About Charles Kyle Rudick, Ph.D.: Kyle Rudick is the Graduate Program Director and an Assistant Professor within the University of Northern Iowa’s Department of Communication Studies. 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 currently a consulting editor for Communication Education, and author of the book Teaching from the Heart: Critical Communication Pedagogy in the Communication Classroom.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of the University of Northern Iowa’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program? How is this program structured, what topics are covered in the core curriculum, and what are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?
[Dr. Rudick] The Graduate Program in the Department of Communication Studies provides students with Master’s level training in Communication Studies and helps them further prepare for specific career choices, including non-academic professional career opportunities and study at the Ph.D. level. The program offers six areas of specialization: Communication Education, General Communication, Mass Communication, Organizational Communication, Performance Studies, and Public Relations. In each of these areas, our mission is to cultivate practicing scholars who can critically apply theories and research methods in the public and professional arenas they serve.
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.
We seek to provide our students with opportunities to enhance practice with theory, and theory with practice, recognizing that a balanced relationship between the two is necessary to create thoughtful, effective scholarly, professional, and creative work. Overall, our mission is to ensure that students who graduate from our MA program go on to realize their personal and professional goals through their deep knowledge of communication processes.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Students of the University of Northern Iowa’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program are required to take and pass a comprehensive examination. Could you please elaborate on this exam, and what it entails?
[Dr. Rudick] The UNI Department of Communication Studies proctors two comprehensive exams. The first is a qualifying exam and is typically taken in the second semester of study. This exam is based on one of four possible questions concerning research methodology (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 is based on one of two possible questions regarding communication theory, and is tethered to the students’ area of emphasis (e.g., Organizational or Performance Studies). Both sets of exams are 2 hours in length and evaluated in an anonymous review by two professors in the department.
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 and a research paper. 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 33 hours of coursework, with a minimum of three hours that can be taken as research credit toward their 36 hours, whereas thesis option students can take 30 total coursework hours with a minimum of six hours that can be taken as Research credit (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.
- Analyzing Rana Plaza crisis discourse from a postcolonial perspective: Implications for identity and crisis communication studies, Mir Ashfaquzzaman, 2017, Qualitative.
- Visualizing belonging: Deliberation and identification in the Vestavia Hills mascot controversy, Scott Neil Bredman, 2016, Rhetorical.
- Dancing my adoptive identity: An autoethnographic analysis of adoption narratives and performance of identity, Montana Jean Smith, 2016, Creative.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in the University of Northern Iowa’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. 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 Studies 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.
Thank you, Dr. Rudick, for your excellent insight into the University of Northern Iowa’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program!