Melissa Abner

AMD distance Ph.D. program alleviates Melissa Abner’s concerns and surpasses her expectations

Melissa applied for Iowa State University’s apparel, merchandising, and design (AMD) distance Ph.D. program simply because of the convenience. She soon realized how much more there was to the program and how much she was going to gain from the people involved. 

“I work full time and have a family, so this program provided me the flexibility to further my education without completely upending my life,” Melissa said.

One of Melissa’s concerns when starting the program was the ease of contact with her professors. From her first contact with Ann Marie Fiore, University Professor and director of graduate education, Melissa knew she would have no troubles connecting with faculty.

“Dr. Fiore is super accommodating and nice,” Melissa said. “She is so easy to get a hold of. Since the first time talking with her, I have only spoken with kind, helpful people.”

Her concerns continued to disappear when she discovered how her classes would work.

“I was in some classes completely distance and some not,” she said. “For some they pull the distance students up on a screen. The professor made me feel included. If anything, I felt more involved than my undergrad classes.”

During the first and second summers of the program, students are required to be on campus for a few weeks to spend time meeting people face-to-face, take a couple of classes, and work on projects.

“I wasn’t excited about coming for summer classes,” she said. “I understand now why it’s necessary. You become more invested, learn faces, and get connected with people. If the program was all online I would be less connected with other students.”

On top of the many connections Melissa now has, she also gains new opportunities along the way.

“I was fairly clueless about academic research and publishing papers until I started this degree,” she said. “My classes and working with my major professor has helped me so much with presenting at different conferences and submitting papers for publication; I have a lot more confidence and knowledge now.”

When Melissa first began the program, she said all she knew was it is distance and affordable. Though she knows she made the right choice, she wishes she would’ve done a bit more research before her first day.

“Research more about the faculty and who you want to work with,” she said. “Faculty are key. They have a lot of knowledge and experience in the field.”