Note: In May 2018, we interviewed Dr. Hsin-I Sydney Yueh, Director of Northeastern State University's Master of Arts in Communication Program. Because NSU does not currently offer an M.A in Communication, this interview has been archived for historical purposes.

About Hsin-I Sydney Yueh, Ph.D.: Hsin-I Sydney Yueh is the Director of the Master of Arts in Communication program at Northeastern State University (NSU), where she is also an Associate Professor specializing in intercultural communication, minority studies, and language and social interaction. Dr. Yueh oversees graduate student applications and enrollment, advises students’ plans of study and thesis options, and manages the graduate teaching assistantship program. Dr. Yueh teaches many different courses at NSU, including Intercultural Communication, Advanced Intercultural Communication, Communication Theory, and Persuasion. She also teaches graduate seminars in Ethnographic Method, Digital Narrative, and Communication and Social Change. Dr. Yueh earned her Ph.D. in Communication Studies at The University of Iowa, her M.A. in East Asian Studies at The University of Pittsburgh, and her B.A. in Foreign Languages and Literatures at National Taiwan University.

Interview Questions

[] Could you please provide an overview of Northeastern State University’s Master of Arts in Communication, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?

[Dr. Yueh] We serve people who want to pursue a quality and affordable advanced communication degree in the northeastern region of Oklahoma and nearby states. We customize individual students’ plan of study to match their academic and career goals.

Students earn the Master’s degree by completing 36 credits (12 courses). There are only two core courses that every student is required to take: Introduction to Graduate Study, and Research Design. The Intro course prepares students with an overview of academic and professional career expectations. The Research Design course equips students with a wide variety of methodologies needed for communication research.

In total, 9 credits (3 courses) are required from Communication Studies, and 9 credits (3 courses) are required from Media Studies. Students can combine a variety of elective courses for the remaining 12 credits (4 courses) based on their interests, with the Graduate Director’s approval. Courses in Communication Studies are more theory-based, and courses in Media Studies are more practice-based. Featured courses include, but are not limited to, Advanced Intercultural Communication, Alternative Media, Media and Feminist Criticism, Public Relations Campaigns, and Crisis Communication. Courses outside of the Department, such as in English, American Studies, and Education are often taken by students as supplemental to their degree plan.

The Master of Arts in Communication program is designed to provide an interdisciplinary approach to communication theories and practices. Students use the degree to pursue doctoral degrees or launch professional communication careers in a variety of organizations. They succeed in the television industry, public relations, marketing, education, and non-profit organizations.

[] For their final graduation requirement, students can choose between a master’s thesis and a comprehensive examination. Could you elaborate on the thesis, its required deliverables, and the general timeline students follow from conception to completion of their project? Could you also explain the comprehensive examination, its required components, and how students can prepare for it?

[Dr. Yueh] After completing their first year of courses, students are required to meet the Graduate Director to file their candidacy application. This is the time they determine whether they want to take the written comprehensive exam or write a thesis and have an oral defense for graduation.

The non-thesis option requires students to take the comprehensive exam in the last semester of their study. The exam takes place during the midterm, and the students choose six graduate courses they have taken to be included in the exam. At the beginning of the semester, students should contact the instructors of these courses for their study guide for the comprehensive exam. The instructors of each course offer the study guide to the students and write an essay question for the Graduate Director to review. The total time for the comprehensive exam is six hours (one question per hour), and the exam can be taken in two days. The questions will be given on the exam dates, and the students will answer the questions by typing their answers in a quiet room without any notes. They have to pass all six questions to earn the degree. However, make-up exams are possible if the students do not pass some questions the first time.

The thesis option requires students to work with a faculty member and complete six thesis hours. In the last semester, students defend and pass their thesis in front of a thesis committee. The thesis option allows students to work closely with a faculty member and craft the research skills for advanced study. It usually takes one year to complete a thesis. A student should explore possible topics and approach a potential faculty advisor after deciding to write a thesis. The faculty advisor recommends an additional two committee members, and the committee approves the student’s thesis proposal. After the student completes the thesis, the thesis advisor will call for a thesis defense presentation. The student is eligible for graduation after passing the thesis oral exam.

Our graduates who submitted a thesis show a variety of topics, including critical communication pedagogies, intercultural communication education for missionaries, classroom communication between female faculty members and students, to name a few.

[] What role does faculty mentorship play in Northeastern State University’s Master of Arts in 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. Yueh] We have about 20 graduate students, and our class size is between 8 to 15 people. The small program allows us to provide personal mentorship and help them succeed in the program and after graduation. In addition, we offer six graduate teaching assistantships for students to teach fundamental communication courses, manage communication laboratory, and assist NSU’s forensic team. The assistantship contains a tuition waiver and a monthly stipend. Regular workshops and faculty presentations are also held to help students improve their teaching and interact with faculty members.

The Graduate College at NSU plays an important role in sponsoring academic services. Extra tuition waiver scholarships are available. Competitive travel funds sponsor graduate students to attend academic conferences, and it increases the number of our students to attend regional conferences to present their papers. The NSU Career Services Center and Alumni Association provide career development resources by regularly hosting job fairs and networking students with alumni. In addition, we also help students find careers through our personal network.

[] For students interested in Northeastern State University’s Master of Arts in Communication program, what advice do you have for submitting a competitive application?

[Dr. Yueh] I highly recommend that applicants make a phone or face-to-face appointment with the Graduate Director or a faculty member to understand the program before submitting their application.

The best advice I can give is to write an excellent personal statement. As an interdisciplinary program, we consider applicants who do not have a bachelor’s degree in communication or media studies. A statement of purpose that clearly addresses applicants’ interests and goals that fit our program is crucial for us to make a decision. We want to know why you want to join our program, your plan to study, and your career goals. We also want to know your academic background and your decision to further your study in communication. A description with sufficient information will help us determine if we can offer what you need to succeed.

[] What makes Northeastern State University’s Master of Arts in Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?

[Dr. Yueh] Tahlequah, where our main campus is located, is the capital of Cherokee Nation. Another campus is in Broken Arrow, which is close to the metropolitan Tulsa area. Our students enjoy the diverse campus environment and the rich Native American cultural heritage. As a regional university, NSU offers quality and affordable advanced degrees in our neighborhood and nearby states. The biggest selling point for our program is its flexibility. Although the program is not completely online, students do have options to take online courses, hybrid courses, and distant learning courses to make their course schedule more flexible. For example, Introduction to Graduate Study, one of the required courses, is currently offered semi-online. Students complete 70% of their coursework online, and meet 5 times a semester. The Advanced Intercultural Communication course has been taught synchronously both in Tahlequah and Broken Arrow through virtual conferencing devices. Students can choose to attend either classroom at their convenience. Other online courses include Social Media Activism, Digital Narrative, and Crisis Communication, etc. Summer courses are offered in the 4-week or 8-week format. Instructors design their virtual classroom based on their own preferences and teaching objectives.

Our graduates end up in governmental, corporate, and non-profit positions in media production, business management, and education. Many of our graduates become instructors at the community college level, or continue moving on into doctoral work and academic positions. They have strong connections with their local communities and we strive to help our students reach whatever they want to do in the communication field.

[] Students of master’s in communication programs often must balance work, internships, coursework, and rigorous research projects. What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully navigating their graduate school experience, and making the most of the opportunities presented to them?

[Dr. Yueh] We have an increasing number of non-traditional students enrolled in our program. They must balance work, coursework, and family duties. To facilitate this specific group, our program starts offering courses online or with remote learning tools. With these accommodations, I highly recommend that students manage their time wisely. Set up study time in a weekly schedule and stick to it. Work closely with the professors and do not hesitate to inform the instructors of any difficulties in coursework. Present their best works with creativity and passion. I believe that the students will make the most of the opportunities presented to them.

Thank you, Dr. Yueh, for your excellent insight into Northeastern State University’s Master of Arts in Communication program!