About Dr. Kurt Lindemann, Ph.D.: Kurt Lindemann is the Director of Graduate Studies for San Diego State University’s School of Communication, where he also teaches courses as a Full Professor. As the Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Lindemann is the primary contact for prospective students interested in and applying to the program, and as well as current students as they begin and progress through their course of study. He provides information for interested students in terms of the Graduate Teaching Associate positions, the program’s coursework and graduation requirements, housing options for students, and more. He also runs the comprehensive examination colloquia that students are required to attend should they choose the comprehensive exam as their culminating option.
As a Professor and faculty member, Dr. Lindemann teaches qualitative methods courses and courses in organizational communication and performance studies. He also advises students writing a thesis in any number of areas that utilize qualitative methods. His areas of research include the critical qualitative examination of disability, gender, and identity. He also specializes in arts-based social inquiry, including the adaptation of scholarly research for performance and writing as method.
Dr. Lindemann also serves as Director of the Center for the Study of Media and Performance, where he collaborates with faculty across SDSU, including those from Theatre, Dance, and English. Through the Center, he and his colleagues study the ways media and performance can address issues relevant to the SDSU and San Diego community, and also host talks, performances, guest lectures, and visiting artist residencies.
Dr. Lindemann earned his BS in Communication/Theatre Arts and Written Communication, and his MA in English Language and Literature from Eastern Michigan University, where he competed in and coached the forensics team. In between his BS and MA from EMU, he also earned an MS in Communication from Illinois State University, and taught and coached the forensics team there. He earned his Ph.D. in Communication from Arizona State University and has been at SDSU for 12 years.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of San Diego State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies, 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?
[Dr. Lindemann] We are a 30-unit program that most students complete in two years. Students are required to take an introduction to theory and research class, and two of the several methods courses we offer: quantitative, ethnography, rhetoric, conversation analysis, and advanced communication theory (which covers model building). Students are then free to select from a variety of elective courses. We offer seminars in health communication, relational communication (including the dark side of interpersonal communication), organizational communication, gender, intercultural, instructional, performance studies, rhetoric, nonverbal, and several special topics courses. These special topics courses have covered visual rhetoric, emotion, and health campaigns, among others.
We allow students to take one outside course or independent study, and they can petition to take another out of department course.
Additionally, we have a robust summer abroad program in which students can take two communication graduate seminars. In the past students from the program have traveled to anywhere from 4-5 countries during one month in the summer. These cities and countries have included London, Barcelona, Paris, Munich, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and Switzerland (Grindewald, in the Swiss Alps). Coursework will often begin in the last half of the Spring semester so students aren’t in a classroom their entire time abroad. These courses usually require students to do research abroad in one or more cities; for example: rhetorical analyses of monuments and places of public memory, interrogating the performance of tourism, and analyzing health practices and campaigns abroad. Taking these two seminars in the summer ensures that students can take two seminars per semester during their time here and graduate in two years.
Students who do not elect the summer abroad option may take one out of department seminar over the summer, and possibly an independent study or additional seminar in another area to graduate in two years.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students of San Diego State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program can choose between completing a master’s thesis or additional coursework. Could you please elaborate on these two options and what they entail?
[Dr. Lindemann] We offer two culminating options: thesis, for which students can register for thesis hours and substitute one seminar (usually in their last semester). Students choose their thesis topics and committees. Some recent thesis topics include friendships and social media, narratives of volunteering, communicating sexual consent, patient-provider communication about cancer, and family narratives of same sex parents. Anywhere from 40-50% of our students choose the thesis, sometimes more.
Students can also choose the comprehensive exam option. There is no official course associated with this option, so students are free to select whatever seminar they want to in place of thesis hours, but students must attend three informational/training sessions during the Fall semester of their last year.
For the comprehensive exam option, students write for 3 hours on 3 in-house questions selected by their chair. They then receive a take-home question that they have one week to complete. Students are presented with 8 possible in-house questions their first semester in the program and are informed that, should they choose the comps option, their chair will be choosing 3 of those 8 in-house questions.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in San Diego 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. Lindemann] All students are assigned a temporary advisor when they begin the program. This person may become their thesis or comps chair, but students are free to choose their chair of their culminating project (thesis or comprehensive examinations).
It’s very common for students to work closely with any number of faculty on research projects, and many students go on to present and publish with our faculty. These projects can arise from mutual interests on the part of students and faculty, or they might be a project the faculty member is currently working on. Additionally, students will often complete original, data-driven research projects for their seminars and submit those to conferences.
We have an internship coordinator who primarily works with our undergraduate students, but may also help graduate students find internship placement.
I recommend that for students to get the most out of the program and its mentorship possibilities, they need to be a self-starter, seek out faculty whose work sounds interesting to them, and not to be afraid of getting out of their comfort zone. For example, a rhetoric student working on a quantitative research project with a faculty member would be a great challenge for a student, and could mean the start of a new area of interest academically or professionally. One of the great things about a terminal MA program with a wide range of active scholars, like ours, is that students can explore topics and methods they might not normally encounter.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application for San Diego State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program?
[Dr. Lindemann] Besides meeting all the required deadlines for application materials, I recommend that students read our course offerings and faculty profiles as reference points of interest in their personal statement. I also recommend taking the GRE in advance and giving themselves enough time to re-take it if they are unhappy with their scores. We look at the highest score in any area should applicants submit multiple GRE scores. For international applicants, I recommend translating academic GPA into the 4.0 system common here in the US. Put it on the CV as well as in the personal statement to make easier for the graduate committee to assess GPA.
I don’t believe there’s any such thing as the ideal applicant, as we often have plenty of applicants from a variety of backgrounds. Some may be many years out of school and some may not even be a communication major. In general, though, I’d say about 80% of applicants are within 2 years of their undergraduate degree, and about 90% have a degree in Communication or a closely related field.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes San Diego State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Lindemann] Having received my Masters in Communication from a terminal Masters program, I always recommend that undergraduate students attend a terminal Masters program. There are number of benefits. Here, for example, graduate students do not have to compete for advising time or faculty attention with Ph.D. students. While this isn’t unique to SDSU, as there are many terminal MA programs out there, I think the productivity of our faculty and the quality of scholarship rivals almost any Ph.D. program, so students get the best of both worlds, so to speak.
I would say that our summer abroad program makes us unique, in that students can get “hands on” experience doing communication research in the field and apply communication theory in unique settings.
Many of our graduates have gone on to success in Ph.D. programs and beyond, and many top scholars in the Communication field, past, present, and emerging, have received their MA here.
Additionally, we prepare our graduates for a variety of careers outside academia, with many going on to work in a variety of public non-profit and private sector jobs, including working with the CDC, becoming corporate trainers and communication consultants, working in PR and HR, and becoming community college professors. San Diego is a booming bio-tech hub, which also offers a lot of opportunities. SDSU itself has a strong entrepreneurial spirit, including several centers that help students from any major and level to get their ideas off the ground.
Finally, we are located in a beautiful city. SDSU is a mass transit hub for the city of San Diego, and is a 15 minute drive from the Pacific Ocean, and no more than a 30 minute drive from mountains, desert, and Mexico.
Thank you, Dr. Lindemann, for your excellent insight into San Diego State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program!