About Dr. Anup Kumar, Ph.D.: Anup Kumar is the Graduate Program Director for the School of Communication at Cleveland State University, where he also teaches courses as an Associate Professor. As Director, Dr. Kumar advises students throughout their enrollment, manages recruiting, and supports faculty. He teaches graduate seminar courses in communication, including media theory, as well as undergraduate courses in political communication, media writing, and media law and ethics. Dr. Kumar has published numerous articles examining the role of media in political movements, populist politics, and elections. He is the author of The Making of a Small State: Populist Social Mobilization and the Hindi Press in the Uttarakhand Movement. He received his Master of Science in Chemistry from H.N.B. Garhwal University in 1989, followed by a Master of Arts in Communication Studies from the University of Northern Iowa in 2004, and a Ph.D. in Mass Communication from the University of Iowa in 2008.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Cleveland State University’s Master of Applied Communication Theory and Methodology, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?

[Dr. Kumar] The Master of Applied Communication Theory and Methodology, as the name suggests, focuses on communication skills, methods, and insights and how students can apply this knowledge to advanced research as well as careers in industry. Our students learn how to analyze and optimize communication dynamics for corporations, non-profits, government agencies, and other organizations in industry. They also gain a strong theoretical background that empowers them to design and implement studies of how humans communicate in different contexts. Our goal is to prepare students to employ evidence-based decision-making, which means using their research and analytical skills to solve complex communication problems, and learning best practices backed by evidence to make sound decisions regarding both internal and external/public communications at organizations.

The program itself is composed of 33 course credits: two core courses, two communication theory courses (students can choose from four classes in this area, according to their interests), one research methods course (students choose one of three classes we offer for this requirement), and 15-18 credits of electives. Students have a great deal of flexibility in the classes they can take beyond the core classes.

The core courses are the Professional Seminar in Communication, and Communication Research Methods. The Pro Seminar introduces students to the history and core methods of communication research and inquiry, including techniques for examining communication phenomena, employing the scientific method, designing research studies and testing hypotheses. The Communication Research Methods course focuses on conceptualization and delves more deeply into different qualitative and quantitative research methods, such as developing surveys, designing observational or experimental studies, conducting interviews, and analyzing data using statistical methods. From this foundation, students then choose two of the following four theory courses:

  • Organizational Communication Theory: This course outlines the major theoretical approaches and models employed to study organizational communication, the different types of communication dynamics that occur within organizations, and their effects, and how to apply these concepts and insights to analyzing and improving communication processes.
  • Relational Communication: This course delves into the relational aspects of communication, including verbal and nonverbal communication and their role in human relationships and interpersonal dynamics.
  • Media Theory: This class covers the major concepts, theories, and principles of media and mass communication, and examines the effects of media and mass communication on the psychology and behavior of individuals and mass audiences. News, political advertising and debates, social media, television and its impact on children, and media economics are topics discussed.
  • Persuasive Communication: The major theories of persuasive communication, as well as the ethics of persuasion and current issues and problems in persuasive communication. Students examine persuasive communication campaigns and learn how to construct a campaign to appeal for a particular view or objective.

Students select one of the three advanced courses in research methods, which allows them to tailor their program of study to the kinds of communication research and work they wish to do post-graduation. Students choose one of three research methods courses:

  • Multivariate Statistical Methods: Students learn the central multivariate methods that are used to analyze research in human communication. They also learn how to read and critically analyze research publications on communication, and employ multivariate statistical tests using computer programs.
  • Content Analysis Research Methods: In this course, students learn how to systematically study and analyze print, graphic, audio, and visual messaging and how it impacts human communication and behavior. This course also teaches students how to design content analysis studies using a variety of methods.
  • Qualitative Research Methods: This course focuses specifically on qualitative research methods, such as intensive interviewing, field observations, and examining cultural texts. Students learn how to gather and analyze different types of qualitative data to gain insight into human communication phenomena.

The final 15 to 18 credits of students’ course of study is devoted to their electives. This is where they can really hone their skills and knowledge in a given area. Electives include classes such as Managing Organizational Teams, Health Communication, Political Communication, and Media Metrics and Analytics. The goal of the electives is for students to apply the foundational skills they learned in the core courses to specific scenarios and responsibilities they would encounter in industry–for instance, developing a strategic communication campaign, navigating international negotiation situations, assessing online media traffic, improving political campaigns, and implementing health communication strategies that educate patients or consumers.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students of Cleveland State University’s Master of Applied Communication Theory and Methodology have four choices: a collaborative research project, a comprehensive examination, a research project, and a thesis. Could you elaborate on all four of these options, and what they entail?

[Dr. Kumar] The Collaborative Research Project is where a faculty member and group of students have a common interest in a particular research area, and decide to work together on a project that is then presented to a client or other relevant audience. The faculty member and students collaborate on the research, data analysis, the writing of reports and results, and the presentation of findings. They can also jointly publish if desired. The collaborative project does not have to meet the criteria of a structured master’s thesis, and tends to look much more like what you’d see at a research center or an in-house study that is conducted within a corporation to inform business strategies.

The Thesis is, as you would expect, a more traditional endeavor in that it requires that students develop a formal thesis statement that is based off one or more communication theories and their application. The thesis must follow standards of practice and structure, where students describe the protocols they employed to investigate their inquiry, the results of their studies, and the significance of their results to the overall field. In contrast, in a project, the theory is a little less important, and is therefore not emphasized as much. For the thesis, students receive the support of a faculty advisor and committee, to whom they must present their thesis and findings in a formal defense.

The Research Project is an individual project that students design and implement, and which analyzes a communication issue occurring in an industry setting. As with the thesis, students who choose the individual research project option have the support of an advisor and committee; however, students have a bit more flexibility in terms of the structure of their paper and the types of research methodologies they employ to investigate their chosen issue.

Finally, students have the option of completing a comprehensive examination that tests them on central communication theories, as well as their area of focus in professional communications practice. In this exam, students must demonstrate their understanding of the research methods and analytical skills they have learned. The exam is comprised of problems-based questions that ask students to solve communications issues or challenges using a multi-faceted approach, employing numerous methods to craft a solution.

The comprehensive exam also requires students to have a committee of faculty members, who write their exam questions, tailoring the questions to students’ program of study. The creation of the exam is very much a collaborative process, in which students select their committee and meet with their primary advisor to come up with a one-page document outlining students’ learning objectives. It is from this document that faculty in students’ committee then develop the exam questions.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Cleveland State University’s Master of Applied Communication Theory and Methodology program? Independent of faculty instruction and support, what career development resources and academic services are available to students, and how can they make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems while in the program?

[Dr. Kumar] Our faculty members readily support students in both their academic research endeavors and in realizing their career goals. We have a highly collegial and collaborative atmosphere, where faculty seek to get a sense of what students’ interests are, and where their potential lies. We’ve had faculty support students in selecting and applying to PhD programs, advising them in terms of the programs that match their research areas, helping them put together their applications, and writing their letters of recommendation. We have also had faculty members who encounter students who are much more interested in applied research and finding a job in industry, in which case the faculty member advises his or her student in the kinds of skills that are desirable in the market, and provides connections in the industry that students can leverage.

I will note, however, that while faculty are eager and well equipped to help students reach their goals, the onus is on the student to make those connections in the classroom and outside of it. Students must show up and be present in classes, and if a professor’s area of research interests them, they should be proactive in approaching professors and asking to work with them on projects.

In terms of career development opportunities, we do have an internship course that students can take for credit, and for which we receive a lot of requests from industries in the area. We connect our students with these companies, and these opportunities often give students experience and additional contacts that are useful for their careers. For example, one of our current students is working on an internship project with the Girl Scouts, doing empirical research and collecting data on how their intergenerational promotional strategies are working.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in Cleveland State University’s Master of Applied Communication Theory and Methodology program, what advice do you have for submitting a competitive application?

[Dr. Kumar] Apart from meeting the minimum GPA requirement (2.75 cumulative for undergraduate) and taking the GRE (the test requirement is waived for students who have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 4.0), students should pay special attention to their personal statement. The personal statement must demonstrate students’ purpose in enrolling in a master’s in communication program, and their understanding of the rigorous work involved in completing this degree. Students should also have an idea of how they plan to use their degree post-graduation, illustrating a clear focus.

One thing I would caution against is simply stating your interests as they relate to human communication and rhetoric. We have some students who say they are interested in a vague area of communication theory or practice, but how does that relate to what they want to achieve both in the program and beyond? In general, the more specific you can be, the better. We understand that students may change their focus once they are in the program, but actionable ambitions and a professional, academic, or extracurricular history that demonstrates sustained interest in the field of applied communications is important.

For letters of recommendation, we require two but students can submit a third if they desire. Students should select people who know their work ethic and who have seen them demonstrate the ability to handle rigorous coursework or professional assignments in a timely and competent manner. Former professors and current managers are examples of individuals who might be able to write a strong letter of recommendation.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Cleveland State University’s Master of Applied Communication Theory and Methodology program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?

[Dr. Kumar] I believe that our focus on applied communication theory and methods makes us an excellent option for students who want a pragmatic degree that still allows them to delve into advanced academic concepts in communication. This balance between the professional and the academic I believe is what makes our program stand out. What students learn at Cleveland State University they can use right after graduating, at a wide variety of companies and organizations. But at the same time, because it provides rigorous training in theory, methodology, and analytical research method skills, the Master of Applied Communication Theory and Methodology prepares students very well for further study at the doctorate level. It lays an excellent foundation for a PhD program, which is why we have been very successful with our students going into some of the best PhD programs in the country. Our program’s ability to prepare students equally well for industry careers as well as positions at prestigious doctorate programs is illustrated in the fact that our class every year is roughly split 50/50 between the students who go into academia, and the ones who work in industry.

Our program’s flexibility and customizability are also strengths, in that students can be as efficient as possible in preparing for their future career. Even in the foundational coursework they are required to complete, students have choices–aside from the two core courses, they can choose what areas of research methods and theory they want to delve into more deeply. Our electives enable them to gain expertise in a variety of communication fields according to their interests and career goals–students can take classes in health communication and media analytics to better understand how to develop and evaluate health education campaigns, or they can take our organizational team management class along with our course in collaborative problem solving to become even more effective corporate managers or leaders. We designed the program so that the classes they take work synergistically to give students more than the sum of their parts.

Thank you, Dr. Kumar, for your excellent insight into Cleveland State University’s Master of Applied Communication Theory and Methodology program!