Three-minute-thesis winner shares life story


In relation to the United States, Mississippi’s population alone approximates nearly three-fourths of Moldova’s.

“Life was very hard with our family at times,” said Mass Communication and Journalism Ph.D. student Ecaterina Stepaniuc. “I come from a very small country called the republic of Moldova. Moldova is situated between the Ukraine and Romania. The population of Moldova is about 4 million people.”

Stepaniuc said she was born in an ordinary Moldovan family – about medium size with two older siblings – and hard work was normal.

“Both of my parents worked in farming all their life. In my teenage years, my father became very sick and there were times we had no food on the table. I often [wondered] why God gave me the family I have and the hard life I lived.”

Stepanuic said she now realizes that all the hardships she endured in life were meant to help her become a stronger person and gave her a strong work ethic to achieve her life aspirations.

Most recently on Nov. 15, Stepanuic won USM’s annual three-minute-thesis competition with her dissertation titled “Moldova’s Democracy: Between Opposing Ideologies.” Stepaniuc assessed the more than two- decade struggle of Moldova’s government and independent news agencies opposing ideologies of democracy. Subsequently, the divided presentation of democracy in a former Soviet republic has disenfranchised and divided Moldova’s citizens as well.

Stepaniuc said she wants to defend her dissertation by June 2017 and return to Moldova after the completion of her OPT program.

“I will then return to Moldova and apply for a job at a University and teach mass media courses,” Stepaniuc said. “I love teaching and I hope one day I will be able to mentor students and impact their life, just like I was impacted by my USM professors.”

Stepaniuc said her motivation for immigrating to the United States was to further her education.

“After graduating with my Bachelor Degree in Journalism in Moldova, I decided I wanted to continue my education,” Stepaniuc said. “Through some long time friends that live in Ellisville, MS, I managed to come to USM and see my dream come true.”

Stepanuic said she chose a journalistic degree because her father to stand by the truth.

“I chose journalism because this is a great value in my life and thought it was a channel or tool I could use to help me dig for the truth – then share the truth with the people around me,” Stepaniuc said. “The principle I follow in my professional life is based on a verse from the Bible. The verse is found in the book of John 8:32: ‘For you will find the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.’ I found the Truth and my desire as a journalist is to help others discover it.”

Immigrating to the United States was her childhood dream that for her came true six years ago. After completing her degree in Moldova, she immigrated to the United States and enrolled at USM to achieve her graduate degree and educational goals, and is married to a professional Martial Arts athlete. She said he is her greatest support and encourager.

“I’ve graduated with my master’s degree from USM, and I am hoping to graduate with my Ph.D. this summer,” Stepaniuc said. “I am married. I am 29 years old and I have really enjoyed my experience in the United States. I’ve built great relationships with people from Ellisville, Hattiesburg and I’ve really appreciated every memory that I’ve created here. It was hard at first because I had to pass this language barrier, and I’ve had to take courses that I’ve never heard about in my life –do a lot of research.”

Stepaniuc has guest-taught in professor Jae Hwa Shin’s Mass Communication Theories class, teaches MCJ 200, an introduction to digital media course and in 2015 received the Robert Gene Wiggins Endowment, a foundation scholarship for graduate students in the MCJ department.

Stepaniuc said she desires to get involved in politics and bring a positive change to her home nation of Moldova and that the United States will always be her second home.

“People often ask me if I miss my country while I am in the States,” Stepaniuc said. “The answer is always the same. When in Moldova I miss my second family that lives in America, and when in America I miss my Moldovan family.”

Stepaniuc said she wants to mentor and help her students to help them better understand how media works and challenge her students.

“I realize that hard work and disciple brought me to this point in life and in my career; therefore I encourage all USM students to never give up on their dreams. Work hard, do your best and be disciplined in your studies. These principles will build in you a professional.”

Stepaniuc said people always ask her why she chose Mississippi out of all the 50 states.

“I think Mississippi chose me,” Stepanuic said. “When I was 13, a missionary team from Ellisville, MS, came to my country to teach English. So they helped my education and they invited me to Mississippi. Mississipians are similar to Moldovans – very hospitable, very open as people, always willing to help and support. That’s what I found here, and I’ve really enjoyed my experience in the South.”