About Karrin Vasby Anderson, Ph.D.: Karrin Vasby Anderson is the Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Communication Studies at Colorado State University, where she also teaches courses as a Professor. As Director, Dr. Anderson oversees recruitment and admissions, supports and advises students, and manages curriculum development in collaboration with faculty and fellow administrators. Her research foci include how culture, communication, and politics intersect, and how popular media helps construct individual and mass political identity. She has coauthored two books based on her research: Governing Codes: Gender, Metaphor, and Political Identity and Woman President: Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture. Her edited volume, Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics: From “Bitch” to “Badass” and Beyond is in press with Peter Lang Publishers. She has also published widely in journals such as the White House Studies, Women’s Studies in Communication, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Rhetoric & Public Affairs, and the Quarterly Journal of Speech.
In addition to her academic responsibilities at Colorado State University, Dr. Anderson is a political communication expert consultant who works with local, national, and global media outlets. She is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Communication Association’s James A. Winans, the Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address, and the Outstanding Mentor in Master’s Education Award from the NCA’s Master’s Education Section. She also received the Organization for Research on Women and Communication’s Feminist Scholarship Award, the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women in Politics, the Michael Pfau Outstanding Article Award in Political Communication from NCA’s Political Communication Division, and the Outstanding Book Award from the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender.
Dr. Anderson earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the Metropolitan State College of Denver in 1993, and her Master of Arts in Communication from Colorado State University in 1995. She received her Ph.D. in Communication from Indiana University in 1998.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Colorado State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program, and how it is structured? What topics are covered in the core curriculum, and what are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?
[Dr. Anderson] The Colorado State University Master of Arts in Communication Studies is a two-year generalist master’s program with three areas of specialization: Rhetoric and Civic Engagement, Relational and Organizational Communication, and Media and Visual Culture. Students take five core courses that include the introductory theory course in each area of specialization, along with two introductory research methods classes: rhetorical criticism and communication research methods. The rest of a student’s program of study is comprised of elective courses. Students may focus on one area of specialization or take courses from each area to suit their professional goals and interests. During the second year in the program, students complete a master’s thesis under the advisement of a faculty committee.
Our program prepares students who want to earn PhDs and pursue a career in academia, as well as those who want to enter public or private sector employment after earning their MA. In addition to gaining funded appointments to the top PhD programs in the nation, our MA alumni pursue careers in a wide range of fields, including teaching, academic advising and higher education administration, corporate consulting, sales, public and private sector communications specialists, and many other fields.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please elaborate on the Deliberative Practices specialization option within the Master of Arts in Communication Studies program, and how it is different from the MA in Communication Studies? How do students work with the Center for Public Deliberation (CPD), and what are the specific requirements of this track?
[Dr. Anderson] Our department houses CSU’s nationally recognized Center for Public Deliberation (CPD), an organization committed to fostering healthy democratic dialogue in our local community. Any interested graduate student may become trained as a facilitator and participate in CPD community dialogues.
The Deliberative Practices Specialization allows students whose central scholarly or professional interest is in public deliberation to gain advanced expertise by augmenting our regular MA core and elective curriculum with coursework and research in public deliberation. Graduate students are trained as impartial facilitators and gain experience designing and running deliberative processes in the local community. In their second year, students in this specialization complete an applied research project along with practicum hours that take the place of the traditional thesis. Students in this specialization have gone on to doctoral work in public deliberation and have gained employment in think tanks, cities and counties, and other contexts in which stakeholders are convened to solve complex problems. Students interested in the Deliberative Practices Specialization apply during their first semester in the program. Though capacity is limited, to date we have been able to accommodate all students for whom deliberation is their central scholarly interest.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Colorado State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies allows students to complete either a master’s thesis or an applied research project as their final graduation requirement. May we have more information about each of these options, their required deliverables, and the steps students must take to complete their thesis/project?
[Dr. Anderson] All of our students except those in the Deliberative Practices Specialization complete a master’s thesis under the direction of a faculty advisor and thesis committee. Students in the Deliberative Practices Specialization have more flexibility with their second year project. It can be a more modest project since DPS students also complete practicum hours with the CPD their second year (which usually involves designing and running CPD events). DPS students’ research projects can be an individual project they design or they may participate in an ongoing CPD research project. All students have a faculty advisor and research committee to help them design and complete their research.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Colorado State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program, 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. Anderson] We take mentoring seriously, incorporating it into our graduate curriculum and pairing each student with a faculty advisor. The first semester, each MA student enrolls in two graduate pro-seminars designed to support their development as teachers and students. SPCM 675: Communication Pedagogy is taught by the Director of the Public Speaking Course and offers training and mentorship for students as instructors of public speaking. SPCM 692: Introduction to Graduate Studies is taught by the Director of Graduate Studies and supports students as they make the transition from undergraduate to graduate studies. That course covers topics such as reading, research, and writing at the graduate level, submitting to and presenting at conferences, diversity in the profession, work/life negotiation, and careers inside and outside of academe. In that seminar, we also host MA alumni who discuss diverse career paths.
After the first semester, students choose a faculty advisor who provides individualized mentoring throughout the rest of the program, directing the student’s master’s thesis and advising the student on all scholarly matters. The Director of the Public Speaking Course also observes each first-year instructor in their classroom and provides continued teaching mentorship. Our graduate program has approximately 30-35 graduate students (MA and PhD) in residence at a time, and we have 18 members of the graduate faculty. Consequently, we are able to give each student individualized attention.
Colorado State University also has an active career services office that effectively works with graduate students interested in careers outside of academe.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application for the Master of Arts in Communication Studies program?
[Dr. Anderson] We accept a relatively small cohort of MA students (8-9) each year, and in most cases those students are accepted with teaching assistantships that include full tuition waivers and a teaching stipend. Consequently, our application process is highly competitive. Successful applicants typically have a 3.2 undergraduate GPA or higher; a substantive, well-written academic writing sample that exhibits grammatical correctness, compositional elegance, and the ability to use theoretical insights to gain understanding about communication texts and practices; and a personal statement that clearly articulates 1) why the student is seeking a graduate degree and 2) why our program is a particularly good fit for their scholarly interests and goals. Successful applicants also often have invested time in co-curricular activities such as academic honor societies, debate and/or deliberation activities, and undergraduate research conferences.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Colorado State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Anderson] Our program has been one of the top MA programs in the nation for decades and in recent years has earned two program awards: 1) the Outstanding Master’s Degree Program Award from the National Communication Association’s Master’s Education Section, and 2) the Program of Distinction Award from the National Communication Association’s Basic Course Division. Each of those awards recognized our training and mentorship of master’s students as scholars and teachers, along with the award-winning research in which our students and faculty engage.
Because our students get experience as instructors of record in the public speaking classroom, our program is a great place to determine whether or not you enjoy teaching and, if so, in what context you’d prefer to engage in teaching and training: higher education, the public sector, or corporate consulting. We support both students who want to continue in academe and those who want to enter the workforce with MA degrees.
Students in our program also have access to unique perks and opportunities. We offer funding for conference travel, paid opportunities to assist faculty with their research, and lab space in which to conduct interviews, focus groups, and experiments. Interested graduate students may be involved with the Center for Public Deliberation (https://cpd.colostate.edu/) and/or the ACT Human Rights Film Festival (https://actfilmfest.colostate.edu/).
Finally, our department and the community of Fort Collins, Colorado is a wonderful place in which to learn, work, and relax. We have high standards, as evidenced by the many awards our students earn as teachers and researchers. Our program is challenging, but we want each person to succeed and we recognize that everyone is going to have a different definition of what “success” means for them. We cultivate a collegial, professional, respectful, and inclusive departmental culture. When it’s time to relax, students can enjoy hiking and biking in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, experiencing a thriving downtown arts scene which includes exhibitions, concerts, independent cinema, and microbreweries, or reading and writing in one of the cozy coffee shops in historic Old Town Fort Collins.
Thank you, Dr. Anderson, for your excellent insight into Colorado State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program!