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The Graduate Experience in Communication

The Saint Louis University master's program in communication is designed to teach you to be a conscientious thinker and leader who communicates effectively in a diverse world. 

You will find the courses that are right for you with the chance to develop a personalized program of study that fits your individual goals and interests. Take courses to deepen your understanding of communication theory, research, criticism and ethics within a variety of areas of study, including health communication, intercultural communication, interpersonal communication, strategic communication, rhetoric and public dialogue, media studies, and organizational communication. Small classes give you the chance to form close working relationships with faculty.

St. Louis, a diverse urban setting and large social, corporate and media center, will give you access to a dynamic research setting in which to examine significant organizational, social and cultural issues that are occurring locally and globally from a communication perspective.  

By the time you graduate, you will be prepared for greater responsibilities in a range of professions including advertising, corporate communications, higher education, human resources, journalism, politics, public relations, and training and development.  

Assistantships

In order to receive full consideration for funding, students should apply for graduate school and submit a separate application for an assistantship to the Department of Communication by Jan. 15. Applications received after that date may be considered for funding based on availability.  

Teaching Assistants (TAs)

Generally, teaching assistants teach their own sections of CMM 1200: Public Speaking. Assistants are in charge of all aspects of the course and gain firsthand experience in the classroom.

Research Assistants (RAs)

Research assistants gain research experience by working closely with communication faculty members to help them with research projects. Research assistant duties vary according to the needs of the faculty. 

Professional Assistants  

Professional assistants work either in the Department of Communication or in another office on campus.  Professional assistantships are usually assigned to communication students who are interested in advertising, public relations, journalism, and/or media production. Professional assistantship options include:

  • Technology Professional Assistant - The technology professional assistant assists the Department of Communication in developing, maintaining and assessing technology initiatives in the department and developing materials for the Communication Media Center. Depending upon skill and experience, opportunities also exist to teach CMM 2500: Media Lab. Media productions skills for this assistantship are a plus. This assistantship will be available in fall 2018.
  • Social Media Strategist and Video Editor Assistant - This assistantship helps develop materials to promote SLU’s College of Arts and Sciences. Working closely with the College’s web content developer, duties include: promoting, maintaining, and creating social media content; creating videos for the various department/programs in the college; interviewing faculty members for videos; and keeping up with email correspondence. Media production skills for this assistantship are a plus. This assistantship will be available in fall 2019.
  • University Marketing and Communications Assistant - This assistant aids SLU’s Marketing and Communications Division in crafting and communicating messages to a variety of audiences. The assistant supports student recruitment, fundraising, alumni relations and story placement, among other endeavors. The assistant will rotate among various departments that include communications, publications and graphic design, marketing, and social media and digital content. This position will be available in fall 2018.

Fellowships

The Department of Communication may nominate one student seeking a master's degree each year for a Presidential or Diversity Fellowship. If you would like to be considered for nomination, please contact the graduate program coordinator, Matt Carlson, Ph.D.

If selected, the graduate program coordinator and a mentor will work with you during your fellowship to create a personal plan based upon individual goals and background. This plan may be adjusted during the course of your studies, with the approval of the graduate program coordinator and mentor, if your goals change.

Learn More About Fellowships

Possible Fellowship Goals

Teaching Development
  • Teach one or two semesters of public speaking (recommended during your first or second semester).
  • Serve as a teaching assistant for one or two semesters of an appropriate course with instructor approval (recommended during your first or second semester).
  • Complete the certificate in university teaching skills offered through SLU’s Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning.
Research Development
  • Attend at least one communication conference.
  • Prepare and submit a conference paper.
  • Serve as a research assistant for one or two semesters for a non-mentor faculty member (recommended during your first or second semester).
Professional Development
  • Participate in communication internships or community activities.
  • Attend departmental events including orientations, guest lectures, job candidate presentations, etc.
  • Meet on a regular basis with faculty mentor. 

Curriculum Requirements

The M.A. program is a 30-credit hour program. Each student works out her or his own program with the graduate director and a faculty mentor according to her or his individual goals. Students and mentors usually develop a close working relationship in which the mentor plays an important role in designing and managing the complete academic program with the student.

Core Curriculum

All graduate students complete the following three classes for their degree:

  • CMM 5000: Graduate Studies in Communication (three credit hours)
  • CMM 5010: Reading Foundations in Communication Theory (three credit hours)
  • CMM 5800: Research Methods in Communication (three credit hours)

Graduate Electives

Within a two-year cycle of courses, the following courses are likely to be taught in addition to core courses and one or two other electives that vary from year to year:

  • CMM 5020: Interpersonal Communication

  • CMM 5090: Health Communication
  • CMM 5200: Organizational Communication
  • CMM 5400: Contemporary Issues in Media

  • CMM 5600: Strategic Communication

In addition, a course will be offered that focuses on culture and communication (e.g., Culture and Public Dialogue, Language and Cultural Diversity, Intercultural Communication).

Students are encouraged to explore the relationship between communication and other university departments and disciplines. Students can take a maximum of six credit hours in coursework outside of the department.

Other Program Requirements

Students may choose up to a total of nine hours in the following areas: 4000-level courses in communication, graduate coursework outside of the department, or independent studies. Unless circumstances mandate otherwise, no more than six of these nine hours may be taken in 4000-level courses in communication or in graduate coursework outside of the department. No more than three of these hours may be taken as an independent study.

Transferring Credits

A maximum of six hours of relevant graduate coursework completed at another university may be transferred to the master's program in communication. Petition forms may be obtained at the Office of Graduate Education, DuBourg Hall 417. The graduate director must approve all requests prior to submission to Graduate Education. Any hours transferred will be regarded as part of the six credit hours allowed outside of the communication department.

Three Different Degree Completion Options

All graduate students must choose among one of three degree completion options: applied project, comprehensive exams or thesis project.

Applied Project Option

The applied project allows students with a professional focus to apply communication theory and research methods in a professional setting. Projects may take different forms, but all students produce some form of communication material on behalf of an organization or field of practice. Students who choose this option take 27 credit hours of coursework and three credit hours of “CMM 5890: Applied Project.”

Examples of recent applied projects include: 

  • “Video Academy for New Americans” - Kim Oswalt
    This project sought to improve the process of refugee resettlement by providing video resources about important aspects of coming to the United States. The content was developed by ongoing engagement with refugee communities and nonprofit organizations.
  • “Biddle Barks” - Mitch Wilson
    This project was a business proposal analyzing the feasibility of and making the case for building the capacity of a local homeless shelter to also shelter the animal companions of the people who stayed there.
  • “From Their Eyes: Appreciative Inquiry for Strategic Action in a Nonprofit Serving Children with Visual Impairments” - Kris Poore
    This project developed a set of narrative marketing tools for a nonprofit serving children with visual impairments by interviewing families who had been helped by the organization.
  • “Cooking with Culture" -  Jessica Winter
    This project was a 55-page cultural cookbook project in partnership with St. Louis not-for-profit organization Bilingual International Assistant Services. 
Thesis Option

A thesis involves the creation of new knowledge relevant to the field of communication, a professional area or an organization. Students read existing research in their topic area and develop a set of research questions or hypotheses to investigate. They then design and implement a study to answer those questions. Students take 24 credit hours of coursework and six credit hours of “CMM 5990: Thesis Research.”  

Examples of recent theses include:

  • “Volunteer Patient Mentors and the Lived PAO Experience” - Garryn Marlen Given the complexity and severity of recovery involved in a Periacetabular Osteotomy (PAO) surgical procedure, volunteer patient mentors often assist patients during recovery. Using in-depth qualitative interviews, this thesis explored the role of volunteer patient mentors in helping patients manage their uncertainties and anxieties associated with the procedure, as well as social support processes between volunteer mentors and patients.
  • “Like, Comment, Share: The Relationship Between Social Capital and the Propensity to Friend Coworkers on Facebook”-  Joe Ivancic 
    This project examined the propensity to send friend requests to and accept friend requests from coworkers in relation to both bridging and bonding social capital. Quantitative and qualitative analysis conducted on the results of a survey of working professionals (N=152) suggested an association between sending friend requests to coworkers and both types of social capital. In addition, motivation to use Facebook was examined in relation to sending and accepting friend requests. Results indicate that people are more likely to consider social motivations than status motivations when both sending and accepting friend requests.
Comprehensive Exam Option

This option allows students to synthesize knowledge from across their coursework and demonstrate competency in communication theory and research in the form of an oral and a written exam. Students complete 30 credit hours of coursework and take comprehensive exams during their last semester in the program.