About Dr. Daniela Dimitrova, Ph.D.: Daniela Dimitrova (Ph.D., University of Florida) is a Professor and Director of Graduate Education at the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University. Her research interests include political communication, cross-cultural journalism studies and media framing of political news events. Her recent work focuses on the impact of social media on political knowledge and civic engagement. Dimitrova’s scholarly record includes more than 50 peer-reviewed publications in leading journals such as Communication Research, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, New Media & Society, Press/ Politics, International Communication Gazette, Journalism Studies and the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.
Dimitrova has been actively involved with the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication where she served as Head of the Communication Technology (CTEC) division and is currently an elected member of the Publication Committee of AEJMC. Dimitrova is also chairing an Ad Hoc Committee on the Enhancement of Research for the organization.
[MastersinCommunications.com ] Could you please provide an overview of Iowa State University’s Master of Science in Journalism and Mass Communication program, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?
[Dr. Dimitrova] Iowa State University’s Master of Science in Journalism and Mass Communication offers a flexible curriculum with two tracks: Communication Theory and Research and Professional and Strategic Communication track. The core courses for both tracks include mass communication theory, research methods, and a current topics seminar, as well as an introductory course in graduate study in journalism and mass communication. The core classes cover the history of mass communication, as well as central methods and theories in the field, and students explore the function, structures, and effects of mass communication in different contexts. Students also learn how to design, implement, and analyze research studies in journalism and mass communication, including how to identify a problem or inquiry, form an hypothesis, design a research strategy and incorporate the correct data collection methods, and analyze and present results.
The Communication Theory and Research Track prepares students to engage in advanced communication research in areas such as science and risk communication, advertising and public relations, communication technology, communication ethics, international communication, and emerging media. Students who enroll in this track must complete a master’s thesis that is defended before a committee. The Strategic Communication Track teaches students how to advance their career in many areas within mass communication and journalism through advanced courses in media management, science and risk communication, professional communication, strategies of communication, and public relations theory and methods.
Students can choose from a variety of electives and can also add an outside specialization or a minor if they like, as even within the tracks students’ program of study is very flexible. Popular minors include marketing for professionally oriented students and statistics for research-oriented students. The goal of our program is to allow the students to craft an individualized course of study within the tracks based on their own interests and career goals. Because of its customizable nature, the program appeals to full-time students as well as working professionals.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students of Iowa State University’s Master of Science in Journalism and Mass Communication can choose between a thesis and a creative component. Could you elaborate on these two options, and what they entail?
[Dr. Dimitrova] Master’s students on the professional track produce a final project called a creative component, which may involve a series of podcasts, a multimedia website, or a strategic communication plan for an organization. Students on the theory/research track write a thesis that addresses a communication-related issue. Recent topics include effects of Augmented Reality on brand perceptions and the role of incivility in online engagement on Facebook. All students defend their creative component or thesis in front of their Program of Study committee during their last semester in the program. Most graduate students complete their degree in four semesters.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Iowa State University’s Master of Science in Journalism and Mass 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?
[Dr. Dimitrova] We pride ourselves in offering one-on-one faculty advising and mentoring of our graduate students. Faculty members regularly meet with graduate advisees to help them establish a Program of Study, complete a thesis or creative project, and discuss career plans. If students are more interested in academic careers, faculty help them develop their final papers or thesis into a manuscript for a conference or journal. Faculty also encourage grad students interested in industry jobs to actively attend the School’s career fair and local networking events.
When students first enter the program, I as the Director of Graduate Education serve as their primary advisor. In their second semester, students select an individual faculty advisor based on their research interests and academic focus.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in Iowa State University’s Master of Science in Journalism and Mass Communication program, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?
[Dr. Dimitrova] We look for a statement of purpose that describes the applicant’s objectives in pursuing the master’s degree, including their career goals and research interests. We encourage students to provide a clear and focused idea about why they want to pursue a graduate degree, and why Greenlee is the best choice for them. It helps if students visit our website ahead of time and see the areas of expertise of our faculty. We expect the applicants to demonstrate a good “fit” between their skills and professional goals and our program. Reference letters should address applicant’s educational and professional background as it relates to graduate studies in communication. Any media samples of work are helpful although not required.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Iowa State University’s Master of Science in Journalism and Mass Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Dimitrova] The M.S. program at Greenlee is known for producing excellent scholars who go on to complete their doctorates in top programs around the country and for helping rising professionals pursue successful careers in public relations, corporate communication, journalism, advertising, and integrated marketing communication. Students enjoy close relationships with faculty and have access to an energized, supportive network of alumni around the country who are always ready to connect. Many of our master’s students have engaged in research projects that they have presented at communications conferences alongside faculty and Ph.D. students. Our atmosphere is highly collegial and energetic, which I feel helps students push their boundaries to reach their academic and professional potential within our program and beyond.
Iowa State University’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication is also a highly respected institution nationwide, with both stellar undergraduate and graduate programs. The reputation of our School and the resources it provides to students go a long way in opening doors for our graduates both locally and in other states. We strike a balance between respecting the traditions of the fields of journalism and mass communication, and staying abreast of the latest developments in the field. We have a Curriculum Committee that meets regularly to discuss how different areas within journalism and mass communication have evolved, and how to incorporate these developments into the curriculum.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Students of master’s in communication programs often must balance coursework, teaching responsibilities, internships, work for those not attending full-time, and rigorous research projects. What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully navigating their graduate school experience, whether it is at Iowa State or elsewhere, and making the most of the opportunities presented to them?
[Dr. Dimitrova] Students who are successful in graduate school learn to focus and prioritize. With so many opportunities available, it can be difficult to select which ones to pursue. Those who have a clear area of interest going into the program will find it easier to streamline their research, class assignments, and work opportunities. When all these aspects of a graduate student’s life are complementary, the synergy produces better work and makes their graduate school experience more enjoyable.
Thank you, Dr. Dimitrova, for your excellent insight into Iowa State University’s Master of Science in Journalism and Mass Communication program!