About Frances Brandau, Ph.D.: Dr. Brandau earned her B.S. and M.A. in Speech Communication from the University of Southern Mississippi and her Ph.D. in Speech Communication from Louisiana State University. She joined the SHSU faculty in 2001 and has seen the campus grow and thrive.

Dr. Brandau currently serves the Department of Communication Studies as Professor and as the Graduate Director of the Master of Arts in Communication Studies. Dr. Brandau teaches a variety of classes such as Interpersonal Communication, Communication Theory, Sex and Gender, Nonverbal Communication, Visual Persuasion and many more. As the Graduate Director, she manages student recruitment and admissions, oversees the program’s online learning management system, advises students in the program, and supports faculty.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Sam Houston State University’s online Master of Arts in Communication Studies program, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program? Could you also elaborate on the Certificate in Communication Studies as well?

[Dr. Brandau] We are a fully online program. We currently offer a 36 hour Master’s degree and an 18 hour Certificate Program. Students can take anywhere between 3 and 9 hours per semester. Once the core courses are completed, students can choose from an interesting variety of electives to fill out either the degree or certificate program. If a student were to be enrolled full time each semester, he/she could complete the Master’s degree in two years or the Certificate Program in one year.

The primary goal of our program is to help our students achieve their individual professional goals, whatever they happen to be. Whether it is a desire for a promotion, to work in ministry, or teach in community colleges, we work with each student to help them craft a course of study that empowers them to achieve their goals.

The primary learning objective of our program is to ensure our students are well versed in theory. Our curriculum has an interpersonal communication focus, but we also offer courses that examine family dynamics, corporate environments, mass and social media, health communication, race and gender, conflict mediation, cultural studies, and more.

Interpersonal communication affects so many facets of our interactions that it is applicable to a wide range of professional roles and personal goals. Therefore, we use it as the foundation for all of our core coursework.

[MastersinCommunications.com] How does Sam Houston State University’s Online Master of Arts in Communication Studies program use online learning technologies to facilitate students’ engagement with course concepts and interactions with faculty and peers? Are courses mainly asynchronous, synchronous, or a combination of both?

[Dr. Brandau] We use the Blackboard platform for our courses. Exams, discussion boards, assignments, wikis, etc. can all be submitted via the Blackboard platform. In order to make sure students can use the learning platform effectively we have an outstanding group of people who run our Delta Center, which is our distance learning center. They readily support students in navigating the system and addressing problems, and support faculty with questions. We are very fortunate to have a university that is dedicated to supporting both the faculty and the students.

Our department also maintains a Graduate Student Support page with tips, advice, and links. We also have a closed Facebook page that helps students get to know the faculty in a more informal way. The goal is to build a sense of community with other students and make faculty more accessible. Our faculty are available by email, phone, and office hours to answer student questions about course material, advice on academic-focused or career-relevant issues. Everyone in our Department, from the Chair to our amazing Administrative Assistant, looks for ways to help our students if they need something, to keep them engaged, and to make sure they are registered and on track. I see our faculty and students as an academic family. I have forged some of the most rewarding relationships of my life at SHSU and I am happy to add to that academic family with each new student.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students must take and pass a comprehensive examination. Could you elaborate on the exam, and what it entails?

[Dr. Brandau] Once a student has completed 27 hours he/she is eligible to sit for the comprehensive exam. The comprehensive exam is an 8 hour exam. It can be taken on campus or remotely at a Department approved testing center. As it can be rather stressful, most students split the exam into two sessions. We encourage students to contact their faculty for study advice. Connecting with their professors is important because this gives students individualized study advice and ensures each exam is uniquely structured for each student and his/her academic path.

In order to pass, students are expected to demonstrate a strong understanding of and competency in key communication theories (both classical theory and contemporary theory), research methods and statistical procedures in communication, and the subject matter of their elective coursework.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Sam Houston State University’s Online Master of Arts in Communication Studies program? Independent of faculty instruction and support, what career development resources and academic services are available to students, and how can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems while in the program?

[Dr. Brandau] As Graduate Director, I am available to answer student questions. However it should be noted that as a small department, all of the faculty are available to help students. We are willing to answer students’ questions, advise them in their coursework, write them recommendations, or help them network at professional conventions. Our goal is to make sure they feel supported and part of the academic community. As a close-knit department, it is easy to support students as a team, as we know the kinds of questions certain students are asking, where students need support the most, etc.

In terms of academic support, Sam Houston State University does an outstanding job of making sure there are many different resources at their students’ fingertips. We have an award winning undergraduate and graduate Writing Center, where local students can come to campus to workshop their papers, and out-of-state students can set up remote tutoring sessions. The Career Services Department works to provide information on job postings, internships, and job fairs, as well as for general resume and cover letter editing, mock interviews and other interview preparation. Sam Houston State University is a student-focused university and we, across the board, try to do things that offer students as much support as we can.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in Sam Houston State University’s Online Master of Arts in Communication Studies program, what advice do you have for submitting a competitive application?

[Dr. Brandau] Make sure you check our website for application due dates. Those deadlines are for priority review as admissions are rolling and we accept students for as long as we have spaces within our semester cohort. A completed application requires the completion of a personal statement, official transcripts of all college-level coursework, GRE or Miller’s Analogy (this requirement can be waived for students holding a master’s degree in another field), and three recommendations from people who can speak to their readiness for rigorous graduate-level study. Applications are evaluated against a rubric of the required items. Applicants are competitively admitted into the program. We also encourage our students to seek out financial aid and scholarships from the university, the college, and the graduate school.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Sam Houston State University’s Online Master of Arts in Communication Studies program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?

[Dr. Brandau] Our faculty members, both individually and as a team, are what make our program an excellent choice for students. They have won multiple awards for teaching and research. In addition, the combination of senior and junior faculty members makes our faculty well rounded. SHSU is a great place to work and our department reflects that. The department has a positive energy, a strong understanding of our program’s mission, and the mission statement of the university. We are committed to improving our program and our students’ experiences.

We give students a strong, holistic, and flexible set of skills and a toolbox of theories that they can apply across a variety of contexts, whether it’s interpersonal, organizational, health, persuasion, marriage, family, intercultural, or small group dynamics. And these skills empower and serve students for a lifetime as they advance their careers.

2018 Sam Houston State University Department of Communication Studies Photo

Sam Houston State University Department of Communication Studies Photo from 2018

Thank you, Dr. Brandau, for your excellent insight into Sam Houston State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program!