About Dr. Clarke Rountree, Ph.D.: Clarke Rountree is Professor of Communication Arts who serves as Graduate Director of the Master’s in Professional Communication program at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) as well as Associate Dean for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. As Graduate Director, he fields inquiries to the program, reviews applications, helps students develop a program of study, and offers guidance during their study at UAH. Dr. Rountree teaches courses in Legal Argument, Burkeian Theory and Criticism, Rhetorical Criticism, Classical Rhetorical Theory, Contemporary Rhetorical Theory, and the 19th Century Women’s Movement.

Dr. Rountree is internationally known for his work in rhetoric, particularly rhetorical theory and criticism drawing on the work of Kenneth Burke. He served as President of the Kenneth Burke Society and co-founded the Society’s journal, KB Journal, co-editing it for its first four years. He studies judicial rhetoric, particularly involving the United States Supreme Court. He has published five books, including Brown v. Board of Education at 50: A Rhetorical Perspective (Lexington, 2004), Judging the Supreme Court Constructions of Motives in Bush v. Gore (Michigan State University Press, 2007, which won the Kohrs-Campbell Prize in Rhetorical Criticism), George W. Bush: A Biography (Greenwood, 2011), The Chameleon President: The Curious Case of George W. Bush (Praeger, 2012), and Venomous Speech: Problems with American Political Discourse on the Right and Left (Praeger, 2013). He is currently completing a book on national rhetorics in the Syrian immigration crisis. He is series editor of Rhetoric, Law, & the Humanities book series with the University of Alabama Press. He serves on the editorial boards of three national journals in communication, as well as reviewing manuscripts for a dozen more.

Dr. Rountree earned a BA in Political Science from The University of Alabama in Huntsville and an MA and Ph.D. in Communication Studies from the University of Iowa. As an undergraduate major in political science, Dr. Rountree intended to go to law school before discovering rhetorical theory in an undergraduate persuasion class. He changed his plans to an academic route, though he spent two years in the University of Iowa’s law school learning about legal argument.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of The University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Master of Arts in Professional Communication program, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes that students can expect from this program?

[Dr. Rountree] The Master of Arts in Professional Communication prepares students to work in social media management, advertising and public relations, professional writing, human resources, employee training, consulting, user experience, and other fields that require individuals to employ strong communication skills in a wide variety of contexts. Our program provides students with a foundational understanding of the following:

  • The major theories of human communication and their practical applications.
  • How to conduct ethical and effective scientific research around various communication phenomena, employing different qualitative and quantitative research methods and interpreting statistical information and its practical import.
  • The variables at play in different communication situations, including the background, interests, and values of participants, group size, communication purpose, language and cultural factors, and other contextual considerations.
  • How to take multiculturalism and international relations into consideration when developing effective forms of communication.
  • How to craft persuasive and ethical communications for different objectives.
  • The skills and knowledge required to create content specifically for advertising, public relations, technical writing, social media, communication technology, and other purposes.
  • How to engage in rhetorical criticism and analyze messaging for persuasiveness, accuracy, and clarity.

Students complete a core of five classes in theory and communication methods and six elective classes in areas of their interests. The program groups together classes in areas of specialized study, though students are free to pick and choose any courses they like. We recommend classes in the emphasis areas of Social Media, User Experience, Advertising/PR, Professional Writing, and Human Resources Management. Each area prepares students for professional work in that field. A sixth field, Communication Studies, provides broader academic work to prepare students interested in going on to doctoral study. So, for example, students in Social Media gain a theoretical and historical understanding of social media as communication channels, practical training in writing in various genres relevant to social media, training in adapting to the rhetorical constraints of communication situations and purposes, and practical work in videography (an important skill for contemporary social media). Professional Writing allows students to choose between technical writing and journalism. User Experience covers usability studies, user centered design, information architecture, and an elective area such as writing for new media.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students can elect to either complete a master’s thesis or take additional coursework. Could you elaborate on both of these options, and what they entail?

[Dr. Rountree] Most students in the MA program elect the non-thesis option so they can focus on courses preparing them for professional work in communication. There is no exit examination.

Those who seek doctoral work are encouraged to write a thesis under the direction of one of our faculty, who specialize in rhetoric and law, politics, film or technology; interpersonal communication, communication and culture, and social media, utilizing either (or both) qualitative and quantitative methods. These could be rhetorical studies of speeches or other persuasive artifacts, social scientific studies of social media’s functions, surveys of those involved in romantic relationships, or other areas. Those on the thesis option use six (of 18) hours of elective credit to write a thesis over two semesters.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in UAH’s Master of Arts in Professional Communication 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. Rountree] The University has a very active Career Services unit that provides job fairs, professional development workshops, and job posting (for the rest of the alumni’s life). Many students work with faculty on research projects, usually building upon student interest from course work that yields mutual interests in faculty research. Products from such work, such as the presentation of conference papers, normally receive support from department, college, and university sources. Some work as teaching assistants. The small size of the program (about 30 students) ensures close collaboration between students and faculty.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in UAH’s Master of Arts in Professional Communication program, what advice do you have for submitting a competitive application?

[Dr. Rountree] We seek to recruit MA students who have a deep interest in communication, in either its professional applications or theoretical dimensions–or both. We prefer students who are strong in verbal skills and capable in quantitative skills. We like to see enthusiasm, curiosity, and an open mind, which make success for the student and the classes in which they enroll and participate more productive. Applicants are encouraged to identify their interests to establish their motives in seeking a graduate degree.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes The University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Master of Arts in Professional Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate option for students?

[Dr. Rountree] UAH has a stellar group of teacher-scholars who publish frequently, typically in areas they teach. For example, Drs. Rountree, Sheldon, and Gilchrist-Petty all have published important books in areas in which they teach (legal argument/Burkeian criticism, social media, and interpersonal communication, respectively). We also have a new faculty member with a background in the emerging (and lucrative) field of user experience. Graduate courses in these areas of specialization should be of particular interest to students interested in learning from leaders in the field. We are a small, close-knit department that fosters good faculty-student relationships. And all graduate faculty are talented teachers who earn very high marks from students, even though they approach teaching in ways that match their particular subject matter and personalities.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Students of master’s in communication programs often must balance coursework, teaching responsibilities, internships, 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. Rountree] Any regularly admitted student to the program should have the ability to succeed in the program. However, they may come from different lives. The key to balancing the various demands of graduate work is to ensure that your life situation and the pace of your studies are well matched. Students with full-time jobs, busy family lives, and other commitments can complete the program, but should expect to stretch out their time in the MA, taking one or two classes a term. On the other hand, students with the option to throw themselves into the program full time will find the immersion invigorating and rewarding.

Thank you, Dr. Rountree, for your excellent insight into The University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Master of Arts in Professional Communication program!