About Deepa Oommen, Ph.D.: Deepa Oommen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She did her MA in Communication Studies at Morehead State University, Kentucky, and her Ph.D. in Communication Studies at Bowling Green State University, Ohio. At the graduate level, she teaches courses such as Organizational Communication, Communication Training and Development, Communication Theory, and Quantitative Research Methods. Her research interests are in the areas of organizational and intercultural communication. She explores the influence of identities on communication in organizational and intercultural contexts.
Dr. Oommen also serves as the Graduate Studies Coordinator of the Department of Communication Studies. In that role, she communicates with prospective students, reviews applications, advises students, and serves as the liaison between the department and the Office of Graduate Studies.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program, and how it is structured? What topics are covered in the core curriculum and electives, and what are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?
[Dr. Oommen] The Master of Arts in Communication Studies is a 33-credit program with a thesis option and is intended for students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree or an academic career teaching at a four-year community or technical college. We require graduates from our MA program to demonstrate competence in academic writing, pursue scholarly activity, demonstrate knowledge of the breadth of the discipline of Communication Studies, and understand communication as a culturally situated phenomenon.
We believe strong theoretical and methodological grounding is essential for pursuing academic careers. Hence, students are required to complete core courses such as Communication Theory, Perspectives in Culture and Communication, Quantitative Research Methods and Qualitative Research Methods. Students also choose two electives to define their areas of specialization. Potential areas of specialization include communication pedagogy, intercultural communication, rhetorical criticism, and interpersonal communication.
In addition, students also take three Communication Studies and cross-disciplinary electives (out-of-department courses) with a minimum of three credits from each area. Students choose electives that complement their areas of specialization, thesis topic, or career path. The cross-disciplinary electives help students to pursue an interdisciplinary approach to the study of communication.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Minnesota State Mankato also offers a Master of Science in Communication Studies program, could you please provide an overview of this program and how it is structured? What topics are covered in the core curriculum and electives, and what are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program? Also, how do the MA and MS programs differ and what should prospective students take into consideration when deciding between the two programs?
[Dr. Oommen] The Master of Science in Communication Studies is a 36-credit program with an internship or an Alternate Plan Paper option and is intended for students who desire to pursue careers in for-profit or non-profit organizations. We believe communication is the key to individual and organizational success. Consequently, we assist our MS graduates with understanding the complexities of communication. Additionally, we help them to develop strong oral and written communication skills and expertise in analyzing and evaluating communication. Hence, we require courses such as Communication Theory, Quantitative/Qualitative methods, and four electives in the areas of Organization & Conflict and Culture & Relationship. Students are also required to take three additional Communication Studies electives and two out-of-department courses (cross-disciplinary electives) that match their professional /academic interests.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Minnesota State Mankato also offers an online version of its Master of Science in Communication Studies program. Could you please explain how this program integrates online technologies into its program, and how students interact with peers and course faculty?
[Dr. Oommen] With the exception of our research methods courses, our online classes are offered in an asynchronous format through the learning management system, D2L. Students interact with peers and instructors largely through discussion boards. Quantitative and Qualitative methods courses are offered synchronously. We have classrooms equipped with specialized technology (telepresence software) that enable online students to connect with the classroom and attend class. They are able to listen to lectures, interact in real time with their instructors and peers, and participate in discussions and other class activities from any location. Online students can pursue programs entirely online.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students of Minnesota State Mankato’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program are required to complete a master’s thesis. Could you please elaborate on the required deliverables for the thesis, and the steps students must take to complete them?
[Dr. Oommen] After completing 16 credits of coursework, students need to form a committee, comprising of an advisor and two other faculty members, who will advise them on their thesis project. Students first work closely with their advisor in developing a research proposal. Upon advisor approval, other committee members review and offer feedback. Students then conduct the study and write a thesis in consultation with their advisor. Upon advisor approval, students defend their projects before the committee. Students also present their work at a department colloquium.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Students in the Master of Science in Communication Studies program can choose between an internship paper and an alternate plan paper for their final graduation requirement. Could you please elaborate on these two options, and what they entail?
[Dr. Oommen] After completing 16 credits of coursework, students form an internship or an Alternate Plan Paper (APP) committee comprising of an advisor and another faculty member. For the internship option, students work at an organization of their choice and write a paper that applies communication theories and concepts to their work experience. The APP involves a review of literature on a topic area in Communication Studies. For the internship and the APP, the advisors and committee members work closely with the students in reviewing their work and providing feedback. The students also present their work at a department colloquium.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Minnesota State Mankato’s MA and MS in Communication Studies programs, 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 these programs?
[Dr. Oommen] Our Department provides excellent mentorship for teaching and research. On-campus graduate students, who are awarded a graduate assistantship, get the opportunity to teach general education courses. Each year, we have about 15-20 students teaching these courses. Students are mentored by the Basic Course Director (BCD), who conducts a series of online and on-campus trainings to acquaint them with the course content and help them develop their pedagogical skills. The BCD also provides feedback based on classroom observations and is available for teaching consultations. In addition, students are also paired with peer and faculty mentors who also help them develop their teaching skills.
In regards to research, students in our program have had the opportunity to collaborate with faculty members on research projects or work under their guidance in pursuing their research studies. These collaborations have helped them hone their research skills beyond the classroom.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application for Minnesota State Mankato’s MA and MS in Communication Studies programs?
[Dr. Oommen] In preparing a competitive application, the applicant should clearly articulate their professional/academic goals, why they are interested in studying communication, and why they want to pursue the program in the Department of Communication Studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Minnesota State University, Mankato’s MA and MS in Communication Studies programs unique, and particularly strong graduate degree options for students?
[Dr. Oommen] There are numerous standout aspects of Minnesota State University, Mankato’s MA and MS in Communication Studies:
- Our MA & MS programs provide a strong theoretical and methodological foundation.
- We emphasize a curriculum that focuses on understanding the complexity of communication through an application and evaluation based pedagogical approach. Such an approach enables the growth of our students as Communication scholars and practitioners.
- We provide excellent teaching mentorship and training, as part of our Graduate Assistantship program, to prepare students for careers in teaching.
- We have a significant number of assistantship positions (approximately 20) that are competitively awarded.
- Our faculty members provide students with opportunities to collaborate with them on research projects.
Thank you, Dr. Oommen, for your excellent insight into Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Master of Arts and Master of Science in Communication Studies programs!