Meet a Shocker: Madison McCalla, communication graduate


Madison McCalla knew she could get a great communication degree at Wichita State through the Elliott School of Communication. She made the most of her education by getting involved with a professional student group and stepping out of her comfort zone. And she isn’t going to let COVID-19 get in the way of her career plans. 

Madison is one of more than 2,400 students eligible for spring/summer 2020 graduation. Learn more about her time at Wichita State and what is next for the grad.

What is your degree in? 

My degree is a Bachelor of Arts in strategic communication with a minor in marketing.

What led you to WSU? 

What led me to Wichita State was the affordability and being close enough to commute from my parents’ house. I transferred to WSU in the fall of 2017 after completing all of my gen-eds at Butler Community College. I also wanted to attend WSU because of the Elliott School of Communication. My counselors in high school had told me it was the best place in Kansas to obtain a communication degree and get hands-on experience in the classroom.

How are you feeling leading up to graduation? 

I’m feeling excited but also nervous for what comes after graduation. The week leading up to May 16 hasn’t felt like anything special because of the change in commencement plans. It’s hard to feel like you can celebrate when things are closed and we are practicing social distancing. I’m excited to be done with school and for what lies ahead, even if I’m unsure of my next steps.

What are your career plans? 

Right now, I plan to continue my internship at WSU in the Office of Strategic Communication through August. I will continue looking and seeking out full-time opportunities and networking with employers in the Wichita area. I hope to eventually handle PR and social media for a company.

How has the COVID-19 crisis altered those plans, if at all?

COVID-19 has thrown a few wrenches in my plans leading up to graduation. The week before the pandemic hit, I had a few in-person interviews but then the companies stopped the hiring process and closed the positions. It’s been hard not having a job lined up after I graduate, but I also know that I will find one, eventually, it just might take a little longer. I’m a very impatient person, so this process has made me stop and breathe and wait for the right timing of things to work out. I’m also grateful that the office I intern for has extended the internship to August, which gives me more time to plan and look for jobs.

What advice do you have for students on how to cope with the uncertainty of these times?

My advice would be to lean into your friends, family, mentors or coworkers to get through it. Don’t be afraid to feel how you’re feeling because we all process things differently. For me, I’ve leaned into my faith more and relied on it to help carry me through the ups and downs, along with not being afraid to voice my emotions or concerns and seeking advice from those around me.

One thing I’ve consistently done since working remotely is to keep the same schedule. I try and wake up at the same time, get dressed in “nice” clothes, do my hair etc. When I’m at work I also try and hand write my to-do’s out and make a list of everything I need to accomplish. Early on, I recognized that I may not be or feel as productive but it’s OK because we’re all navigating these new waters together. I would also suggest getting fresh air whenever possible. My husband and I make it a point to end our days with a walk just to get out of our apartment. 

What has been your most helpful learning experience while a student at WSU?

My most helpful learning experience was joining Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) my junior year. The Wichita State chapter constantly brought in communicators in the Wichita area, held resume reviews and toured companies in Wichita. It was beneficial because it allowed me to network with professionals outside of the classroom. During my junior year, I also went to Chicago with the group for a public relations conference. While there, it opened my eyes to the various careers communications can have and also pushed me outside my comfort zone. If it wasn’t for PRSSA or going to Chicago, I never would have left my part-time teller job to pursue internships. I’m also thankful for the hands-on group projects in the courses I’ve taken through the Elliott School. Being able to work for an actual client and create portfolio samples has helped me understand communications and marketing more.

What was been your biggest challenge as a student, and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge as a student was getting outside my comfort zone. When I started my sophomore year, I had a good paying, part-time job at a bank that I was afraid to leave because of the benefits and income. I’m not a big fan of change or branching out, so leaving something I was good and comfortable with was difficult. But through PRSSA, I saw the value of internships and made the decision to leave the bank and began working in the Office of Strategic Communications. I’m grateful for the opportunity because it’s helped push me to try new things and meet new people. I’m now more comfortable and confident in myself and my abilities.

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