Student Spotlight: NDS to MSTC Graduate Student, Maggie Thompson

Headshot of Maggie Thompson

Meet Maggie Thompson, a full-time employee at NC State University who began her experience with us as a Non-Degree Studies (NDS) student and transitioned to a part-time graduate student of the M.S. in Technical Communication program.

Despite her busy schedule as the Communications Specialist at the Chancellor’s Office, Thompson shares some of her experience with us while she has been an undergrad and graduate student at NC State. 

How did you learn about our program?

As an undergraduate student at NC State, I was interested in science writing, and the professor serving as my capstone mentor at the time encouraged me to dig deeper into that interest. I wound up enrolling in ENG 515: Rhetoric of Science and Technology my last semester, and that course sort of served as the gateway to technical communication for me. After that, I talked to some more faculty and spent a lot of time on the MSTC website.

A student works in DH Hill Jr library during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Marc Hall

Can you share how you felt and what was your experience during your first semester in the program? Can you share a bit about your early experience as an NDS (Non-Degree Student)?

I would say I was two parts excited, one part anxious coming into my first semester. I finished undergrad in December 2018 and enrolled as an NDS for the Fall 2019 semester. I really wanted to accomplish two things as an NDS: 1) see if I could balance working full-time with taking graduate courses, and 2) get a better sense of if the MSTC program was still a good fit for me in my current career. Having that experience as an NDS really gave me the confidence I needed to pursue a graduate degree while working full-time and helped sell me on the MSTC program overall.

Any take away experiences you’d like to share after joining this program while you’re working full-time?

It’s not easy to balance a full-time job with schoolwork – especially during a global pandemic when regular working hours don’t really exist and plans are somewhat fluid due to changing regulations – but it is definitely possible. More importantly, it’s worth it!  I can already see how much I’ve benefitted from being in the program.

Can you share a bit of your experience working as the Communications Specialist in the Chancellor’s Office?

It’s been a really rewarding and challenging experience. Every day is different, and that’s something that I appreciate and enjoy. I’ve grown so much as a writer and a communicator, but also as a working professional and a person. I have had the opportunity to work with communication experts and administrators across the university and from outside organizations as well. It’s really opened my eyes in a lot of ways and driven me to be better.

Before heading out to address the Board of Governors, Chancellor-elect Randy Woodson (left) goes over a few items.

What advice would you share with your peers considering a similar opportunity or route?

I highly encourage anyone who is interested in graduate school – even if they already have a job or an established career – to pursue that opportunity at whatever pace makes sense for them. I took what I would call a “segmented approach” to deciding to apply for grad school, and it was a two-year process for me. I thought about it for a year. I took a class for a semester and thought about it some more for a few months before I actually started my application. In addition to thinking during that process, I was also talking to people – faculty and staff at NC State, friends from undergrad who went straight into graduate school, my coworkers and family members. I guess what I ultimately want to advise is this: it’s okay to ask questions and take your time with a decision like this.

How were you able to fund the cost of completing your graduate studies while working through this experience?

I am lucky enough to have a full-time job and some savings that allowed me to fund my first semester completely out of pocket – it helped that I only took one class! Going forward, I hope to make use of the faculty and staff tuition waiver to help offset some of the cost. Full-time faculty and staff who meet the requirements can submit a tuition waiver request for any class they take at a UNC System school. If approved, I can take a couple of courses per year without having to pay tuition for them. I still have to pay for any course materials and tuition for courses that I take above the total number I’m allowed to waive, but the tuition waiver will help make the cost of the program more manageable.

What sorts of topics have interested you at NC State?

Initially, my academic interests were centered on interdisciplinary communication and science communication, particularly how scientific research and findings are communicated to public audiences. And that interest is still there, but it’s not the only area that I find exciting anymore. I’ve also become interested in organizational communication, crisis communication, and communication networks in higher education.

After graduating, what are you planning to do and how do you plan to apply your degree?

Right now, my plans for after graduation are to continue working in my current job. I think that having this degree will help me improve the work I’m doing and broaden my skillset so I can be a more versatile communicator. I really believe that there is always room for growth and improvement, even in things I’ve been doing consistently and doing well. I love NC State, and I don’t plan on leaving any time soon. I’m relatively early in my career though, so it’s possible that twenty years from now I decide it’s time to go somewhere else. I know that the MTSC degree will afford me a lot of options.

What is your favorite restaurant in the Triangle?

That’s a really hard question. There is a lot of good food in the Triangle! If I had to pick one, I would probably say MoJoe’s Burger Joint. I went to MoJoe’s a lot during undergrad, so it has a pretty special place in my heart. Also, they have amazing honey mustard.

What are some spots you recommend to those visiting North Carolina?

North Carolina has a lot to see. We have beautiful beaches, and of course the Outer Banks has a lot of history. If you’re not a beach person, then maybe the mountains is the way to go – both Grandfather Mountain and Mount Mitchell are good options. We also have a lot of really great museums in North Carolina, especially here in the Triangle area. I grew up going to the Museum of Life and Science, but we also have the North Carolina Museum of History, Marbles Kids Museum, and some wonderful art museums as well.


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