About Dr. Jonathan H. Amsbary, Ph.D.: Jonathan H. Amsbary is the Graduate Program Director for the Department of Communication Studies at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where he also teaches courses in health communication, organizational communication, persuasion, and culture and communication.

Jonathan H. Amsbary earned his B.A. (1978) at the University of New Mexico, and his M.A. (1980) and Ph.D. (1986) at Indiana University. He has worked at UAB for over 30 years. Prior to his role at UAB, he has taught at the University of Mexico, Indiana University, The University of Hawaii, and North Dakota State University. He teaching interests are in Health, small group and organizational communication. His research is mainly in these area with recent work in popular culture and online communities.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Master of Arts in Communication Management program, and how it is structured? What topics are covered in the core curriculum, and do students have any elective or concentration options within the program?

[Dr. Amsbary] The program at UAB is primarily designed for students who wish to continue their education to further their career needs. We do, however, have an exceptionally strong research faculty and do send a small number of our students on to continue their studies and earn a Ph.D. Those students are often encouraged to take the thesis option. All students will take 30 hours from the general curriculum, thesis students then take an additional 6 hours of thesis credit. Non-thesis students may take 6 additional course hours, or do a directed study. All students must complete 36 hours with a B or higher, non-thesis students must take a comprehensive exam. There are no actual required classes or core. Most of our classes focus on theory and research, specifically traditional communication studies issues like persuasion, organizational communication or instructional communication.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please elaborate on the comprehensive examination requirement for UAB’s Master of Arts in Communication Management, and how each student’s advisory committee develops this exam?

[Dr. Amsbary] The student is allowed to choose the three members of their advisory committee from any member of the department’s graduate faculty that they have had at least one class from. The Chair arranges the comprehensive exam with the other committee members and administers it to the student in the form of a take-home exam. The answers are then distributed back to the committee members who then either pass the answer as is, or may ask for additional work. It is the Chair’s job to prep the student for the exam.

The exams questions are typically designed for each student and their program of study. Most of the questions will refer back to one or more issues that they were exposed to in class. Each professor evaluates his or her question on a pass/fail basis.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Students in your program have a choice of either completing a master’s thesis or an applied project, could you please elaborate on the specifics of these two options?

[Dr. Amsbary] The non-thesis option is taken by most students and requires 36 hours of course work. Non-thesis students are required to take a comprehensive exam. The thesis option is 30 class hours and 6 thesis hours. The student must have a member of the committee from outside the department and an oral defense of their thesis and program of study. A thesis must be a research project done by the student, who typically gathers data using human subjects. Though most theses are guided by the advisor and committee, the actual topic and methods will be consistent with the individual student’s plan of study. Theses have been written covering a variety of topics. Health issues are often popular because of the UAB’s outstanding health programs.

Non-thesis students will take their exams in their penultimate semester, while most theses will span the last two semesters of the students’ program. The process for writing the thesis follows a traditional model of first working with his or her advisor to come up with a topic and methodology, then gathering the committee to present the proposal. Once approved the student then submits an application to the school’s Internal Review Board (if they are using human subjects). After approval has been attained, they collect their data, write up their thesis under the guidance of their advisor, and then finally present the finished work to their committee for approval and oral defense.

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

[Dr. Amsbary] Every student starts with the Graduate Director as their advisor. Within a semester or two they typically move to another graduate faculty member who is working in an area that they are interested in. The advisor helps the student navigate the various requirements and deadlines, but it is ultimately up to the students to make sure they make progress towards their degree in a timely manner. While both thesis and non-thesis students receive the support of their advisors and committee, students typically spend more time with their advisors while going through the research process.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for students who are interested in your program, in terms of submitting an optimal application? What is the typical academic background of students who pursue a master’s in communication management at UAB?

[Dr. Amsbary] My first piece of advice I would give is remind the potential applicant to look over the courses we offer to be sure this is the type of program they are looking for. Second I would strongly recommend that they get good letters of recommendation that speak directly to their academic potential (i.e. a professor or teacher who knows their academic potential). Third, take some time with the essay so that we have confidence that this is the program that will give you what you want.

Most of our professional students come from a variety of communication related professions, like public relations, human resources, or journalism. However, many come from a variety of fields as communication issues come up in most professions. We have no particular “ideal” student, but experience with research and writing is desired.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes UAB’s Master of Arts in Communication Management unique, and a strong graduate degree option for students? How does the program prepare students particularly well for careers in communication research and instruction, corporate communication, etc.?

[Dr. Amsbary] When the program was developed, it was one of the few that specifically catered to working students. All of our classes are offered in the evenings and sometimes on weekends to accommodate working students. Those students wishing to go on for their Ph.D.’s and remain in academia will find a faculty ready and able to help mentor them on a one-to-one basis. Our faculty consists of many of the top prolific scholars in our field, and our students who do take the academic track do very well.

Regarding career development, we do allow (not require) our students to take up to 6 hours of internship credit. Most of our students, however, are already on career tracks and do not need much in the way of career support. Our faculty’s research interests are quite varied so those students wishing to move on with their education will receive a strong academic foundation for their future research. We currently have some of the top scholars in the areas of nonverbal communication, deception, political communication and interpersonal communication.

Thank you, Dr. Amsbary, for your insight into The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Master of Arts in Communication Management program!