This story was originally published by kmbges.
In 2014, Payal Sharma was searching. Having completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications and Journalism at St. Francis College in her native Hyderabad, India, Payal wanted to explore graduate study abroad in an area where she would gain the technical and critical thinking skills that are in-demand by industry, while learning in a community of dedicated academics and researchers. She also desired a program that was supported by active, engaged alumni, and highly regarded by industry leaders. This is when she enrolled in the Master of Science in Print Media (MS-PPRT) program in the School of Media Sciences (SMS) at Rochester Institute of Technology. Today, having completed her degree requirements and a one-year co-op, she is convinced that she made the right decision in choosing RIT.
The MS-PPRT program is a two-year, thesis-based Master’s degree in which students work closely with internationally-renowned professors in world-class research facilities. After three semesters of coursework, students conduct industry-relevant research that results in a published thesis. It is during this process that the MS candidates work closely with research professors to produce a thesis that is relevant and meaningful. In Payal’s case, her thesis exposed her to research methods and theories that provide a foundation for possible future advanced degrees and research opportunities.
According to Payal, these skills already paid off in her one-year co-op experience.
After defending her thesis in 2018, Payal embarked on a paid co-op at Wilsonart in Temple, Texas. Perhaps best known as a manufacturer of laminates, Wilsonart manufacturers and distributes an array of engineered surfaces. Having used the gravure printing process for decades, Wilsonart has now implemented cutting-edge digital printing technologies to supplement their gravure offerings. This is where Payal’s skill set, gained in the MS-PPRT program at RIT, made her an especially valuable addition to the Wilsonart research and development team.
Notably, Payal led a project to ensure consistent color reproduction for Wilsonart’s digital presses. Applying the knowledge gained in her MS experience, Payal set up the standard operating and process control procedures necessary to achieve consistent output from the digital offerings. Today Wilsonart is efficiently producing award-winning, digitally-produced engineered surfaces.
It is relevant to note that her direct supervisor at Wilsonart is an RIT MS-PPRT alumnus, who pro-actively looked for other graduates of that program to fill the research and development position, and spoke very highly of the school and its alumni. Her supervisor also stated that he is encouraged by the future direction of the school as the STEM-based MS-PPRT program moves to College of Engineering Technology.
Payal contends that students considering the MS-PPRT program at RIT should not be discouraged if they do not have specific print experience. “When I started my journey I did not have a traditional print background, here I learned how industry works, and have been exposed to many different aspects of the industry.” She recognizes that the SMS “…has tremendous resources to support student work, backed by knowledgeable and caring professors; this helped in maintaining motivation while gaining confidence in my skills and abilities” and contends that her “…career goals are now more certain and focused as a result of the exposure to various aspects of the industry.”
Today, Payal has accepted a full-time position as a Digital Print Technology Specialist at Wilsonart, where they have agreed to sponsor her visa. She optimistically views her future career prospects, and feels fortunate to be exposed to meaningful and diverse working experiences in the US as a result of her Master’s degree.