Online. On campus. On your terms.


What Students Are Saying

Many M.A. in Communication and Leadership Studies students are passionate about sharing their personal stories about the impact the Program has had on their careers and lives.  We hope you find them relatable, inspiring, and helpful.

Casey Nishimura

casey Nishimura circle“The greatest impact COML had on my career as a young professional was teaching me how to be more valuable than by just executing well. The program gave me tools to be a management consultant, organizational expert and communication guru all rolled into one.”

– Casey Nishimura, Corporate Communications Manager, Servco Pacific, Inc. | Alumnus, 2015

Hear Why Twitter Wants More COML Grads - Libby's Story

Sarah Arnold

saraharnoldtestimonial“My COML degree has made a profound impact on my life.”

– Sarah Arnold, Adjunct Faculty, Wesleyan University | Alumna, 2013

Sarah's full testimonial

Q: Why did you decide to return to school for a master’s degree?

A: When I realized I wasn’t going to progress much further in my career, I decided to look into Master degree programs. I wanted to change the course of my future career and also have a leg up on my peers.

Q: Talk about how the program has made an impact on your job, career, or personal life.

A: My COML degree has made a profound impact on my life. If I wouldn’t have gone back to get my MA, I would never have been able to realize my love and passion for Higher Education. I now am an adjunct faculty at Indiana Wesleyan University teaching Communication courses online. Also, the program gave me the confidence and knowledge to start my own company, SociallySeasoned. SociallySeasoned is a marketing firm focusing on social media management catering to local small to medium sized businesses. The information I learned about CMC and strategic marketing planning helps me every day in my roles.

Q: What was your experience with the faculty?

A: Faculty in the COML program challenged us, helped guide us, and all while sincerely caring for us. I had such a great experience with all of the staff and especially loved meeting my professors face-to-face during our practicum.

Q: Did you find the program to be a good investment? 

A: Absolutely, this program was a great investment. I wouldn’t be able to teach at the university level if I wouldn’t have this degree, so it was imperative in my career.

Q: We talk about finding your “inner zag” – meaning students who are in the program have this moment when they feel a real connection with the program and the school. What is your “inner zag”?

A: I would have to say that my “inner zag” came while I was on campus during Practicum. I am so glad that the developers weaved this integral portion into the COML program. At first I thought, “Wow, I have to fly all the way out to Spokane from Indiana? Yikes!” But once I got there, met so many amazing people (both faculty and fellow students), I realized why this was part of the COML experience. The Gonzaga campus is so beautiful and of course, my picture with Spike was a highlight!

Q: What would you say to others who are considering this degree? 

A: For anyone interested in receiving their MA in COML, I would say GO BIG OR GO HOME! (This was our motto during Practicum.) I totally recommend this program to anyone that wants to further their education in the Communication & Leadership fields. You can’t find a program like this that integrates both subject matters, which I feel go hand-in-hand. Being able to complete the degree almost completely online was perfect for my lifestyle and schedule, but just when you think it can’t get better, you go to Spokane for your practicum and are blown out of the water by GU’s hospitality, history, and just pure awesomeness!

Michael Ballard

michaelballardtestimonialWhen I think of “Inner Zag,” I think it is more than just a catch-phrase. I believe it means the inward ability to inspire others as a true servant for the human family, each and every one of us. The strength to ignite brilliant encouragement for others is paramount to finding our inner Zag. When I meet fellow Zags in the community, I cannot help but smile because I know they’re part of my Gonzaga family.”

– Michael Ballard, Lecturer of American Sign Language in the World Languages and Cultures Department, Iowa State University | Alumnus, 2014

Michael's full testimonial

Q: What is your occupation?

A: Lecturer of American Sign Language, World Languages and Cultures Department, Iowa State University

 Q: Why did you decided to return to school for a master’s degree?

A: It wasn’t until I returned to school after my first few years of marriage and my wife had given birth to our first child that I realized I wanted to be a university professor. With that realization, I learned that to gain tenure, I needed to have a doctorate degree. Those decisions in part led me to Gonzaga University. I quickly learned that Gonzaga University is more than a stepping stone in life.

Q: What was your deciding factor in choosing Gonzaga?

A: Shortly before I graduated from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, my wife and I knew we needed to move to Utah. The online program at Gonzaga University was appealing because we did not want to make a second major move across states so soon. That, coupled with Gonzaga’s moral imperative and focus on servant leadership drew me to applying to Gonzaga. In fact, Gonzaga University’s COML program was the only program I applied for.

Q: Talk about your decision process on why you thought the COML program would be the right fit for you.

A: As noted above, the servant leadership aspect held major appeal to me. In order for me to serve the Deaf community wherever I am at, I needed a better understanding of how I can serve both the Deaf and hearing communities. I needed a better grasp on what it means to build bridges over gaps that separated the two communities. In addition to the servant leadership aspect, a heavy emphasis on communication and culture was an influential draw for me.

Q: Was the online learning experience what you thought it would be?

A: To be honest, I was not sure exactly what I was getting into as far as what to expect. I tried to go in with a blank canvas, ready to do what I needed to do to achieve success. I think that when we hold expectations, we can be stuck to such expectation where we might miss the point. The COML is a master’s program, so I expected more challenges. However, because of my interest in communication and servant leadership, I found that I was more than happy to soak in all the readings and apply them to not only my work, but to my life. The intrinsic rewards are too innumerable to count.

In addition, my deafness has brought out another set of challenges in an online format. I typically use American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters in my educational endeavors (classroom, group meetings, lectures, one on one meetings with my instructors). With discussion boards online, I did not need ASL interpreters. However, many of the podcasts or introductory videos to each module needed to be transcribed. With the help from the DREAM (Disability Resources, Education & Access Management) office on campus, I was able to tear down the audiological barriers of spoken language. Because I had the transcripts, I was able to apply the lectures to my readings and discussion board assignments. A big shout out and thank you to the DREAM office for helping me succeed in my online classes. In addition, the DREAM office provided ASL interpretation for my on-campus visits and my thesis defense! I am completely satisfied with the support I have received. I felt like my faculty truly cared about me to work with the DREAM office.

Q: Talk about how the program has made an impact on your job, career, and personal life.

A: Once I completed the COML program, my teaching career took off. I was immediately offered a position at Iowa State University teaching ASL. I was already teaching ASL as an adjunct instructor at both Utah Valley University (Orem, Utah) and Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah). So that experience helped as well. More importantly, the type of education, training, learning, shared experiences Gonzaga’s COML program offers held considerable weight in my career in academia. In my personal life, the impact has not gone unnoticed. I find myself more willing to listen, to serve, to accept others as they are, to influence people and gain new friends.

In addition, I was recently accepted into the Doctor of Education in Leadership program at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. I look forward to learning and applying what I’ve learned at Gonzaga to my continued education.

Q: Do you see the world differently because of this program?

A: I do. To be candid, I have not since high school viewed the world in the lenses of “us versus them.” But, with each passing year, I have learned to carry a “we” and “you and I” worldview. What can we do together? How can we accomplish our goals, together? In what ways can we make life easier for others? This program was actually right up my alley in the sense that we all need allies to create a stronger human family.

Q: What was your experience with the faculty?

A: The COML faculty is amazing! I love Drs. Cunningham, Crandall, and Caputo. They have genuinely supported me throughout my career at Gonzaga. They have never treated me differently because of my deafness, in fact, they celebrated that with me. I felt I was treated equally with my peers, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Q: What do you love about Gonzaga University?

A: I love that everyone cares about everyone! To have such an atmosphere, both on-campus and off, is so beneficial to one’s overall happiness and cannot be understated. Having a great basketball program helps too!

Q: A lot of our students say this experience has been transformational. Has the program transformed you and how so?

A: In the sense of employment opportunities, and opportunities to serve others, GU and the COML program definitely have played a part in my transformation. I believe I was already on the path of transformation when my children were born. The impact my wife and children have on my own education has been monumental.

How Sean Put His Degree to Work at Ben & Jerry's

Nailah Blades

Nailah Blades circle“Before the program I felt stuck and frustrated with my career and the frustration was impacting my personal life. Obtaining my Master’s from Gonzaga gave me the knowledge and confidence to begin my career in Marketing and Communication Consulting. I am so happy with the direction my life has taken since then.”

– Nailah Blades, Wylie & Co. | Alumna, 2013

Heather Gray

“I knew the COML program was a blessing then, but now I am seeing the truly lasting impact.”

– Heather Gray, Co-Owner, Massage Envy Spa | Alumna, 2011

Heather's full testimonial

When I initially enrolled in the M.A. in Communication and Leadership Studies program, I had no true idea what my actual intentions for the degree were. However, my life has been unfolding for at least a decade like a road map; leading me to where I am today, so I knew at some point the light bulb would turn on and I would figure it out.

This past May, exactly 3 years after the receipt of my degree, that light bulb turned on. And it was bright. This year, I found myself back in a leadership role within my franchise businesses.

Currently, I have 3 upper management and 9 clinic managers who report directly to me and then they have around 160 employees who report to them. Without my degree from Gonzaga, I would not be nearly as prepared as I feel I am to handle the daily challenges that come with working with so many different personality and client issues.

Throughout the program, instead of just focusing upon how to lead, we were instructed on servant-leadership. There is a quite a difference I am learning. Since learning about servant leadership and reading up on the topic further, I have decided to incorporate servant leadership into my leadership style toward those I directly impact and in turn am seeing the same leadership mentoring occurring with those that my mangers have a direct impact upon. Yes. I am using the communication aspect of my degree as well. Also a very important tool as I go through the daily ups and downs. However, the servant leadership aspect of the degree has had the most immediate impact and quite possibly the longest lasting effects.

I wanted an intense, yet “functional” degree and that is exactly what I received. The Communication and Leadership Studies degree and Gonzaga are a true blessing.  I knew it was a blessing then, but now I am seeing the truly lasting impact.

Faith Realica

faith realica circle“I love the culture at GU. On Guam, we highly value culture especially respect (respetu), harmony (inafa’maolek), and the family (familia). Gonzaga became my family for those two years and I enjoyed the camaraderie and harmony we shared. More so, I appreciated how GU students respect each other’s opinions even if we differed in beliefs.”

– Faith Realica, Secondary Education Teacher Guam Department of Education | Alumna, 2014

Ryan Rivas

“When I first heard about the idea of being educated through mind and soul, I wondered how receptive I would be to it. But when I observed how professors incorporated a mixture of philosophy, spirituality, and theory, I was amazed both as a student and an educator how they managed to make those things come together in a way that encouraged a valuable dialogue and learning experience.”

– Ryan Rivas, High School English Teacher | Alumnus, 2015

Melanie Steel

melaniesteeltestimonial“Those considering this program, the prestige of Gonzaga and the convenience of an online education are easy to see.  What may be unexpected, as it was for me, is the quality of relationships that you can develop and nurture through a virtual connection – partly due to the required residency component, which solidifies the connection of the students.  To say the least, it has and will continue to be the experience of a lifetime.”

– Melanie Steel  | Alumna, 2014

Melanie's full testimonial

As Melanie Steel works toward a second Master’s Degree, there were several factors that were important.  “Among others, it was important that the degree come from a quality school, offer me growth both professionally and academically, offer convenience, as well as allow for the nurturing of relationships among classmates,” says Melanie.  As a member of the National Communication Association, Melanie was aware that Gonzaga’s COML program had been honed withe “most innovative program. “I quickly determined that the program could offer me quality, growth, and convenience.  I jumped in hoping the relationships would fall into place,” she continues.

Melanie tell us, “My first class through Gonzaga was my first experience with a fully online class.  By the end of the first eight weeks, I made a close friend with a classmate from Washington.  After three more classes, names started to sound familiar and I began to recognize the ideas, attitudes, constraints, and personalities of my classmates – all of this from taking classes together while residing in different corners of the country.  Personally, the relationships really came together after ten months in the program when I attended my first on campus residency.  The experience was similar to finally meeting someone you’ve known virtually for years.  Within hours, the entire group had clicked and it felt as though we had sat in the same room with each other for each and every class.  It was beautiful.  It was fulfilling.  It was exciting.”

“I am now over half way through the program and some of my closest friendships have developed through my time as a Gonzaga student.  I live in Houston, but I have friends in Maryland, Oklahoma, Florida, Washington, and California.  We all talk on a daily and/or weekly basis.  They know my daughter and we share Christmas/Valentines/Sympathy/Just Thinking of You cards.  My daughter even refers to one of my friends as “Uncle Jeff!”, Melanie continues.

Melanie recommends, “Those considering this program, the prestige of Gonzaga and the convenience of an online education are easy to see.  What may be unexpected, as it was for me, is the quality of relationships that you can develop and nurture through a virtual connection – partly due to the required residency component, which solidifies the connection of the students.  To say the least, it has and will continue to be the experience of a lifetime.”

Katlen Tillman

“I am already putting what I am learning into practice.”

– Katlen Tillman, Social Business Strategy Lead, CenturyLink Technology Solutions | Current Student

Katlen's full testimonial

I’m in my first year of the Communication and Leadership Studies Graduate program, and I’m so excited to see where this will go for me! I am already putting what I am learning into practice. Leadership as a concept is only now crystallizing for me through this program. St. Francis and Servant Leadership are core to my personal philosophy of leadership and what I’m applying to my job in real-time. I have written about how I am applying leadership to my new position in these posts:

Tamika Wright

tamika wright circle“GU is a family! Someone that is not in the program may find it hard to believe that a family can be developed through an online program, but it is possible. We often take classes with the same people, so bonds are developed and experiences are shared. GU is family and proud to say that I a member!”

– Tamika Wright, Assistant Manager CPSI  | Alumna, 2015

Want to share your story? Contact us! Want to earn a Master’s in Communication & Leadership Studies?  Apply here.

What Students
Are Doing

Congratulations to the following students who have been chosen to present at the National Communication Association 101st Annual Convention in Las Vegas this November.

Heidi Keller

  • “You Really Like Me: Dialogic Social Media Use in Non-Profit Organizational Communication”
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!