Student Story

Madeline McCulloch

Little Rock, AR
B.A. in Communication

Madeline McCulloch

"I would (recommend this degree), especially to anybody who needs to be home, who has family obligations, preexisting professional ones or desired professional goals. I would suggest this to anybody who needs flexibility. That’s like the magic word with the online program, its flexibility and control over your schedule."

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Communication has top billing in Madeline McCulloch’s life.

“I am in the middle of a career direction change,” McCulloch said “I was a theater major for a long time. I plan to attend law school in the near years following graduation, hoping to work on the environmental sector. I would love to become an environmental lawyer to work in conservation and other protective efforts.”

McCulloch, 22, plans to graduate from the online Bachelor of Arts in Communication degree program in May 2022 at the University of Arkansas, taking her a step closer to law school.

“I am a native Arkansan, so I am no stranger to the Razorback website,” she said. “I learned about the online program, specifically, when I was in the middle of the pandemic, looking for online programs. I was really excited to find that my native state’s university had one. As soon as I realized I needed an online program, the first school I went to was, of course, the U of A.”

McCulloch also chose to study online because of its flexibility, she said.

"It’s wonderful," she said. "It allows me a lot more time with my sister, which I appreciate because she’s a good bit younger than me. It adds a lot of flexibility to your life and lets you study when you need to. I am able to explore a lot more options...though everything of course has its pros and cons. This one does allow me the option of exploring more, larger professional obligations. I have more time because my schedule is my own."

McCulloch depends on open communication between herself and her adviser, her professors and her classmates. She began her online experience in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, which offered several obstacles to interaction, she said.

"It was in the early days of Zoom, for me," she said. "Miss Teresa, my adviser, has probably hundreds of students because she’s one of the online advisers. I was really impressed because she did her homework beforehand, so it was a very personalized conversation."

To maintain contact with her professors and classmates, McCulloch uses email and visits the discussions boards built into many online courses, she said.

"In an in-person class, you get to waddle up at the end of class and just ask," she said. "I make sure to take advantage of our online options. Some of the professors have used Collaborate within Blackboard for questions, if you actually want to hear their voice. I’ve even had some teachers use social media apps—one was called Marco Polo—for us to be able to communicate. That was nice because you recorded short videos of yourself. You got to see and hear classmates who are in different time zones."

Communication was not limited to emails or discussion boards. Ideas and concepts also were expressed through written assignments. To complete her coursework and support her topic, McCulloch used other resources offered to students by the University of Arkansas, most frequently the Mullins Library and the Kanopy film database, she said.

"I take a lot of film or communication courses because I’m a nerd for it myself," said McCulloch, a self-proclaimed film buff. "I enjoy that resource both academically and personally. As a student, (Kanopy) is probably the biggest one I’ve used. Of course, there’s the library for research because a lot of my classes demand longer research papers and assignments."

Exams and tools used to ensure academic integrity were also challenging, she said.

"Some of (the exams) use Respondus LockDown (Browser)," McCulloch said. "Because I am a communication major, some of my finals are more like term papers, so not so much formal exams, just large assignments through the end of the semester. When I have had to do exams, I’ve had to use ProctorU, which is the outside company that a lot of universities are using right now, where you turn your camera on, you get in an empty room, you clear everything. ProctorU, I think, has been weighed down like never before because of the pandemic, so it sometimes, I’ll admit, had its technical difficulties. But overall, I was pretty impressed about the efficiency and the insurance of honorable test-taking."

For classes with a final project rather than a final exam, her biggest challenge has been paying attention every week to her semester schedule, she said.

"In in-person classes, teachers can write it on the whiteboard or say it every week," McCulloch said. "That’s true for any student assignment, but for those 15-page papers or final projects or communication strategy plans, the best thing I would always say to do is to be on top of it. I know that sounds obvious and simple, but it’s true because it’s a little harder sometimes online. It’s a lot of generating your own work and assignments and finding your voice digitally through posts and what not, a lot of reading, a lot of writing, and making sure you stay focused because nobody else is going to tell you to."

McCulloch has no reservations about recommending the online BA in Communication degree to anyone interested in it, she said.

"I would (recommend this degree), especially to anybody who needs to be home, who has family obligations, preexisting professional ones or desired professional goals," she said. "I would suggest this to anybody who needs flexibility. That’s like the magic word with the online program, its flexibility and control over your schedule."

McCulloch was one of 25 people to receive the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship for online U of A students for the 2021-2022 academic year.

"I’m very grateful for the scholarship and feel very honored," McCulloch said. "The biggest thing it does is relieve some stress, especially during COVID-19. It was a great validation. I’ve only had a year in the online program now, and I wasn’t totally used to studying alone and was sometimes worried that I wouldn’t do so great. This scholarship really helped put things into perspective. It makes the last run I have to graduation a lot easier and smoother and relieves some stress so I can focus on studying."