While Esther Worley earned a bachelor’s degree in her first love, music, she also completed a minor in communication that has served her well in her fledgling career.
“I enjoyed every course I took in my minor,” she said. “I liked learning about different people and how they communicate and different persuasive tactics and research, as well.”
Worley continued to follow that second passion as she completed the online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Professional Communication program at Southern Utah University (SUU) in April 2022.
“I found SUU’s degree had tremendous flexibility with work and school, and I thought it would be a really good program for me,” she said. “I was working a lot during that time, too. I always wanted to get a master’s degree. This program made it so much more possible.”
The flexibility of the online format was important to Worley as she taught music lessons and worked with several organizations, including as a part-time substitute teacher, during her 20 months in the program.
“The master’s degree program was very manageable and clearly structured,” she said. “The faculty is very accessible. I enjoyed the resources at SUU, too.”
Worley is an academic coach for the higher education institution Instructional Connections. She still teaches music lessons online and remains heavily involved in music. She landed her current role six months after graduating from SUU.
“Academic coaching is not my end goal, but I like working with students and learning from professors behind the scenes,” she said. “I like helping and seeing students succeed.”
“I’ve already seen the master’s degree open a lot of opportunities. I am hoping it continues to do so. I love the knowledge I gained doing research in the program.”
Worley was born in Taichung, Taiwan, and moved to Utah when she was 13 years old. She graduated with a degree in piano performance from Brigham Young University in 2020.
“I previously worked with the Utah Symphony, assisting with their music festivals and customer service — a lot of things to keep the arts going,” she said. “I enjoy teaching, arts and communicating.”
Qualitative Communication Research, taught by Dr. Kevin Stein, was her favorite course in the online M.A. in Professional Communication program curriculum.
“It was awesome,” she said. “From that course, I was able to formulate my research idea for my thesis. It prepared me to do that. I also realized how much I like research. Dr. Stein also helped me publish my thesis, which was extremely helpful. He was very supportive.”
“I now work with qualitative research students, and I have been working with Dr. Stein again. He enjoys working with me, and I enjoy working with him. I can teach more about research and help students with their research, which I really enjoy.”
Another aspect of the program Worley especially liked was working with her classmates and benefitting from their knowledge and experience.
“It’s important to get involved by being proactive with your classmates because it’s an online program,” she said. “Contact them through LinkedIn messages — you have a good community in an online program.
“Also, reach out to your professors, because they are willing to help. Use the resources SUU offers, like counseling and psychological services and the career center. They are there, so make sure to utilize all of them.”
Worley capped off her experience at SUU by walking in the commencement ceremony on campus. Her mother, Dawn, also returned to college and earned a master’s degree two years before she did.
“It was a very fun experience,” she said. “It was cool to see your classmates who you have done projects with for the first time.
“My family and friends were excited and happy for me. My family was at my graduation, as well. My mom is an elementary school teacher, so education is very important in our family.”
Now that she has a master’s degree, Worley is focusing on building on her career and continuing to do what she loves most.
“I want to work for a nonprofit organization, but I am seeing where my opportunities take me,” she said. “I enjoy the job I have now, which is heavily involved in music and academia.”
Worley — who enjoys cooking, hiking, reading and going on walks with her dog in her free time — is glad that the opportunity to earn a master’s degree online at SUU presented itself.
“I definitely got good value out of the online Master of Arts in Professional Communication program,” she said. “I am glad that I did it.”
Learn more about SUU’s online M.A. in Professional Communication program.