About Charles Kyle Rudick, Ph.D.: Kyle Rudick is the Graduate Program Director and an Associate Professor within the University of Northern Iowa’s Department of Communication and Media. His primary research foci include how communication practices connect to power dynamics, privilege, and oppression and marginalization in educational contexts. His aim through his research and courses is to investigate and encourage the investigation of the origins of social inequalities and prejudices.
Dr. Rudick earned his Bachelor of Arts in Communication Education from Northeastern State University in 2009, and his Master of Arts in Communication Studies from West Virginia University in 2010, where he also worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. He received his Ph.D. in Speech Communication from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale in 2015. He is a co-author of the books Teaching from the Heart: Critical Communication Pedagogy in the Communication Classroom and Engage and Activate: Navigating College and Beyond.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of the Master of Arts in Communication and Media? How is this program structured, what topics are covered in the core curriculum and specializations, and what are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?
[Dr. Rudick] The Graduate Program in the Department of Communication and Media provides students with Master’s level training and helps them fulfill their post-graduation goals, whether obtaining professional employment, enrolling in a PhD program, or reskilling/upskilling for their current profession. The program is innovative in that all students are “Communication and Media MA” students, who can then obtain one or multiple certificates which demonstrate competence in a variety of areas. These certificates are:
- Communication Education and Training
- Organizational Communication and Inclusive Leadership (online)
- Performance, Rhetoric and Advocacy
- Strategic Communication
- Visual Communication and Digital Media
Students who want professional development, but do not wish to pursue a full MA degree, can obtain any or all these certificates as standalone credentials. And, if students obtain a certificate, but later want to pursue an MA, those credits will apply to the MA degree plan. This organization allows students to pursue MA level education with a flexibility that works for full-time students, full-time employees, and everyone in between.
Methodologically, we encourage students to be “jacks of all trades, master of one.” In other words, students are expected to know the assumptions and values that characterize our emphases in quantitative, qualitative, rhetorical, and creative methods. Specific methods used in the department include surveys, interviews, rhetorical criticism, autoethnography, and performance. This overview of methods is accomplished through our Introduction to Graduate Studies course. Students are then expected to emphasize in one method by taking an advanced seminar in one of those areas, and to demonstrate their competence in that method through their final research report or thesis project.
[MastersinCommunications.com] All students of the Master of Arts in Communication and Media program at the University of Iowa must take and pass a comprehensive examination. Could you elaborate on the topics covered in this examination, and how students can best prepare for it?
[Dr. Rudick] Our department proctors two comprehensive exams. The first is a qualifying exam and is typically taken in the second semester of study. This exam asks students to read, analyze, and evaluate research from each of the different research methodologies (i.e., quantitative, qualitative, rhetorical, and creative). The second exam is a summative exam that is typically offered in the fourth semester of study. This exam has questions regarding communication theory, and is tethered to the students’ area of emphasis (e.g., Organizational or Performance Studies). Both sets of exams are given in early March and are due approximately 30 days later, giving students the ability to really dig into the literature that animates their answers.
The department’s graduate handbook provides useful references and study tips for graduate students. Additionally, the department hosts workshops to help students organize, plan, and prepare for the exams. Both exams are evaluated for students’ demonstration of their ability to articulate the assumptions that guide various methods/paradigms of study, history of methods/theories, and application of those frameworks to concepts or case examples (provided by the department one month before the exam date).
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students in this program can choose between a master’s thesis or a research project. Could you please elaborate on each of these options, and what they entail?
[Dr. Rudick] The research paper and the thesis are research documents that must demonstrate the students’ ability to utilize a theoretical framework, review appropriate literature, gather data, and present/discuss the findings of their analysis. Both documents must conform to the highest standards of scholarly rigor and copyediting. Both documents require data collection, treatment, and presentation, and are evaluated by a committee of professors from the department in a traditional defense.
The primary difference between the two documents is that students who wish to write a research report can begin data collection/treatment as a part of their coursework. A thesis, on the other hand, must be a completely original piece of scholarship and must be proposed/completed outside of normal coursework. Additionally, students in the research report track must take 27 hours of coursework, and a minimum of three hours that can be taken as research credit toward their 30 hours, whereas thesis option students can take 24 total coursework hours with a minimum of six hours that can be counted toward their 30 hours (students who take longer than expected to complete their report may take Continuing Enrollment credit to stay enrolled until completion).
Finally, research reports are not uploaded to the UNI Rod Library’s database whereas the thesis papers are (at the author’s discretion). Examples of thesis topics include:
- Christians, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals: Examining the roles of uncertainty and religiosity in Christian attitudes toward LGB individuals, Megan Deanne Wharff Kavanaugh, 2013, Quantitative.
- Job satisfaction and burnout among hospice nurses working on interdisciplinary teams: A multimethod study, Hillary Hamilton, 2021, Quantitative/Qualitative.
- Analyzing Rana Plaza crisis discourse from a postcolonial perspective: Implications for identity and crisis communication studies, Mir Ashfaquzzaman, 2017, Qualitative.
- How have you experienced being on testosterone? Narrative inquiry into the T-body experience, Noah Andrews, 2021, Qualitative.
- Visualizing belonging: Deliberation and identification in the Vestavia Hills mascot controversy, Scott Neil Bredman, 2016, Rhetorical.
- The beef debate: Religion, history, and harmony in India, Shreya Singh, 2021, Rhetorical.
- Dancing my adoptive identity: An autoethnographic analysis of adoption narratives and performance of identity, Montana Jean Smith, 2016, Creative.
- Pasting our past: Cultural memory, family photographs, and ephemeral street art, Isaac Campbell, 2021, Creative.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in the University of Northern Iowa’s Master of Arts in Communication and Media 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. Rudick] Faculty mentorship of students is one of the highest priorities in the department. Our program provides faculty and institutional resources to help students connect their coursework to venues beyond the classroom context (e.g., professional conferences, community presentations, corporate exhibitions). Our department faculty’s wide range of scholarly and corporate experiences ensures that we are well suited to support every student, whatever their personal or professional goals may be. The graduate director connects students with those faculty who are best equipped to mentor them, depending on the students’ goals.
During the first semester, students are overseen by the graduate director who advises them in curricular choices, assistantships, and other matters. During the second semester or equivalent hours enrolled, students are expected to ask a faculty member to be their adviser, particularly as it relates to the research report or thesis. They should have an adviser, and a topic for their research report or thesis, by the end of their second semester, and plan for developing their materials for that project over the summer.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application for the University of Northern Iowa’s Master of Arts in Communication and Media program?
[Dr. Rudick] Prospective students’ applications should demonstrate a dedication to lifelong learning, professionalism, and attention to detail. Likewise, letters of recommendation should attest to their demonstrated excellence in, and/or beyond, the classroom, openness to feedback, and work ethic. Applications, and especially the personal statement, should identify areas of interest and how those concentrations connect to the department’s faculty.
Due to the size and wide range of interests in our department, it is in the best interests of applicants to identify one or two areas of concentration, the primary faculty in charge of those areas, previous work that connects to those areas, and a plan for personal and professional improvement through their potential educational experiences in our department. In short, show that you have done your homework and are making an informed commitment to attend UNI for your MA.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes the University of Northern Iowa’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Rudick] The UNI Department of Communication Studies emphasizes four areas of development: communication content knowledge, communication research practice, communication skills, and communication-based community engagement. Together, these areas ensure that a student graduating from our program is prepared to excel in their personal and professional lives through a deep knowledge of, and appreciation for, communication processes. Students from our program have clearly and consistently demonstrated that they perform extremely well when applying for top-tier PhD programs, finding professional employment, and organizing community members for positive change. Students that come to our program will find a departmental culture of faculty dedicated to cultivating student excellence.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Students can learn more about UNI’s M.A. in Communication and Media program by visiting their website at https://chas.uni.edu/cm/grad-programs/communication-media.
Thank you, Dr. Rudick, for your excellent insight into the University of Northern Iowa’s Master of Arts in Communication and Media program!