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Alumni Profile: Sarah Leiser

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Media, Film & Journalism Studies

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Sarah Leiser graduated with an MA in Media & Public Communication in 2018. 

Sarah Leiser

What is your current field of study and what do you love about it?

I am currently studying communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I just finished the 3rd year of my PhD and am getting ready to take my comprehensive exams and start my dissertation in the fall (hopefully). I am currently on a few different research studies that are examining different areas, so it's been interesting to expand my knowledge in these newer areas. I am currently researching communication technology adoption and privacy concerns in older adults using smart speakers (like an Alexa or Google Home), where I have loved getting to work directly with our participants. Adapting the study protocol during the pandemic has been challenging, but I have learned a lot about the realities of the research process. I am also researching how self-disclosure goals and the idea of an imagined audience relate to each on Instagram; this study was created from a class paper I wrote, so it's been exciting to help it go from thought exercise to planned study to actual data collection and now analysis! Finally, my own dissertation will be examining private Facebook groups and how their design relates to privacy, social support, and users' understanding of community in an age of platformization. Mostly, I just love being able to research areas I am passionate about and being able to collaborate with incredible scholars that are encouraging me to grow my research skills. I also teach at both UIC and Loyola Chicago, which is a great experience. 

How did your Master's degree prepare you for what you are doing now? 

My master's taught me how to efficiently read academic literature and research, which has been the best skill to bring into my PhD program. I learned how to quickly and thoroughly examine the theoretical framework, the method, and the results through a variety of different ideological lenses. Particularly, DU gave me a foundation and a language to analyze inequality and marginalization in different aspects of media and technology, and how different institutional systems are supported and reproduced through communication technology. 

What are your long-term goals after you earn your PhD?  

Be a professor! I want to continue researching media, communication technology, design and interpersonal relationships. Also, I love teaching and can't wait to get to teach a wider variety of classes in these areas. 

What was your favorite thing about your graduate experience at the University of Denver? 

The people! Some of my closest friends are from DU and I am so grateful that MFJS was able to bring them into my life. Also, faculty, specifically Derigan Silver, Lynn Schofield Clark, and Erika Polson, were all wonderful mentors through my masters and as I applied to PhD programs. 

What advice do you have for prospective students who are thinking about getting a Master's degree in Media and Public Communication at DU? 

Don't go into the program (or any graduate program) expecting to get specific or narrow things out of it. This is a time to really stretch your brain and explore the field of media and communication. The field encompasses so much more than you learn about in undergrad, and there are so many ways to bring in different things you are passionate about into this kind of program. Let yourself learn and try out new avenues.