Judith Hendry is the Program Director for the Master of Arts in Communication program at The University of New Mexico (UNM). As Program Director, Dr. Hendry oversees the graduate student selection process and directs the selection committee. She is responsible for recruitment and is the go-to person for students interested in the program. She serves as the academic advisor for new masters students before they choose their permanent faculty advisor, and organizes and directs the orientation for all new MA students and TAs. Dr. Hendry closely monitors the masters course curriculum to ensure students can get the courses they need to complete their program in a timely manner, and administers the outcome assessment of the program.

In addition to her responsibilities as Program Director, Dr. Hendry also teaches courses including 501: Foundations of Research Methods (required methods course for all masters students), 400: Senior Seminar (required for all graduating Seniors), 339: Rhetoric and the Environment, and 337: Rhetorical Theory. In 2005, she received recognition from the Student Choice Awards as one of the top three professors at UNM.

Dr. Hendry earned her Bachelor of Arts in Speech from South Dakota State University, her Master of Arts in Communication Studies from California State University, Los Angeles, and her PhD in Human Communication Studies from the University of Denver. Her research interests are focused primarily on the area of Environmental Communication through the lens of rhetorical perspectives, and she has investigated the role of communication in environmental decision-making, public discourse on issues such as nuclear legacy and global warming, and the rhetoric of sustainability. Speaking of her field, Dr. Hendry noted, “Communication has always been my direction and passion. I firmly believe that it is one of the most, if not the most, relevant, timely, interesting, and valuable degrees at the University.”

Interview Questions

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

[Dr. Hendry] The Department of Communication and Journalism at The University of New Mexico enjoys a national reputation for providing a well-rounded graduate program leading to the M.A. degree. We generally accept 6 masters students per year and fund these students with teaching assistantships and tuition remission or in-state tuition fee waivers. Funding is for two years which is the time it takes to complete the degree (although some take longer). Typically, about 60 students are enrolled in the program at any one time (Masters and Doctoral combined). This provides a program large enough to have a variety of communication interests, but small enough to receive individual attention. We have 4 to 1 ratio of graduate students to faculty and our average seminar size is 10 to 15 students. Many M.A. graduates enter professions in business, mass media, research, education, and other fields while some M.A. graduates enter doctoral programs.

Our masters students do not actually choose a concentration (unlike our PhD students who choose from one of three concentrations: Inter/cultural Communication; Culture and Mass Communication; and Culture and Health Communication). One of the advantages of not having set areas of concentration is that this allows the students the flexibility to design a program that best fits their needs. Students are also encouraged (and in fact, required) to take some graduate-level classes from outside the department in order to craft a program that meets their interests and goals.

We have admitted many students who do not have an undergraduate degree in Communication. In that case, students are not required to take extra catch-up coursework, but they are asked to complete a summer reading list and all students are required to take a basic research methods course and research theory course in their first semester.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students can choose between a thesis, a comprehensive exam, and a project. Could you elaborate on these three options, and what they entail?

[Dr. Hendry] Students select their faculty advisor and 3-person faculty committee early in the program. The faculty advisor oversees the student’s program of study and directs his or her thesis/project or comprehensive exams.

With the direction of the student’s faculty advisor, students may choose one of three paths toward earning their degree. The first option is the thesis which is an original research project that includes a discussion of the research question(s); an extensive literature review; a detailed explanation of methods and procedures; and the results and conclusion. This is the recommended choice for those who are considering going on for a PhD.

The project option is very much like the thesis, except that the focus is more on applied communication. For example, a student might be interested in putting together a diversity-training seminar for small businesses. In that case, it would still involve a great deal of research and a comprehensive summary of the available literature, but the end product will be less geared toward publishing in an academic journal than a thesis is, and more geared toward a useable and applicable product in the workplace, school, NGO, or wherever the applied setting might be.

The third option available is the comprehensive exams. Students will choose three faculty members to write their questions for them—one question covering research methods, one covering theory, and one in their specific topic of interest. For the fourth question, students choose a question from among any of the above three areas. Students work closely with their Comps committee members so that there are no surprises on the days the student actually writes the exam. The comprehensive exam option requires 36 hours of coursework (as opposed to 30 credits of coursework plus 6 thesis/project credits if you choose a thesis or project option.)

All three options require an oral defense.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in The University of New Mexico’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 mentorship opportunities and support systems while in the program?

[Dr. Hendry] Faculty mentorship plays an important role in our program. Graduates have ample opportunities to work with the faculty on research projects to gain valuable experience. Additionally, the faculty advisors work closely with students to design programs of study to meet their needs. We are committed to excellence in teaching and mentoring of graduate students, and to fostering a sense of inclusiveness, diversity, and community.

We pair each new graduate student with a graduate-student buddy to help the student navigate the system and serve as a resource for information on classes, faculty, procedures and so forth. In addition, we have an active CommGrads organization that works to create a sense of community and involvement among grad students and faculty. CommGrads plans social events, organizes research colloquiums, and takes on many other responsibilities for the department.

The department also has strong institutional ties with cross-disciplinary graduate programs in public health, Latin American Studies, Women’s Studies, and UNM’s Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media program, and offers a political media internship in Washington, D.C.

With regards to professional support, we offer extensive teacher training for our incoming teaching assistants The university also offers programs to advance teaching skills through its Center for Teaching and Learning where students can earn a teaching certificate, a good resume builder. In addition we have regular colloquium sessions to foster connections with faculty and other universities, and to encourage research.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in The University of New Mexico’s Master of Arts in Communication program, what advice do you have for submitting a competitive application?

[Dr. Hendry] There are a number of things we look at to determine whom we invite into the program (GRE, GPA, letters of recommendation, resume, and so forth), but probably the most important document for the applicant is the letter of intent. It is important for students to tell us what special interests they have and how they plan to use the degree. When making our acceptance decisions, we ask ourselves whether or not our program is a good fit to meet this prospective student’s research and career interests, and whether or not we have the requisite faculty expertise to accommodate the student’s interests.

We also use the letter of intent to judge writing ability. A well-written letter that displays the student’s personality and creativity will keep us reading.

Similarly important are the letters of recommendation. It is best if these letters can address the prospective student’s academic abilities, but letters from work or professional connections are also acceptable. We are looking to see if this student has the academic capabilities, the drive and determination, and the self-motivation to succeed in graduate school based on the recommenders’ comments.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes The University of New Mexico’s Master of Arts in Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?

[Dr. Hendry] There are many reasons to choose the masters program at The University of New Mexico. Here are a few:

On National Communication Association surveys, our program consistently ranks among the very top in the nation, especially in inter/cultural communication.

Our generalized, broad-based program allows the student the flexibility to design their program to meet their specific needs. Students can choose to focus their coursework and writing in areas including inter/cultural communication, critical-cultural studies, environmental communication, culture and mass communication, culture and health communication, interpersonal communication, and organizational communication, or even something else that the student and the student’s advisor agree upon.

As mentioned previously, our department also has strong cross-disciplinary ties to graduate programs in public health, Women’s Studies, Latin American Studies, and the Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media program. Our political media internship in Washington, D.C. is also a stellar opportunity for students to apply their knowledge and skills to real projects for clients.

We have a collegial department with an excellent faculty who rank among the top in communication research and publication. Students have ample opportunity to work with faculty members on projects to gain valuable experience.

We have excellent masters students from around the country and the world who work together and encourage each other, and we take pride in our diversity and encourage the sharing of multiple perspectives and viewpoints.

We are able to assist our graduate students with financial needs. We offer teaching assistantships for M.A. students which include a stipend, tuition remission or a waiver of out-or-state tuition fees, and health insurance.

The City of Albuquerque and the state of New Mexico offer a number of unique advantages. New Mexico is a multicultural state (one of only two states in the U.S. with ethnic pluralities—Hawaii is the other) and the opportunity to study inter/cultural communication in the field is limitless. Additionally, Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico and thus there are a number of health organizations, television and radio stations, and businesses to access. And, the locale is wonderful! We have more than 340 days of sunshine, mild winters, miles of recreational trails in the city, mountains within minutes, and the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see.

[MastersinCommunications.com] 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. Hendry] Graduate school can be very stressful, but it can also be the best time of a student’s life. The friendships made in graduate school are some of the strongest ties ever made because students and colleagues are sharing classes and seminars, papers and projects, frustrations and faculty, social events and new experiences, and the list goes on. The important thing is to get involved with the department and university activities, and make connections with faculty and fellow graduate students. And another piece of advice for prospective graduate students: don’t be afraid to ask your professor for help and guidance. It’s amazing how supportive and helpful they can be.

Thank you, Dr. Hendry, for your excellent insight into The University of New Mexico’s Master of Arts in Communication program!