About Dr. Bernardo Alexander Attias, PhD: Bernardo Alexander Attias is a Professor of Communication Studies at California State University, Northridge with specialties in rhetoric, cultural studies, and freedom of speech. His Ph.D. is in Communication Studies from the University of Iowa, and he has a B.S. in Communication Studies from Northwestern University. He has been teaching at CSUN since 1994. Dr. Attias teaches many different courses at CSUN including several of the rhetoric courses (Rhetorical Theory, Rhetorical Discourse, Rhetoric of Peace and Conflict, Rhetoric of Crime and Punishment, Persuasion, and graduate seminars in Classical, Contemporary, and Postmodern Rhetorical Theory), as well as courses in performance studies, communication and technology, and freedom of speech.

As the Graduate Coordinator, Dr. Attias acts as the main advisor and advocate for graduate students in the program. He has done extensive research on religious terrorism and the rhetoric of warfare, and also publishes about electronic dance music. He coedited the book DJ Culture in the Mix: Power, Technology, and Social Change in Electronic Dance Music. His recent publications include an article on authenticity and the Velvet Underground for Rock Music Studies and a coauthored chapter on “Female Supremacy and Feminist Heterotopias” for a collection recently published in France. Dr. Attias is also an accomplished DJ and performance artist.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of the California State University Northridge’s (CSUN) Master of Arts in Communication Studies program, and how it is structured? What topics are covered in the core curriculum, and how do the three concentration options (Communication Theory, Rhetorical Studies, Performance, Language and Cultural Studies) differ in their focus and curriculum?

[Dr. Bernardo Alexander Attias] You seem to understand the structure clearly from the website – we offer coursework in those three areas, but this is a generalist program. The way that it is structured, students are required to take the Core Seminar in Communication Studies their first semester, which includes an overview of the field and of the various areas of concentration addressed in our program. In the second semester, students are required to take another three-unit seminar that focuses specifically on research methods in the field. [Current and prospective students can learn more about the seminars available through the program here.] Students are also required to take at least 3 units in each of the main divisional areas of the program. That leaves them with 15 units of elective seminars that can be chosen from any of the three areas. This allows students to earn a generalist M.A. degree in the field while having some room to concentrate on a specific area they find most relevant to their needs.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please elaborate on the Culminating Experience in the program, and how the Directed Comprehensive Studies option differs from the Thesis or Graduate Project? What support do students receive from their advisor and committee in completing their Culminating Experience?

[Dr. Bernardo Alexander Attias] In their second semester in the program, students will decide on a Culminating Experience. The Directed Comprehensive Studies (DCS) option involves a one semester (3-unit) guided seminar in which students reflect on and bring together the material they have covered throughout their work in the program. Assignments for this course include a comprehensive exam and a research project that will be presented as part of a mini-conference at the end of the semester. (Note – this option is only available in the spring semester; typically students take DCS their fourth semester in the program).

The Thesis/Project option is a two semester (6-unit) research project that is organized by the student but guided by a committee of professors in the Department. This option most often culminates in a written thesis and an oral defense. The student works with their committee members (primarily their committee Chair) throughout the two semesters to complete the thesis. Creative and performance projects are also possible in consultation with the student’s thesis committee and the Graduate Coordinator. Thesis units must be taken over two consecutive semesters beginning in the Fall.

Students will decide which option most fits their needs in consultation with the Graduate Coordinator during their second semester in the program.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in CSUN’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program, and how can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities? Additionally, what career development resources and academic services are available to students of CSUN’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program?

[Dr. Bernardo Alexander Attias] Students are advised by the Graduate Coordinator throughout their work in the program. They are also encouraged to seek mentorship from any faculty member they work well with. Our faculty are extremely student-centered, and often do work to support and work with graduate students, including helping them arrange conference presentations and participating with students on collaborative research projects. We also have a Graduate Professional Development Program which brings in former graduate students and experts in the field to explore with our students such topics as research strategies, job opportunities, teaching opportunities, building the academic CV, etc.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes CSUN’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students? How does the program prepare students for careers in communication research and instruction, as well as roles in industry?

[Dr. Bernardo Alexander Attias] Our main strength at CSUN is our commitment to student-centered learning. You will find here an extremely supportive and accessible faculty who always make our students our top priority. In terms of the field, we have great strengths in the three areas we emphasize, with faculty who are respected leaders in the field in each of those areas.

The M.A. is an academic generalist program in the field. It is geared primarily for academic study of communication; the majority of our students plan to either continue on to a Ph.D. or to teach at the University or College level in the field. Students with such goals tend to be quite successful after graduating from our program; in fact, there is an extensive network of alumni from our program teaching at Universities and Community Colleges throughout southern California. The same is true of those who go on to the Ph.D.; our program is recognized by many major programs in the field as doing an excellent job of preparing students for more intensive research and teaching in the field.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application for this program?

[Dr. Bernardo Alexander Attias] It’s a good idea to contact the Graduate Coordinator to find out more about whether this program meets your needs. It’s important to understand what you want out of a graduate program before you decide which ones to apply to. As for the application itself, it should be clear from your personal statement that the coursework and program that we offer helps you advance your own personal and professional goals. Obviously, you should do as well as you can in your GPA and GRE scores, have very strong letters of recommendation from academic sources, and make sure that your application is complete. But we also check applications for a suitable fit with our program, as the name “Communication Studies” can be misleading to some who are actually looking for a program in Journalism, Public Relations, Cinema Studies, etc.

Thank you, Dr. Attias, for your insight into California State University, Northridge’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program!