About Catherine Coleman, Ph.D. Catherine Coleman is an Associate Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies in Strategic Communication in the Bob Schieffer College of Communication. She earned a B.A. in English and a B.A. in Psychology from The University of the South, Sewanee and a Ph.D. in Media and Communication, with an emphasis in Advertising, from the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
As Director of Graduate Studies for the Master of Science in Strategic Communication, Dr. Coleman manages the administrative and academic aspects of the program, including student recruitment, application and admission, funding for tuition support and graduate assistantships, and student retention. She further oversees program administration such as curriculum development, course scheduling, and program requirements. As graduate director, she advises all graduate students in the program on academic progress and career advancement, and works to develop a strong and productive culture for learning and development for the students.
Dr. Coleman’s scholarship focuses on transformative consumer research, including vulnerability and social change, consumer culture, advertising, gender and representation, and communication and media ethics.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Texas Christian University’s Master of Science in Strategic Communication program, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?
[Dr. Coleman] The Master of Science in Strategic Communication at TCU prepares future and working professionals—through theories and skills in strategy, research, storytelling, new media, and leadership—for success in today’s competitive digital and global communication environments. In alignment with the mission of TCU, the program in strategic communication educates individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community. Students benefit from TCU’s teacher-scholar model, which means that Master’s students are taught by versed professionals, thought leaders, and top scholars in strategic communication.
The Master’s degree is earned through 36 hours of course credit, generally completed across four semesters. Students take core courses that advance their understanding of advertising and public relations, including Foundations, Management and Leadership, Research Methods, Ethics, Theory, and Global Communication, and 18 hours of elective strategic communication courses that best fit their career needs. To build expertise, they have the opportunity to choose from a variety of these content-specific seminars, including New Media, Crisis Communication, Advertising and the Consumer, Social Responsibility, and Sports Communication, among others.
Students who apply for the Master’s program in Strategic Communication are considered for merit-based tuition remission and graduate assistantship stipends. These graduate assistantships offer students the opportunity to work closely with faculty on courses and projects that help advance their understanding of the fields of study.
[MastersinCommuicatinscom] For their final graduation requirement, students of Texas Christian University’s Master of Science in Strategic Communication can choose between a master’s thesis and a project. Could you elaborate on these two options, what each entails, and what students should take into consideration when choosing between them?
[Dr. Coleman] Students may choose to complete a project or a thesis. The project track requires 33 hours of coursework and 3 hours of project. The project is completed through the Project course in the last semester prior to graduation and is an evidence-based, applied project in strategic communication. Students often work with an organization or brand to solve a strategic communication problem or develop a strategic communication plan, or develop a topic of importance to professional practice. Faculty work with students to identify and propose a topic that will support their career goals.
Students who elect to complete a master’s thesis fulfill 30 hours of coursework and 6 hours of thesis credit. The thesis is developed on a topic of intellectual rigor and relevance for strategic communication. Students working on a thesis often leverage opportunities to present their work at conferences and submit to scholarly publications, further supporting the development of knowledge in strategic communication.
All students work closely with a committee of graduate faculty and an advisor in developing their capstone work. Both the project and the thesis are developed to prepare students for professional advancement.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Texas Christian University’s Master of Science in Strategic Communication? 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?
[Dr. Coleman] Faculty in strategic communication are dedicated to TCU’s teacher-scholar model, which means that mentorship is a critical part of the culture of the program. The program generally has 15-20 students at a time, which allows faculty and students to remain highly engaged in class. Students receive individualized attention and access to faculty. Students often work collaboratively with faculty on projects, and join faculty at professional conferences or networking events on and off campus. As Director of Graduate Studies, I meet with each graduate student during academic advising to guide them through registration decisions and address their professional goals.
We also work to develop a strong culture of relationships, as both peers and faculty are important resources. We host a graduate retreat prior to the start of Fall semester, as well as end-of-semester celebrations for graduating students. Students are given access to our faculty’s vast network of professional contacts through references, networking events, and collaborations. They also have access to TCU’s Career Services Center and a Career Counselor who works specifically with students in the Bob Schieffer College of Communication. We have a strong network of alumni who serve as an important resource for graduate career development and placement.
TCU has a robust Graduate Student Senate, which provides an important opportunity not only for graduate students to build community but also to shape the graduate experience at TCU. The Koehler Center for Instruction, Innovation, and Engagement is also a strong resource for graduate students, including a graduate student pedagogy course and a variety of resources for educational technology. We also encourage students to work with TCU’s Center for Digital Expression, which sits at the intersection of emerging technologies and digital expression and offers a Graduate Certificate.
Students do have opportunities to seek funding both through TCU’s Graduate Studies Center and through the Bob Schieffer College of Communication Dean’s Student Research and Creative Activity Grants and Graduate Student Travel grants, as well as through the Strategic Communication program to attend academic and professional conferences and related events.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in Texas Christian University’s Master of Science in Strategic Communication program, what advice do you have for submitting a competitive application?
[Dr. Coleman] Our admissions committee evaluates applications holistically. Successful applicants typically have a Verbal GRE score of at least 155 and a Quantitative GRE score of 145, or a combined score of 300 or higher, and have an Analytical Writing score of 4.0 or higher. The GRE score offers the admission committee an opportunity to understand applicant standing, as GPAs are not always easily comparable across institutions. The letters of recommendation help the applications committee learn more about candidates’ academic and professional work through the lens of others with whom they have worked, and help the admissions committee in evaluating preparedness for graduate level courses. While the GRE, transcripts, GPA, and recommendations requirements provide important data for consideration, the Academic/Professional Objectives statement is a significant opportunity for students to demonstrate strong communication skills and their goals as related to our strategic communication program.
The applications committee is particularly interested in candidates who are able to articulate clear goals in pursuing a Master’s in Strategic Communication, who have demonstrated that they have researched our program and can communicate how the program will help them achieve their goals, and who demonstrate strong communication skills.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Texas Christian University’s Master of Science in Strategic Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Coleman] Students in our program work with a dedicated full-time faculty of top scholars and professionals who support TCU’s teacher-scholar model and are active in service to the University and the discipline. Our faculty have relevant expertise for today’s strategic communication environment, and are forward thinking as developments such as technology create shifts in the discipline.
Our position in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, one of the top media markets in the country, allows our students to develop and leverage important professional connections that work locally, nationally, and globally across a range of strategic communication fields. Many of our alumni remain in the DFW area or maintain strong connections to TCU, providing a vast network of support. Fort Worth boasts a rich heritage and offers a wide array of cultural opportunities from the Kimbell Art Museum and the Fort Worth Opera to the zoo, botanic gardens, and a strong locally-driven mindset of entrepreneurship and innovation.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Students of master’s in communication programs often must balance work, internships, coursework, and rigorous research projects. What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully navigating their graduate school experience, and making the most of the opportunities presented to them?
[Dr. Coleman] One of the benefits of our program is that our students enter with a vast array of backgrounds and experiences and participate in building a strong graduate program culture of support and mentorship. Some students are working full-time or part-time jobs concurrently with their studies, while others are doing internships, assistantships, or other enrichment opportunities. All of these wonderful activities can put stress on students’ time, so faculty work with them to help them develop program goals and strategies that will support their professional and personal objectives. Many of our graduate courses are held in the evenings in order to accommodate their schedules.
Thank you, Dr. Coleman, for your excellent insight into Texas Christian University’s Master of Science in Strategic Communication Program!