Tasha Robinson is from North Plains, Oregon, and is working towards earning her Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) degree focusing on rhetoric, relational communication, and political science. Robinson recently answered a few questions about her unique degree program and experience as an OSU master’s student.

Can you talk about your journey to becoming an OSU student?

I arrived at Oregon State University in fall 2019 as an undergraduate student in public health and data science. Having participated in forensics in high school, I was particularly interested in competing on OSU’s forensics team as well, and was able to find a nice home with my new team. As I neared the end of my bachelor’s degree program, Dr. Mark Porrovecchio, director of forensics at OSU, asked if I would be interested in studying speech communication as a master’s student and serving as the assistant coach for the team. I was ecstatic to begin that journey.


Tell us about your experience in forensics and debate at OSU.

One highlight of my time with the team has definitely been the life-long friends that I have made and my ever increasing interest in argument and critical discourse. 

My first tournament with the team was in Spokane, Washington. While we took a plane ride to get there, there was an issue with our return flight and we needed to drive back to Corvallis. The drive took six hours and I got to spend them listening to stories from my peers and bonding with the team. While I did not love the prospect of the drive, and it was definitely an intense introduction to the team, it ended up being a lot of fun.

I am particularly proud of my success with the team, having won at the IFA championship tournament for International Public Debate online in March of 2021, and for Anime Interpretation alongside my duo partner Megan Baus in Tokyo this last March.


What has been your experience as a MAIS student?

As a MAIS student, I have been able to work with many wonderful faculty members. Dr. Trischa Goodnow has been an amazing mentor in my coursework, degree progression, and thesis writing. She encouraged me to submit for the NWCA conference this past April, providing welcome guidance with revisions to my paper submission, and I had a great experience at my first academic conference. I am grateful to have her as my committee chair.

Dr. Gregg Walker has been a wonderful professor to work with as I have learned the ropes of teaching recitation sections for COMM 114, “Argument & Critical Discourse.”

Dr. Mark Porrovecchio has, of course, been an invaluable source of information and support, having guided me toward this program to begin with. Mark has consistently been a jovial and pragmatic resource for me throughout this program and in my learning curve becoming an assistant coach. 

Outside of faculty, I have definitely found some lasting friendships within my cohort and have appreciated the support network I have gained both academically and emotionally. James Phillips, another COMM 114 instructor and fellow MAIS student, has been a true friend at work and in class, and is always filled to the brim with good advice for both teaching and coursework.

What is your research focused on?

My current research is focused on changes in American newspaper reporting on Forbes Burnham, former president of Guyana, between 1977 and 1981.

The South American nation of Guyana has a rich and diverse history, featuring many complex political stains. Burnham's leadership spanned from 1964 until his death in 1985. He was a highly controversial political leader in the Caribbean region, oscillating between support for Marxist regimes like Fidel Castro's Cuba and anti-communist nations led by the United States. 

I am aiming to understand how the absence of significant CIA involvement in Guyanese elections and Guyana's transition towards socialism influenced the media coverage of Burnham during that transformative period. My thesis will explore the connection between the political landscape in Guyana and the reporting decisions made by American newspapers, highlighting the role of the media as a gatekeeper.


What are you hoping to do next with your degrees?

While I don’t have any concrete plans, I hope to apply the concepts learned in this program to my current career in public health. I am currently torn between pursuing a master’s degree in public health or a Ph.D. in rhetoric.


What would you say to future students looking to study communications?

For future students interested in studying communication, you're entering a dynamic field with immense opportunities. Communication skills are essential in today's interconnected world, and a degree in speech communication equips you with valuable abilities. You'll develop strong written and verbal skills, critical thinking, and media literacy. Additionally, you'll gain experience in public speaking, interpersonal communication, and digital media. These skills are highly transferable regardless of your interest or industry. Studying communication allows you to understand the power of effective communication and gives you the tools to navigate and shape the media landscape while fostering meaningful connections with diverse audiences.