About Kate Joeckel, Ph.D.:Kate Joeckel is a Professor and the Program Director for Bellevue University’s Master of Arts in Business and Professional Communication. As Director, she is responsible for curriculum development, program assessment, and the hiring of instructors. She regularly teaches Interpersonal and Intercultural Communication as well as the capstone course, and advises students throughout their tenure in the program. Dr. Joeckel earned a BA in English and MA and PhD in Communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Bellevue University’s Master of Arts in Business and Professional Communication, and how it is structured? What learning outcomes can students expect from this program?
[Dr. Joeckel] Students who successfully complete this program will be able to communicate professionally, think critically about business and professional communication issues, and apply relevant theories to communication in the workplace. The program is structured around a core eight required courses (24 credit hours) plus the student’s choice of a 12-credit hour concentration. Some of the concepts that we address in the core include emotional intelligence and leadership, message design logic, the dimensions of culture, media richness, and organizational culture and assimilation. We also teach students specific communication technologies and tools including collaboration tools, interactive websites, social networks, blogs and wikis, etc. In addition, we cover ethical conduct extensively in the core, examining communication ethics at different levels—the legal considerations and industry specifications for ethical communication and conduct, as well as also how individual morals come into play in certain situations.
A lot of our students in our master’s program come from an undergraduate degree other than communication, interestingly enough. So the core is really a leveling experience in that it gives all of the students a common language and a common set of advanced concepts in communication and communication analysis.
After students complete the core, which is 24 credits, they take a 12-credit concentration. Our most popular concentration is the Business concentration, which consists of four MBA courses. The focus of that concentration is primarily on marketing and human capital. The second concentration is Computer Information Systems, which focuses on cloud computing and IT project management. The third concentration is Executive Coaching, which focuses on a variety of coaching skills, as well as client assessment. Our fourth concentration is Human Resources Management, which covers the legal aspects of human resources, selection and performance issues, and employee development.
We also have a Project Management concentration that focuses on the role of information technology, project management, and project management communication in relationships with stakeholders. In addition, we offer a Transnational and Cross-Cultural Communication concentration, which has a political science focus, particularly regarding comparative politics. And finally, we have an Interdisciplinary Studies concentration that is really gaining popularity, and which consists of any 12 graduate credit hours in at least two disciplines. This is a good option for students who started their master’s degree somewhere and want to finish their degree with us—they can transfer their courses into this interdisciplinary concentration.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Bellevue University’s Master of Arts in Business and Professional Communication is offered completely online. Could you elaborate on the online learning technologies this program uses to facilitate interactions between students and faculty, as well as students with their peers?
[Dr. Joeckel] The program uses asynchronous instruction. Instructors hold virtual office hours and are highly responsive to student needs. The curriculum incorporates discussion boards, team projects, and project-based learning. All of our courses incorporate project-based learning. We try to make the projects as real-world as possible, and as most of our students are employed in an organization, we try to develop projects that enable them to leverage something that is happening in their current organization.
We use Blackboard Ultra for our learning management system, and at present, peer-to-peer interactions occur through weekly discussion boards. Faculty also reach out regularly to students in their courses through email and are also available to schedule phone conversations. No synchronous elements are required of students, however, and this is particularly helpful for our students who work full-time or who are part of the military. We are a military-friendly institution and many of our master’s degree students are active duty, deployed all around the world, which really complicates the synchronous factor.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students of Bellevue University’s Master of Arts in Business and Professional Communication must complete a Business and Professional Communication Capstone course, where they develop and present a solution to a managerial communication problem in the workplace. Could you elaborate on this course and its requirements?
[Dr. Joeckel] Students in the capstone course work closely with their professor to complete an individual research project culminating in a white paper. In some instances, students complete the project within the context of an organization. Recent topics have included communicating change in organizations, improving feedback processes, and crisis communication. Recent projects students have undertaken specifically include strategies for tackling fake reviews in ecommerce, investigating generational differences in organizational leadership, decoding supply chain logistics for better training, and developing best practices to assist undergraduate students with cross-cultural adjustment.
The capstone course itself is built around a white paper project that each student completes. The project has several components. First, students develop a proposal that identifies a business and communication problem in an existing organization or within an existing industry, and is a problem they are interested in investigating and solving. Students submit their proposal to me, and I make recommendations to them regarding whether their topic is suitable and how they can adjust the scope of their project to fit within the timeline of the course. The proposal is followed by an annotated bibliography assignment in which students conduct extensive research on their chosen problem and its possible solutions. From there, we move to a literature review, which constitutes a representative literature review on the problem. Students then write several drafts of their white paper explaining their proposed solutions, and develop and present a Powerpoint presentation of their results and conclusions.
We require students to collaborate with each other during the course—they share drafts and research on topics, and are also required to collaborate with me in terms of processing both my and their peers’ feedback. Our final requirement is that students submit their white paper to an outlet outside of the university for possible publication. For example, students can submit to a trade journal, a news outlet, or a blog. They don’t have to have the paper accepted, but they are required to submit it and gain familiarity with the process.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Bellevue University’s Master of Arts in Business and Professional Communication program? How can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems?
[Dr. Joeckel] I serve as students’ advisor during their time in the program, and particularly for the Capstone Course, which I teach. As the Capstone Course instructor, I work with each student to guide them through their project. In addition, all students have a staff advisor—we call them student coaches—who is trained to be a mentor and who is knowledgeable of the degree requirements. These staff advisors help students schedule their courses and stay on track for degree completion.
Bellevue University also has a Career Services Center available to all students and an array of academic support services, including one-on-one student success coaching and advising, a Writing Center, and 24/7 reference librarian service. Students benefit from updated job listings that students can search, as well as resume workshopping and career counseling. The Career Services Center offers mock interview services as well.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Bellevue University’s Master of Arts in Business and Professional Communication unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Joeckel] The program helps students develop an in-depth understanding of business and professional communication, hone their communication skills, and create a network of valuable professional connections. Students bond with one another during their time in the program, and these bonds are highly beneficial to their careers and in their future job search. Our faculty also work to connect students with their own professional networks. In addition, we have several honorary organizations such as Lambda Pi Eta, which is an honor society of the National Communication Association. We invite graduate students into that organization as it offers them another opportunity to network. Career paths for our students after they graduate include executive coaching, training and development, human resources, customer service, conflict management, teaching, and consulting.
We also have a very robust annual curriculum assessment program that has been commended by the Higher Learning Commission for its thoroughness and efficacy. We are always in the process of looking at our learning outcomes and how they fit with contemporary practice, business, and professional communication. We are also constantly assessing students’ feedback against our target learning outcomes to make adjustments to our curriculum and optimize students’ experience.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in Bellevue University’s Master of Arts in Business and Professional Communication program, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?
[Dr. Joeckel] Applicants must hold a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, or a U.S. equivalent degree from a nationally or internationally accredited college or university. They must have maintained a GPA of 2.5 or better from the most recent 60 credits of coursework earned toward the bachelor’s degree or have maintained a GPA of 3.0 or better in previous graduate level coursework earned toward the graduate degree. We evaluate applications holistically, and pay particular attention to applicants’ personal statements.
The most important piece of advice I have for students is to articulate their passions in their personal statement. What is it that excites them most about communication? What motivates them to study business and professional communication? We want to see that drive and focus in their application. Letters of recommendation are not required for this program, though students who do not meet the minimum GPA requirement are asked to include a letter from a former professor or academic advisor attesting to the student’s ability to complete graduate-level work.
Thank you, Dr. Joeckel, for your excellent insight into Bellevue University’s Master of Arts in Business and Professional Communication program!