About Kate Dunsmore, Ph.D.: Kate Dunsmore is a Professor of Communication and the Director for the Master of Arts in Communication program at Fairleigh Dickinson University. As Professor of Communication, Dr. Dunsmore’s teaching is strongly motivated by an interest in preparing students for successful and fulfilling professional lives. She teaches communication theory and the capstone experience at the graduate level. As Director of the MA, she is the advisor for MA students, as well as handling administration of the degree program.

Dr. Dunsmore’s research focuses on mass media institutions and the way in which issues are framed or associated with each other. Her book, Discourse of Reciprocity, analyzed news stories in the US and Canada at times of high stress between the countries. From analyzing over 1,300 articles, she was able to document press behavior that supported cooperation between the countries. Besides news stories as such, she has analyzed event listings and reality television. An article published in the International Journal of Communication examined how people connected their idea of national identity with the issue of refugee policy in letters to the editor. Her historical research deals with early journalism in Canada.

Dr. Dunsmore received her B.A. in Political Science, graduating Maxima Cum Laude from the University of Portland. She earned both her M.A. in Communication and her M.A. in Political Science from the University of Washington. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Communication at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her dissertation, entitled Mediating alliance: The role of the press in sustaining reciprocity in the US-Canada relationship, was the recipient of the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States (ACSUS) 2009 Distinguished Dissertation Award.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Master of Arts in Communication, 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? How is the curriculum for this program designed to give students the research, writing, and leadership skills to excel in their desired career path?

[Dr. Kate Dunsmore] The MA in Communication has six required courses, covering the theory and practice of communication. In addition, students complete one course in each of three context areas: interpersonal, public and cultural communication. The Capstone Experience is the final course, bringing all the skills and knowledge into application. These 10 courses provide advanced education in critical thinking as well as applied skills in all communication settings. All our courses are highly rigorous and designed to assist students wanting to enter many fields beyond academia. For students wishing to pursue graduate work beyond the MA, we offer advisement and coursework tailored to that objective.

[MastersinCommunications.com] May we have more information on the optional Global Experience that students undertake in at Wroxton College in Oxfordshire, England? What activities do students engage in during this 12-day seminar, and how does this experience offer them unique insights and skills that can advance their careers?

[Dr. Kate Dunsmore] The 12-day seminar takes place at our Wroxton, England campus (a 17th century mansion) and focuses on international communication. This course makes is possible for students – even working professionals – to include study abroad in their graduate work. It is an in-depth engagement with the British perspective on communication in group and work settings. Every imaginable detail about this excellent experience is available on our website. We were unable to offer this course in 2020 and are waiting to see how 2021 shapes up.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For their culminating experience, students of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Master of Arts in Communication program complete a Capstone Experience. May we have more details on this requirement, including the process students undergo to complete their capstone, the support they receive from faculty, and the types of projects they undertake?

[Dr. Kate Dunsmore] The Capstone Experience is a highly individualized project developed and implemented by each student under the mentorship of the instructor. Projects have included developing training programs for private sector and non-profit sector organizations; creating web-based marketing and public relations campaigns; and establishing internal organizational communication resources. In several cases, the project was for their employer or led directly to future employment. At the least, students have a compelling portfolio to use in the job search.

For those wishing to pursue a degree beyond the MA, it is typical to produce a research paper suitable for conference presentation. The assignments in the class mirror those required for any planning process including rationale, stages, tasks, timeline and consideration of how the project will be sustained within the organization. The early weeks of the class are devoted to assisting students with identifying and conceptualizing a feasible project.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Master of Arts in Communication 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. Kate Dunsmore] As MA Director, I personally advise all the graduate students. I also teach the first course in the 10-course sequence, which gives me a chance to assess any skill areas to be strengthened. As part of advisement, I assist students in making the connection between their coursework and their career aspirations. As it happens, I have had two entirely different careers prior to joining the professoriate and am well-placed to suggest strategies for success in many fields. Our Capstone Experience is treated as a springboard for career advancement. The instructor is their mentor for that course.

The graduate faculty and especially the MA Director consider each student’s completed coursework as an indicator of the student’s interests and aspirations. Advisement includes discussing on an ongoing basis how the courses are contributing to the skills and knowledge the student needs to achieve their own goals.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application for Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Master of Arts in Communication program?

[Dr. Kate Dunsmore] We place an emphasis on students’ GPA and their transcripts. The GPA is an indicator of work habits, time management skills and seriousness of intent. Applicants who have taken communication or social science courses with strong theoretical content tend to be better prepared than those who have only taken hands-on courses. For working professionals returning to academia, a resume is also seriously considered. We have found that working professionals usually have attained work skills and emotional intelligence that will enable them to succeed even if their undergraduate GPA is not quite to our minimum for acceptance.

The personal statement is also very important. This should be carefully composed and proofread. Applicants should be specific rather than write in generalities. We have found that applicants who can articulate their specific goals and reasons are better prepared to engage with the coursework.

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

[Dr. Kate Dunsmore] The MA in Communication is designed to provide advanced critical thinking skills as well as content knowledge in the full-range of communication settings. Students emerge with highly honed skills in problem-definition, group process, reasoning and articulation of a position. Regardless of the specific field a student wants to work in, these are the most sought-after skills (as seen in decades of surveys of employers). The degree program is designed to prioritize versatility and to be responsive to economic and technological changes.

The tenured faculty are all from highly-ranked Research I universities and bring this level of quality to all course offerings. The classes are small–10-15 students–and the teaching philosophy draws on the most current research on learning. Student engagement is high and faculty are easily reached.

When we have had graduate assistantships the duties are related to administrative support. Full-time faculty do all the graduate instruction and nearly all the undergraduate instruction.

Thank you, Dr. Dunsmore, for your excellent insight into Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Master of Arts in Communication program!