my roles. When I look at anything else in my life that’s competing for my attention, I have to ask myself if I have those things sufficiently fulfilled and checked off and if I have room for other things. If there is room, then great, if not, then I focus on making sure that those top three things—work, school, and family—are taken care of.” – Ashley Murcia

“The student support that I have most appreciated is the relationship within my cohort. We have learned so much from each other and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. We have a group chat that very much shares school thoughts but also has turned to personal successes and celebrating life events. The professors have all been transparent and open to flexibility and available when students are in need of assistance.” – Amanda Kleier, Business Specialist at The Kidz Club PPEC

“If possible, build up a support network. The degree requires a lot of sustained, hard work over multiple years. But that’s what employers value seeing: a rigorous program from a respected university like Butler.” – Joey Wohlhieter, Recruitment Social/Digital Communications Specialist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Get to Know Your Professors

“The professors are some of the best in their field. I’ve always felt encouraged to go to them with questions and concerns, whether it be about the program/course or about current issues related to my career field.” – Cara Short

“The relationships with faculty have already paid dividends, and I know they are still willing to support me after a class is complete. I recently reached out to a previous faculty member about extra readings that would help as I’m writing my first external case studies, and I knew she had published work on that process. Not only did she provide reading material, but she offered support in additional ways as I crafted these case studies, and I knew she was sincere in her offer of help.” – Ben Bland, Communications and Advancement Manager at The Colossian Forum

“Engage with your professors. Whether that’s on LinkedIn or just in an email that says, ‘Hey, here’s who I am, here’s what I’m interested in, and here’s what I’m hoping to get out of this class.’ Inevitably, you will have something come up in your life, and you won’t be able to make a deadline or attend a class at a specific time. If you communicate that to your professors, they’ll help ensure you can make up the coursework on a schedule that works for you. They also enjoy hearing about you as a person. You’re not just a face on the screen to them.” – Erick Collings

Nurture Connections with Your Classmates

“Connect with your classmates. They’re going to be as rich of a resource as any other component of the program. My classmates started a GroupMe, which has helped us feel like we’re part of the Butler University culture when we’re spread across the country. In our group chat, we talk about how we can apply what we’re learning to current events. There’s a crisis every day that you can pick apart and analyze. We share with each other and are proud to say, ‘I learned this, have applied it successfully, and it’s useful.'” – Erick Collings

Make a Schedule, Then Give Yourself Grace

“Definitely make sure you budget your time. The hardest adjustment at the beginning of every class is getting back into the habit of school life. It really does require about 2 hours every night. All the classes are very interesting though so it makes the time management worth it!” – Amanda Kleier

“I expected to jump right back in and be perfect [but] I had only taken two years off of school, and it was difficult! I had lost some of the habits I had as an undergraduate and felt like I wasn’t as good of a student as I had been. I just needed to give myself a little bit of grace; the same grace my peers and professors were giving me. I had to let myself engage with material that was challenging and persevere. That meant I wasn’t going to get it right at first because it takes time. If I could go back, I would tell myself, ‘Give yourself some grace.'” – Erick Collings

“Keep an open mind! Also, know your job responsibilities and how to integrate them into your student life.” – Maria Scott, Assistant to the Department Head of Sociology at Purdue University

Apply What You’re Learning Right Away

“I’ve been able to apply at least one concept from each class to my job from day one. Though I’m not necessarily on the communication team at my company, I’ve learned about how and why people communicate in the ways that they do and how to leverage that knowledge to foster lucrative professional relationships.” – Kara Sikorski

“This program does not only benefit you but it also benefits your organization. It’s important for your coworkers, supervisors, C-Suite executives, etc., to recognize how your education will create impact throughout your work and enable you to be a better communicator and strategist. Along this journey, you will not only need the help and support of your faculty and peers but your fellow staff members and higher-ups as well. If they can see the difference your education and ambition make to your unit or organization, it will open more doors to applying your course learnings to your professional experience.” – Ben Bland