About Fred Vultee, Ph.D.: Fred Vultee is the Graduate Director for the Department of Communication at Wayne State University, where he also teaches content analysis, political communication, and the introductory graduate seminar as an Associate Professor. As Director, Dr. Vultee coordinates doctoral admissions and evaluations, graduate assistantships, and program assessments. He also consults on master’s admissions and graduate course scheduling, and chairs the graduate committee within the Department.
Dr. Vultee earned his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Radio, Television, and Film in 1977 from the University of North Carolina, and his Master of Arts in Journalism in 2004 from the University of Missouri. He earned his Ph.D. in Journalism from the University of Missouri in 2007. Prior to entering graduate school, Dr. Vultee worked as a journalist for 25 years. His current research specialization is media framing, particularly the construction of security. He also studies ethics and news practice.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Wayne State University’s Master of Arts in Communication 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. Vultee] Our MA programs in communication all require coursework in communication theory and research methods, along with an introduction to graduate study in communication. Working with their advisers, students build on those requirements and their sequence requirements to create individual programs.
We expect students to be able to understand how theory and research work in general, and specifically how they inform the understanding of a student’s chosen field. Crisis communication is a popular elective in public relations because of its practical, on-the-ground skills, but students get those skills in a context that lets them put academic research in risk and crisis to work for them. Students in media arts are exposed to media theories, but they can do that while working with great documentarians. Another key outcome is for students to produce their own work–professional, creative or scholarly–and learn how to present it effectively. That’s just as important if your goal is a film festival as it is if your goal is the job talk on your way to a faculty position.
The required and elective courses work together to make the programs distinctive. A journalism MA focusing on broadcast will have some overlap with the MA in media arts, for good reasons. But it’s also distinguished by core coursework covering media law and the role of diversity in the newsroom, and it’s also going to offer exposure to investigative reporting as a discipline.
The dispute resolution program is the exception; it has a very tightly focused set of courses that cover the range of dispute resolution activities, from the family level to the international level. It also has more overlap with other departments or schools on campus, and like all of our MA programs, it has opportunities for community involvement. Our MA students in dispute resolution are formally trained as mediators and get 20 hours of experience in a community mediation center; many times, they stay on as volunteers at those centers after their practicum experience ends. They are also involved in presenting workshops and other sessions to the public.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Depending on their chosen emphasis in the program, students of Wayne State University’s Master of Arts in Communication can choose between completing a master’s thesis, a master’s essay, or additional coursework for their final graduation requirement. Could you please elaborate on these three options, and what they entail?
[Dr. Vultee] The thesis option is the most likely choice for students whose goal is doctoral study. Students choosing this option will work with a thesis adviser and another faculty member to craft a thesis proposal, then design and execute the thesis. The essay option is more like an extended professional project, though it also involves making an original contribution to the field of study. The essay requires a second reader but not the closer consultation of the thesis, and it’s usually shorter than the thesis. The classwork option, often including an internship, is often a good fit for students whose immediate goal is the professional workplace. About two-thirds of our students choose that option.
Students have completed internships with the Big 3 automakers, with Detroit professional sports teams, with a number of news organizations and PR agencies, and with the WSU Press, to name some. They produce a management analysis of the organization they work for. Students in service learning courses have also worked with nonprofit organizations on addressing their communication needs.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Wayne State University’s Master of Arts in Communication, 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 this program?
[Dr. Vultee] Students usually work with the MA program director or the graduate academic adviser as an initial adviser. In the first year of the program, they have a lot of chances to work with faculty from various academic or professional specialties, and that’s often an opportunity to find a closer advising fit, especially for students planning a thesis or a creative essay. Mentoring relationships often come about through classwork or involvement with research teams or student chapters of organizations like PRSSA. Whatever their concentration, students have a chance to work with faculty who have strong ties with media and community organizations, and those can provide great career development opportunities.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application for Wayne State University’s Master of Arts in Communication program?
[Dr. Vultee] We place a lot of weight on the statement of purpose and on the writing sample. If your undergraduate GPA looks deficient (and that’s true for many of us), your statement is the chance to put it into the context of your professional experience, the life skills that you could bring to the program, or your demonstrated ability to address the challenges of a graduate program. We work with students during the process if we see an area that they can address to make an application stronger, and we can have a similar conversation about an application that’s been rejected.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Wayne State University’s Master of Arts in Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Vultee] One thing students have told me is that we’re well balanced. We don’t enforce a rigid distinction between the research faculty and the teaching faculty; if we teach doctoral students one day, the odds are we’re teaching undergraduate students the next day. If you’re interested in the role of message effects in health communication, that means you’ll be working with people who produce new knowledge as well as people who teach it.
We’re also very proud of our connections to the community–not just the many professional communities in the area, though those ties are important, but also to the city and the metro area. Detroit’s cultural heritage is important to the department’s creative side, but this is also an important place to watch emerging fields of study like sustainability and familiar ones like the evolution of media practice.
Thank you, Dr. Vultee, for your insight into Wayne State University’s Master of Arts in Communication program!