Communication Studies Graduate Student Jenna Hanchey

Jenna HancheyComing from a background in physics made my first year of graduate work in communication quite difficult. I did not know what the expectations were for good research, and I did not have anyone to ask. As someone who struggled to find a foothold in graduate school, I am excited and honored that I could help one of my students, Brandon Daniels, gain a solid basis in both theoretical and disciplinary knowledge through the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program before he began graduate school in Communication.

Brandon was my I.E. mentee for two semesters, and we met unofficially the year in-between. The first semester, we met once a week to talk about his research. I also arranged for Brandon to attend the three graduate courses I was taking. I helped Brandon edit a paper for submission to the 2014 Rhetoric Society of America Undergraduate Research Network. He was accepted, and after the workshop, he submitted the final version to the 2014 National Communication Association Convention, where it was accepted. Over the next year, I helped him revise an essay for the James L. Golden Outstanding Student Essay in Rhetoric Award, and edit a paper for submission to the 2016 Southern States Communication Association Conference, which was accepted.

More importantly, I helped Brandon to understand the “rules” of graduate study that are often left unsaid. Each profession has unwritten expectations. As a newcomer, it can be difficult to figure them out. Brandon and I discussed the ideological bent of various programs, where to submit essays using which theories, and pet peeves of senior scholars. This knowledge created a foundation for our second internship, when I advised him on his graduate school applications. Our hard work paid off when he was accepted to top-tier MA programs. Brandon is now a MA student at Syracuse University.

I was on the job market this year, and my mentorship experience was continually brought up in job interviews. Serving as an I.E. mentor is part of what helped me secure a position as a tenure-track Assistant Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. As part of my new job, I will be serving as the faculty mentor for the Lambda Pi Eta Society, a national undergraduate communication honor society. I already have a number of ideas to improve the society; working with Brandon has helped me to understand what kinds of opportunities students need and want in learning about communication.

Serving as an I.E. mentor has helped me to better understand the variety of backgrounds that academics come from, and accept my own unique experience—and that of others—not as a disadvantage, but an addition. Brandon is a first-generation college student. I was a physics major. Yet, with a little help, we have both been able to adjust to the expectations of graduate communication study, and achieve remarkably in the field. I have learned to celebrate what students bring with them to academia, and help them leverage their particular skills to better succeed at academic life.