About Dr. Christopher Bell: Christopher Bell is the director of graduate studies and an associate professor of media studies in the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. He earned a BA in Social Science from the University of Northern Colorado, an MA in Television and Film Production from San Diego State University, and a PhD in Communication from the University of Colorado Boulder.
As the Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Bell is responsible for recruitment, admission, and advising of all graduate students in both the standard and accelerated masters programs. He also teaches courses in the media studies track at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, including courses in rhetoric, popular culture studies, representation theory, and methodology.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs’ (UCCS) Master of Arts in Communication program, and how it is structured? What topics are covered in the core curriculum, and what are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?
[Dr. Christopher Bell] The key feature of our Communication Masters degree program is that it is individualized to each student. There are either three or four core courses that every student is required to take: Introduction to Graduate Theory, Data Gathering, Data Analysis, and, for some students, a Graduate Capstone. The Capstone is only taken by some students because our program is Thesis optional. If a student successfully passes the thesis proposal, s/he does not take Capstone, and instead takes thesis credits. From there, a student takes five elective courses in Communication, focusing on the parts of the discipline most relevant to them. Finally, a single course is taken outside of the department as supplemental to the program.
We do offer two sets of recommended courses, in Professional Communication and in Media Studies, but even then, those are merely suggested programs of study. The actual individual course selections are up to the student. The student develops their program with advising from the Graduate Director and a graduate faculty member who serves as the student’s content area mentor, depending on the student’s concentration.
[MastersinCommunications.com] UCCS’ Master of Arts in Communication allows students to complete either a master’s thesis or a non-thesis option for their final graduation requirement. May we have more information about these two options, their required deliverables, and the steps students must take to complete this requirement?
[Dr. Christopher Bell] As stated above, a student who selects the non-thesis option completes a Capstone course instead. The Capstone course is a combination of comprehensive examinations and a professional project guided by one of our senior faculty members. Capstone projects have taken lots of different forms: corporate training, social media implementation, high school sports coaching. It’s really up to the student and their field of concentration what shape the Capstone project takes.
For students who would like to complete a Masters Thesis, there is a proposal stage, where the student develops a proposal under the guidance of a graduate faculty mentor, then the proposal is presented to the entire Communication graduate faculty. If the graduate faculty approve the proposal, the student selects a graduate thesis committee of three faculty members to serve as final signature authority on the thesis. Once the thesis is completed, it is presented to the committee and any other faculty members or students who attend the defense, and the committee makes the final determination on the thesis acceptance, revision, or rejection.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in UCCS’ Master of Arts in Communication program, and how can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems? Additionally, what career development resources and academic services are available to students of this program?
[Dr. Christopher Bell] Each student begins the program with the Graduate Director as the primary advisor. During the first semester, we begin to identify the student’s area of study, and one of our graduate faculty members takes over as a content area mentor for the student. Our faculty mentorship can be very robust, and often leads into research opportunities, conference attendance, and possible publication. We also have many support systems in place, including a graduate student peer mentor, a graduate student organization within the department, and a campus-wide graduate student organization. Every year, we have an internship fair that is only open to Communication students, and a career night, where alumni return to speak with and recruit current graduate students.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application for the Master of Arts in Communication program?
[Dr. Christopher Bell] The best advice I can give is to study hard for the GRE and to write a stellar personal statement. Those are the two pieces that factor that most into the application process.
In your personal statement, tell us why you want to join our masters program. Ours specifically, not why you want to join a masters program. What is it about our specific program that excites you? What do you plan to study, keeping in mind that’s often going to change over the course of your time here. Whom among our professors are you looking toward working with? What are your plans for after you complete the program? We want to know who you are, what you want to study, and why you’re choosing us. That will help us determine if we’re also choosing you.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes UCCS’ Master of Arts in Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Christopher Bell] The biggest selling point for our program is its customizability. Because our program is so flexible, our graduates end up in every corner of the Communication field from political, corporate, and non-profit positions to media production, sports management, and entertainment. Many of our graduates end up teaching at the community college level, or moving on into doctoral work and academic positions. Whatever a student wants to do in the Communication field, our faculty can help shape a program to get them there.
Thank you, Dr. Bell, for your insight into UCCS’ Master of Arts in Communication program!