Once Dr. Bryan Paul changed his career trajectory from law to communications, he saw that a return to college was inevitable.
“I wanted to find a graduate program that would allow me to continue my career,” he said. “I was looking for a place where I could feel close to faculty and be in an area that feels comfortable.
“Coming from Utah, I was looking at a variety of different programs. I wanted to be close to home, keep things simple and focus on what mattered most.”
Dr. Paul found that the online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Professional Communication program at Southern Utah University (SUU) checked each of those boxes. He graduated in April 2017.
“SUU offered so much,” he said. “Not only was it in Utah, it was in southern Utah, a special place to me. I spent many years going down and visiting grandparents and being with family in southern Utah.
“The Utah Shakespeare Festival is there. The beautiful red rock of Southern Utah is there. On top of that, I was able to meet with Dr. Matthew H. Barton and some others in the communication department at SUU, and fell in love with who they were as a department and what they offered.”
Once Dr. Paul enrolled, he also found a kindred spirit in the M.A. in Professional Communication program director Dr. Kevin Stein.
“I was drawn to Kevin, given his interest in politics and film, areas of interest to me, as well,” he said. “The Speech and Presentation Center was fascinating to me as one who enjoys public speaking and presentations. All of these different elements offered by SUU resonated with me.”
The flexibility of the online format was also important for Dr. Paul, who recently started a new position as director of alumni advocacy at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni in Washington, D.C.
“I loved how I could complete the work at my own pace while there were certain deadlines,” he said. “It’s work I was very interested in, so it allowed me to dig deeper into it.”
Making an Impression
Dr. Paul was born in Michigan but raised in Sandy, Utah. He also lived in New Jersey and California as a child. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Brigham Young University in 2012.
“As I was getting off the law school track, it was striking that I hadn’t been in communication all along,” he said. “It made so much sense. As a kid, I always enjoyed public speaking, presentations and writing. I have always been fascinated by the media.
“Being able to bring those together made sense. It was a convergence of interests and opportunities that led me to explore public relations and communications and eventually pursue my Ph.D. in the field.”
Dr. Paul, who also worked in several positions at SUU, including as a graduate research and teaching assistant, graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy in Political Communication from the University of Missouri in May 2022.
“It was the fact that all of my interests and passions led me to want to do it,” he said. “It fit me, whether through academics, research, PR or networking. Dr. Kevin Stein also received his Ph.D. from Mizzou.”
Dr. Paul appreciated Dr. Stein’s course design and the opportunity to work with his student peers.
“I was able to use language in creative ways online to connect with peers and offer feedback,” he said. “Dr. Stein did a great job formatting and organizing all the modules and course material, which made it easy to navigate.
“That allowed me to excel in those areas and bring my written and oral communication skills to bear. I do a lot of that with my current role, too.”
Dr. Paul completed his experience at SUU by walking the graduation stage at the commencement ceremony.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “The only sad part was Dr. Kevin Stein couldn’t be there; he was in China working for SUU. I had a lot of people there to support me. My family and friends were very excited and supportive, thankfully.”
Since graduating five years ago, Dr. Paul has seen how much having a master’s degree has affected his career positively. He started his current role in July 2022.
“The master’s degree has helped open career opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t have been there for me,” he said. “I desire to continue in higher education and political communication.
“Whether it’s going to be a tenure-track professor at a university or continue in nonprofit work or some other capacity, this is where I want to be.”
Dr. Paul hopes to return to teaching at SUU sooner rather than later. He is on the list to possibly teach as an adjunct faculty member at his alma mater in Spring 2023.
“I loved the master’s degree program,” he said. “It’s worth the investment of time and effort. Balance is key. I want to continue to give back to SUU.”
Learn more about SUU’s online M.A. in Professional Communication program.