Passion for Social Change and Activism Drives Communication Master’s Student to Pursue Doctorate

Micki Burdick '18 MA will pursue PhD in Rhetoric and Public Advocacy at the University of Iowa

Micki Burdick '18 MA at the Graduate Convocation
Micki Burdick '18 MA

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Micki Burdick ’18 MA joined the Villanova University Master’s program in Communication with a passion for activism and aspirations to improve her writing and research skills. While Villanova certainly helped Burdick sharpen her scholarship, it also helped her discern a career path in which she can channel her passion for social change. This fall, Burdick will be enrolling in the University of Iowa’s highly regarded doctoral program in Rhetoric and Public Advocacy, with the goal of becoming a professor.

“I have always loved research,” Burdick says. “Now, this is a career rather than an idea in the back of my head. My experience at Villanova has changed my life and set me on a course that I am proud of and happy to be on.”

Burdick’s thesis adviser, Billie Murray, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Faculty in Residence in the Center for Peace & Justice Education at Villanova, notes that Burdick’s work ethic and ability to absorb feedback were keys to her growth as a scholar and subsequent acceptance at Iowa.

“Micki takes on difficult theoretical material and is willing to accept feedback from her mentors with maturity and professionalism,” Dr. Murray says. “She actively incorporates that feedback into her work and makes it better—always improving and pushing her ideas and writing skills further. Her willingness to do this has shown me how truly dedicated she is to becoming a strong academic researcher, and that she realizes that this is a process that takes work.”

Burdick credits the Villanova Communication faculty and fellow graduate students for creating a culture that is both rigorous and encouraging.

“My professors’ attention to my interests and goals has been most helpful,” Burdick says. “They let us set our own goals and parameters, and then push us to get there. We have a community that is very supportive of academic inquiry.”

"Faculty engage in one-on-one mentoring of students looking to pursue doctoral degrees, helping them turn class papers into conference papers and networking them with programs that fit their interests at conferences. This is why we have a 100 percent placement rate for students seeking to pursue doctoral education in Communication."

“We do expect a lot of our students, but do our best to guide them through the challenging material,” adds Dr. Murray. “Faculty engage in one-on-one mentoring of students looking to pursue doctoral degrees, helping them turn class papers into conference papers and networking them with programs that fit their interests at conferences. This is why we have a 100 percent placement rate for students seeking to pursue doctoral education in Communication. We are especially committed to mentoring students through a process of intellectual growth—helping them become scholars, not just researchers.”

Burdick’s master’s thesis involved a study of craftivism, which is an activist movement focused on crafting, most often related to political and social issues and causes such as materialism, mass production and feminism. In her work, Burdick explores the issues of feminist activism and economics through the lenses of clothing and fashion and argues that crafting can be used for systematic social change.

In her doctoral studies, Burdick plans to focus her research on the theoretical aspects of social change and activism, and the rhetoric of social movements. She is interested in studying how language shapes the world and how language can be reconstructed to create change. Burdick, in particular, is interested the study of language in women’s health, reproductive justice and political economic theory.

Burdick, who hails from Buffalo, N.Y., earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Pre-law from Roberts Wesleyan College in nearby Rochester, N.Y. As an undergraduate, Burdick was a natural learner but often a reserved and soft-spoken observer, according to Elvera Berry, PhD, Professor of Communication at Roberts Wesleyan. By the time she graduated, she was developing the skills to match her outstanding intuitions and scholarly pursuits, says Berry.

Dr. Berry first recommended Villanova for graduate study because she knew Burdick’s research interests intersected with those of Bryan Crable, PhD, Professor in Villanova’s Department of Communication and founding director of the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society. Drs. Berry and Crable both study communication and rhetoric theory, and both are scholars of American critic and philosopher Kenneth Burke. In fact, the Kenneth Burke Society honored both professors during their careers. Dr. Berry reasoned that her pupil would fit in well with the community of communication scholars at Villanova.

“I saw Villanova as a place where Micki could become firmly grounded rhetorically while also being able to explore a wide range of personal interests,” Dr. Berry says. “I perceived Villanova to be a place where she could thrive in a somewhat smaller environment yet be well prepared for whatever she wanted to pursue beyond the Master’s degree. In short, I saw Villanova as highly respected—a place where she would have new opportunities and be sufficiently challenged, nurtured and supported.”

While at Villanova, Burdick served as a Graduate Assistant in the Graduate Studies Office in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and served as an editor of CONCEPT, the interdisciplinary scholarly journal of graduate students in the College. She also excelled as a scholar, presenting at the 2018 Eastern Communication Association Convention in Pittsburgh and on a panel with Dr. Crable at the 2017 National Communication Association Convention in Dallas.

At Iowa and throughout her professional academic career, Burdick hopes to not only deepen her scholarship but also build a public advocacy component onto her research.

“I aspire to be a scholar-activist who can organize in the community and also make an impact with the simple act of teaching. I hope I can be an inspiration to the students in my classes just as my professors have been for me.”

“I want to try to make the theoretical practical,” she says. “I aspire to be a scholar-activist who can organize in the community and also make an impact with the simple act of teaching. I hope I can be an inspiration to the students in my classes just as my professors have been for me.”

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenged and changing world. With 39 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.