About Frances Smith, Ph.D.: Frances Smith is the Graduate Director for the Department of Organizational Communication at Murray State University. As Director, Dr. Smith contributes to the vision of the graduate program and advises each of the graduate students regarding their individual plans for success. Communication is the foundation of every organization in which we participate. Therefore, learning about communication and increasing a student’s skills as a communicator puts them in a position to be more successful both personally and professionally. Dr. Smith researches areas of identity and organizational crisis, and teaches classes such as Crisis Communication, Advanced Team Communication and Leadership, Communication Technology in Organizations, and Communication in Instructional Environments.
She earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in Organizational Communication from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN (2000). At Murray State University, she earned an M.S. in Organizational Communication (2003) followed by a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Missouri (2008).
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Murray State University’s Master’s in Organizational Communication program, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?
[Dr. Smith] Our M.A./M.S program in Org Com is designed to provide flexibility and convenience for students (both traditional and non-traditional) to excel in their desire to advance their education and/or career through a mastery of communication knowledge. Our program provides students the flexibility to study any organizational communication topic of interest to them through a small core requirement and many elective options both inside and outside our department. This framework allows students to maximize their degree by enriching their education through classes most applicable to their specific field of interest.
Communication is the heartbeat of every organization. By increasing understanding and skill in the area of organizational communication, students position themselves to take on challenges and lead their organizations to greater heights. Classes within Organizational Communication include topics such as interpersonal communication at work, organizational change, health communication, communication apprehension in the workplace, leadership, communication ethics, positive communication, and work/family communication. In the M.A., students are required to complete 33 hours of course work, complete comprehensive exams, and write a thesis. In the M.S., students complete 30 hours of course work and complete comprehensive exams. The main difference between the two degrees are the specific thesis classes (Readings and Thesis) and the thesis project. All classes required to complete either degree are available online or face-to-face, so students are able to choose the format that fits their scheduling needs.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Murray State University’s Master’s in Organizational Communication program gives students the option of completing all or part of their program online. Could you please describe the online program and the hybrid program options, and how students who take online classes interact with faculty and peers? How do the online and the campus-based programs differ?
[Dr. Smith] The Murray State University Organizational Communication graduate faculty want to see each student achieve their full potential. Therefore it is our desire that whether a student is face-to-face or attending class virtually, their overall experience will be as similar as possible. The faculty understand that communicating with students is a key to learning. Therefore, whether students are online or face-to-face, faculty are available to help students throughout their degree process. All required classes and many electives are offered both face-to-face and online so that students can complete the program by taking classes in either or both formats.
Online students have access to instructors through Canvas, Murray State University’s Learning Management System, or via email, phone, or other means of communication. Online classes vary in their requirements and interaction depending on the instructor and course. Some online classes may require synchronous meetings via technology. Face-to-face classes are designed for students seeking to advance their current careers, so classes are offered in the evenings, usually meeting once a week for 3 hours per meeting. Online and face-to-face classes typically meet for full semesters in the fall and spring. Summer classes vary and are limited. Occasionally for certain students who have an interest in a specialized topic, independent study classes will be offered.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, all students must complete a comprehensive examination, while students of the Master of Arts program must also complete a thesis. Could you elaborate on the components of the comprehensive examination, as well as the thesis and what it entails?
[Dr. Smith] As a demonstration of their mastery of organizational communication, students complete a comprehensive exam, usually in their last semester of coursework. It is the goal of the comprehensive exams to ensure students gain an overall understanding of the field of organizational communication, and therefore our department takes several steps to ensure students complete the exams in a comfortable and relaxed environment. Students prepare for this exam throughout their courses by keeping and reviewing course information each semester and ultimately compiling that information to prepare for the comprehensive exam process. During the exam, students work with a faculty committee. The comprehensive exam process is both a written and oral exam.
Students who wish to complete an independent research thesis for the purposes of their future goals may choose to take the thesis-track. Thesis students work with an advisor and a faculty committee to develop a research project. The student works through the process of research development, data collection, and analysis to complete a final thesis paper. The paper is read by their faculty committee and defended in a thesis meeting. Thesis students must complete the same comprehensive exam process as non-thesis students.
Face-to-face and online students have the same requirements, but students who cannot be physically present can fulfill requirements using technology for meetings.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Murray State University’s Master’s in Organizational 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 opportunities?
[Dr. Smith] Our faculty want to see students succeed and reach their goals. Faculty enjoy a good relationship with students, often mentoring them in research projects and other opportunities. Students can count on faculty for advice regarding their next steps, whether that next step involves a new role in their organization or furthering their graduate education with a terminal degree. Murray State University also has a strong alumni association and career services department that helps students move into their next role after graduation.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in Murray State University’s Master’s in Organizational Communication program, what advice do you have for submitting a competitive application?
[Dr. Smith] Students who wish to apply for the graduate program in Organizational Communication should meet the requirements for graduate admissions at Murray State University. Additionally, the Organizational Communication Department requires an undergraduate degree in communication or a related area with a 3.0 GPA for unconditional admission and 2.5 GPA for conditional admission. International students seeking admission and for whom English is a second language should have also met minimum requirements on language tests such as the TOEFL as outlined in the admission criteria. Organizational Communication requires a significant amount of oral and written work, so proficiency in those areas is necessary.
Our program encourages diversity among our applicants and we appreciate students with a wide variety of experiences taking our classes. Students who demonstrate a commitment to their education and broadening their understanding of communication are ideal applicants.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Murray State University’s Master’s in Organizational Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Smith] The graduate program in Organizational Communication at Murray State University prepares students to advance in their careers and pursue new opportunities. Students in our graduate program gain increased communication knowledge and skills in areas such as conflict resolution, persuasion, organizational change, crisis communication, interpersonal communication, health communication, and leadership. Students enjoy interaction with faculty through classes, research participation, service-learning opportunities, and internships. Our flexible program allows students anywhere in the world to participate with us and complete our degree in a way that meets their scheduling needs. Alumni of our program have gone on to lead their organizations in a variety of industries as well as pursue further graduate education and become leading researchers and teachers in their field.
Thank you, Dr. Smith, for your excellent insight into Murray State University’s Master’s in Organizational Communication program!