About Kristin Comeforo, Ph.D.: Kristin Comeforo is the Director of the MA in Communication at the University of Hartford. As Director of the graduate program, Dr. Comeforo supports students, faculty, and the curriculum for the program. She oversees admissions to the program, serves as the main informational contact, and acts as the primary advisor for all new students, helping them select and register for courses. Dr. Comeforo also leads the Graduate Committee, which oversees the curriculum, develops new courses, and works to maintain overall excellence in the course offerings. In addition to teaching and administering the graduate program, Dr. Comeforo maintains a robust line of research, which focuses on gender and LGBTQ representation across various forms of “media” such as selfies, teen magazines, and social media discourse.
Dr. Comeforo’s education background includes a Bachelor of Science in Management Science from the State University of New York at Geneseo, an MBA in Global Marketing from the American Graduate School of International Management, and a PhD in Communication from Rutgers University. As an Associate Professor, Dr. Comeforo brings an eclectic mix of industry experience across almost every aspect of integrated marketing communication to the University of Hartford’s classrooms, where she mainly teaches advertising and other integrated branding communication courses.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of the University of Hartford’s Master of Arts in Communication program, and how it is structured? What learning outcomes can students expect from this program?
[Dr. Comeforo] The University of Hartford’s MA in Communication is a solid generalist program, which values both theory and hands on research. With only two required courses, our program is flexible so that students can focus on an emphasis area that best suits their interests or career goals.
Our required courses are CMM650 – Seminar in Communication and CMM655 – Research Methods. Seminar in Communication is a survey class that highlights communication theory through current trends in communication research. Students spend time with academic journals to see what research is in the field and engage emerging theories within media, human communication, and integrated communication. Research Methods takes a hands-on approach to research methodologies. Students learn and practice both qualitative and quantitative methods, including SPSS [Statistical Package for the Social Sciences].
Beyond these two required courses, students have 21-27 credits to craft a more individualized course of study. We currently offer three emphases – Media, Human Communication Studies, and Integrated Communication.
Our “Media” emphasis takes a critical media studies approach, which encourages media literacy. Students practice “reading” a variety of media/cultural products through the lenses of gender, race, class, etc. We are particularly interested in uncovering how power and privilege control the media message, and what this means for our experiences as people in everyday life.
Our “Human Communication Studies” emphasis highlights the more traditional areas of communication such as interpersonal and organizational communication. This is our most versatile emphasis in that it can be applied to so many different professional fields – management, marketing, human resources, to name a few.
Our “Integrated Communication” emphasis focuses on branded communication such as advertising, public relations, and corporate communication. Courses combine critical analysis of case studies/examples with more hands-on campaign execution. Students research, plan, and execute campaigns in a variety of contexts (i.e. digital & social media, product launches, and intercultural environments) and can take a multimedia production class to solidify technical skills.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students of the University of Hartford’s Master of Arts in Communication program can choose between completing a master’s thesis or additional courses and a comprehensive examination. Could you please elaborate on both of these options, and what they entail?
[Dr. Comeforo] Both the thesis and comprehensive exam options are designed to showcase the totality of what the student has learned within our program.
The thesis option requires the student to take 6 credits of “thesis” courses – thesis preparation (CMM790, 3 credits) and thesis completion (CMM791, 3 credits). Thesis students select a thesis director, who is typically a faculty member they know, who has expertise in a content area, research method, or area of interest to the student. Working with the director, the student selects two additional faculty members as committee members, and begins developing their project. Your thesis director will help you fine-tune your research question, plan your literature review, and determine the best research method/design. Students produce a thesis proposal as part of the first course, CMM790, and complete the thesis as part of the second course, CMM791. Both CMM790 & CMM791 are student directed courses – you meet periodically with your thesis director throughout the semester, but your work is largely dictated by your goals and time management; both the thesis proposal and your completed thesis need to be orally defended and approved by your thesis committee.
While thesis students take 6 credits in thesis hours, students selecting the comprehensive exam option take an additional 6 credits of “free” or emphasis area electives.
The comprehensive exam has both a written and oral defense component. The written component is completed as a four-hour exam in which the student answers TWO questions, one in a “content area” selected by the student, and the other in “research methods.” Students select the faculty members who write their questions and work with them to isolate useful readings and resources to ensure success in the exam. Both the content area and research methods questions reflect the emphasis area the student has focused on in their coursework. A week or two after the written exam the student arranges to orally “defend” their exam with the two faculty members who wrote their exam questions. Students are able to reflect on their responses, introduce concepts and ideas they may have missed, and answer questions posed by the faculty members.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in the University of Hartford’s Master of Arts in Communication program? How can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems?
[Dr. Comeforo] The MA program at the University of Hartford is relatively small, which allows students to develop strong relationships with faculty members. All of our faculty members are active in either academic research or professional activities that provide both a real-world perspective in the classroom and an opportunity for student collaboration. Through our “Independent Research” course, students can work with faculty members on existing projects, or develop projects of their own. We have strong ties with the Eastern Communication Association and many of our students have presented their individual research, or research conducted in collaboration with University of Hartford faculty, at the annual conference.
Our alumni network is strong and nurturing, especially in Connecticut, NYC, and Boston. Each Fall we have an alumni weekend and mixer events to connect current students with alumni for networking and career development purposes. Our footprint in terms of career development is further extended through a well-established career services department that services the entire University, and a robust internship program within the School of Communication. The School of Communication enjoys a strong relationship with local media such as NBC Connecticut, Fox 61, CT Public Television, & ESPN; advertising and PR agencies such as Mintz & Hoke, Cronin, Cashman & Katz; and the Hartford Yard Goats, to name just a few.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes the University of Hartford’s Master of Arts in Communication unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Comeforo] The University of Hartford’s Master of Arts in Communication has many standout aspects. First, the quality of instruction and level of support provided by faculty members. We are a smaller program and we get to know you. We care about your success and know how to prepare you for it. Second, the flexibility of our program in terms of coursework and emphasis areas. With only two required classes you really do get to program your studies the way that you want. Most of our communication classes are within the emphasis areas so you can dive deeply into your area of interest. Also, we have strong relationships with our Psychology department and our School of Business. You may find, and take, classes in leadership and other organizational topics within these programs that will enhance and complement your classes within the Communication discipline. And third, our reach into regional job markets – in Connecticut, NYC, and Boston – position us as a destination school which puts you in the heart of the advertising and PR, insurance, and healthcare industries.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in the University of Hartford’s Master of Arts in Communication program, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?
[Dr. Comeforo] The School of Communication reviews applicants as whole students. This means that we balance transcripts, GPA, and English language proficiency test scores (when applicable) with who you have introduced yourself to us as through your personal statement. The strongest personal statements address any deficiencies in traditional measures of student potential (i.e. GPA, Test Scores) and provide alternative pieces of evidence of your potential. Strong statements also demonstrate a passion for communication and a clear path in terms of what you would like to achieve through the program or how an MA in Communication from the University of Hartford will help you achieve your professional and personal goals.
We are looking for passionate, inquisitive students who will be engaged in our classrooms and who can express themselves through both written and oral communication. Demonstrating these qualities within your personal statement and having them corroborated through your recommendation letters will strengthen your application.
[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. Comeforo] At the University of Hartford we recognize that you are juggling many things in your life – sometimes a full-time job, a family, etc. To help with time management our classes are scheduled in the evening – typical classes running from 5-7:20PM and 7:30-9:50PM. Classes tend to meet once a week, and we try our best to schedule classes “back-to-back” so that students can minimize their commute to campus. To best suit your needs you may enroll full-time (9 credits, or 3 classes per semester) or part-time (3-6 credits, or 1-2 classes per semester). You may also supplement your communication classes, which run on-campus during the traditional fall and spring semesters, with an online class over the summer or during the fall/spring semesters through another University of Hartford graduate program.
We also have a vibrant Center for Student Success (CSS), which provides resources for successful completion of your degree program such as academic tutoring, support in developing time management skills, and helping with any personal problems you may want to discuss. The CSS is literally your one stop shop for anything you may need to help you be successful on campus.
Thank you, Dr. Comeforo, for your excellent insight into the University of Hartford’s Master of Arts in Communication program!