About Kyle S. Barnett, Ph.D.: Kyle Barnett is an Associate Professor of Media Studies and Graduate Chair in the Department of Communication at Bellarmine University. As Graduate Chair, Dr. Barnett is responsible for managing the university’s M.A. in Communication (MAC) and M.S. in Digital Media (MSDM). He advises all students in both programs, manages curricula, schedules courses, and initiates changes in response to ongoing conversations with graduate students and faculty, as well as leadership in the Bellarmine College of Arts and Sciences. As Chair of the first graduate program in the arts and sciences at the university, Dr. Barnett has also worked to build a graduate culture through a variety of initiatives, including the Dr. Gail Ritchie Henson Graduate Study, a space for graduate collaboration and community housed in the Department of Communication. He is faculty adviser for Bellarmine University Radio, through which both graduate and undergraduate students create a variety of sound-based media.

Dr. Barnett received a B.A. in English and Philosophy from IUPUI and an M.A. in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University. He also earned a Ph.D. in Radio-Television-Film, where he also completed the Doctoral Portfolio in Cultural Studies from the University of Texas-Austin.

Dr. Barnett teaches a variety of graduate classes, including Comm 600-Introduction to Graduate Study, Comm 615-Introduction to Media Studies, Comm 692-Cultural and Creative Industries and Comm 699-Ethical Issues in Communication, as well as directing graduate theses and portfolios. His research examines media history, media industries, popular music, material culture, and the use of sound across media. Dr. Barnett’s current research includes work on intermedial links between film and phonography in the twentieth century and the way sound recordings have been used to define American citizenship.

He has published articles in Music, Sound and the Moving Image; the Journal of Popular Music Studies; the Journal of Material Culture; and numerous book anthologies. He is the author of Record Cultures: The Transformation of the U.S. Recording Industry (University of Michigan Press, 2020). Dr. Barnett is also a former co-editor of The Velvet Light Trap and has served as columnist for Flow, Antenna, and In Media Res. (For information on previous and ongoing research, visit www.kylesbarnett.org).

Dr. Barnett is also at work on the Bellarmine Media Archive, a digital humanities project-in-progress that will provide access to rare media artifacts tied to Bellarmine in varying ways (examples include a 1936 home movie of the Abbey of Gethsemani and audio footage of the Grateful Dead’s 1968 performance at Bellarmine’s Knights Hall). This ongoing project is in collaboration with Dr. John Stemmer of Bellarmine’s W. L. Lyons Brown Library and graduate students in both the MAC and MSDM programs. He also serves as associate director of Bellarmine’s Institute for Media, Culture, and Ethics (MCE), which brings both media practitioners and scholars to campus to collaborate with students in various ways.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Bellarmine University’s Master of Arts in Communication program, and how it is structured? What topics are covered in the core curriculum, and what are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?

[Dr. Kyle Barnett] Our Master of Arts in Communication (MAC) program is designed to be an overview of the study of communication, with an emphasis on media. While our current faculty are largely focused on media, we have been careful to hold onto our department’s foundational ties to Communication Studies, which we continue to value.

Of our two graduate programs, this degree is the broader one, so if you are looking to design a more individualized degree that doesn’t fit neatly into traditional categories, this program would work for you. The M.A. in Communication provides a greater theoretical and methodological grounding, which would be of great benefit if you’re planning to go on to a Ph.D. program in a variety of subjects. We encourage students to think through applications of these theories and methods in business, government, education, and other social contexts.

Our MAC graduates have gone on to work in a broad variety of contexts, including strategic communication, media relations, health communication, non-profit communication, media production in both legacy media and digital media settings, and any number of other communication professions. While studying at Bellarmine, we encourage students to consider internships and/or partner with any number of community groups, based on a given student’s area of interest.

Recent work out of the M.A. in Communication program has included designing media campaigns for non-profit fundraising, how to structure communication for good stewardship of our national parks, and an M.A. thesis on how disabilities imagery is represented in and circulated by social media memes. We want to work with you on the skills you’d like to develop and the problems you’d like to solve. Students come away with a solid knowledge of how communication works and how media is made, in order to bring attention to issues, solve problems, and affect change in any number of contexts.

We designed the Master of Arts degree program at Bellarmine University so it would work for both working professionals and more traditional students who want to obtain a terminal degree. Our courses are scheduled on weeknights (Monday through Thursday), usually from 6:00-8:45 p.m. Most classes meet in person, but even before the pandemic, we made some core courses and special topics classes available in hybrid and online forms.

The program consists of 10 classes. All MAC students take seven core classes: Introduction to Graduate Study in Communication; Communication Theory and Literature; Research Methods in Communication; Intercultural Communication; Studies in Digital Media; Introduction to Media Studies; and Ethical Issues in Communication. In order to complete the degree, students will then take three elective courses (these include special topics offerings, thesis hours, internships, and so on). Some of these courses are also offered in our Master of Science in Digital Media Program, which provides great collaborative opportunities.

Given Louisville’s longstanding focus on healthcare, our healthcare communication concentration is an interdisciplinary option within the MAC program. Students can graduate with a healthcare concentration if they take three (nine credits) Master of Health Science classes (online) in place of the nine elective credit hours. In addition to core classes, they can take M.S. in Digital Media courses that don’t overlap with the MAC program. They can also take graduate courses across the university via electives, which our students have also found quite useful.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe the master’s thesis, internship/practicum, and independent study options that students can complete as part of their electives in the program? Aside from the required courses, are there any final requirements students must fulfill to graduate?

[Dr. Kyle Barnett] Working with students on Master’s theses is one of the greatest pleasures of my work. Thesis work allows for a student to do in-depth research that can lead to any number of applications or opportunities. Several of our students who have done theses have then gone on to use their research in their career, while others have used the work in applications to Ph.D. programs.

In terms of graduation requirements, we do not require the thesis option (we encourage a portfolio, which can help after completion of the program, in various ways). I think these options make our program unique and it also suggests how serious we are about encouraging students to represent their research by employing both traditional and emerging approaches. We are proud of our students’ work.

While we do not require a Master’s thesis at present, given the wide variety of personal goals of our students, we do strongly encourage it for those planning to apply for Ph.D. programs. The portfolio option is designed for more hands-on work, which is ideal for MSDM students but some MAC students also find creating a portfolio beneficial in a variety of personal and professional ways.

We have internship opportunities at the graduate level and students have worked across varying fields associated with communication and media, in Louisville and elsewhere. Our internship coordinator, who is also a professor, meets with the student during the semester, while keeping in touch with the organization over the course of the semester to ensure success for all involved.

Our graduate programs are small enough that we’re able to work with students on an ongoing one-on-one basis via independent studies classes. When applying to any graduate programs, prospective students should not only look at the curriculum or the faculty’s research and production interests, but also gather information about what the students are doing. This can give you a broader sense of what is possible via independent studies classes. In addition to responding to students via our special topics classes, students can work with professors whose expertise might work well on a project specific to you. Students work with professors to check on availability, then they collaborate on a syllabus plan for the academic term. I help with the paperwork in submitting the syllabus and an explanatory form to the dean’s offices for approval and then the class is scheduled. Some of the most meaningful work in my graduate study was through independent studies and we want to provide students with the same opportunities when we can.

At present, the coursework is all that is necessary to complete the program. Most students choose additional course work over the thesis option, but those that do work on theses go on to graduate study or have a specific project they would like to develop for professional purposes. We encourage students to participate in internships and create portfolios and many of our students do one or both.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Bellarmine University’s Master of Arts in Communication 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. Kyle Barnett] Mentorship at Bellarmine takes a variety of forms. The goal is to help students toward their goals, while making the path there meaningful and useful. Because I advise each of our MA in Communication students, I have a firsthand sense of what they’re doing and why. I encourage students to be in contact with all of our faculty in this regard. All faculty have a shared ethos focused on working with students in this way. The more we know, the more we can help with any opportunities that come along. Our department is small and agile enough that we can respond to students’ interests and trajectories in this way. We proved that we could adapt well during the changes brought on by the pandemic (several of our classes were already fully or partially online). It is a real strength of our program that we will continue to embrace a variety of approaches moving forward.

While some research is necessarily an individual pursuit, graduate study does not have to be an individual experience. We try to honor communication’s longstanding connections to community as fundamental to what we do. In this way, we want to build a departmental and campus culture that is supportive and generative. We encourage students to not limit their experience to the classroom but take advantage of other ways to get involved. Attend campus events, visit with faculty during office hours, and meet up with other students. Remember that you have an impact on who we are and what we do. If you have an initiative that you think would benefit our department’s graduate culture, talk with us and your fellow graduate students about it. Let’s see what’s possible.

Beyond faculty-student communication and collaborations, there are a variety of resources and initiatives in and out of the department for graduate students to access. I work with our acquisitions librarian to make sure we have the right resources for graduate study. The department updates and expands our media production technologies on a regular basis. Our Student Success Center has graduate-level staff that can consult with you on research projects, whether they take the shape of a traditional research paper, web site, podcast, or video essay.

We are pleased to be able to employ a handful of graduate assistants to help students pay for their studies, while also benefiting the campus community in a variety of ways. Faculty and staff work with graduate assistants on various initiatives meant to further a variety of goals, from technical and administrative duties to research-based projects (or both).

Faculty, staff and students – both graduate and undergraduate – regularly work with our university librarians. Their help has been crucial in my own research and I made sure to thank them (in person and in my book acknowledgements). I think we can be lulled into a sense that we know our way around internet resources. Most of us do not. Very few of us realize what we miss – until we pay a visit to our kindly reference librarians, who show us what else there is.

We connect our students with our Career Development Center early on (our liaison is an MA in Communication graduate). Bellarmine graduates can use the center even after they graduate. The Career Development Center can help with broad questions (rethinking your career track, matching your skills to different opportunities) and detailed ones (interview skills, writing cover letters, strengthening your resume).

Our students are involved with media production and community engagement in a variety of ways, including Knights Media Network and Bellarmine University Radio (graduate students are welcome to participate). Our Institute for Media, Culture and Ethics is also housed in our department and can provide a variety of ongoing opportunities for research and collaboration with students. An ongoing TedX Bellarmine series is housed in our department and graduate students have played a large role in its production at every stage and both students and faculty have presented. The Department of Communication in collaboration with our W.L. Lyons Brown Library is working on developing the Bellarmine Media Archive, an online digital collection that will provide access to the university’s little-known media holdings both tied to the university’s past and to much broader histories that reach far beyond our campus gates.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application for Bellarmine University’s Master of Arts in Communication program?

[Dr. Kyle Barnett] Take time on the application. Be thoughtful and prepare it with care. Choose letter writers that know you, your work, and your goals. Give your references enough information (beyond a mere resume) so that they can write on your behalf with depth and insight. Contribute your best writing. Revise and check spelling. Then do it again! Show it to a trusted mentor or friend to review. You can also get useful advice from our graduate admission expert (and former MA in Communication graduate student) Sarah Schuble at sschuble@bellarmine.edu. (We do not require the GRE for either program, because of concerns that it is not a robust predictor of student performance.)

The application process for limited spots can be competitive. To submit a strong application, be sure to take time and make sure you have shown us who you are and what you can do. This is true for any program to which you might apply. It’s especially important for us, because we are interested in the question of fit and whether your goals and our mission are aligned. (Know too that a given program could reject your application not because of your lack preparedness or ability, but because the program may not be a good fit for your interests and skills. A rejection is not an assessment of your overall worth! It’s hard not to take rejections personally but remember that those decisions can be based on a variety of competing factors.)

We have a broad array of students in our program from different backgrounds, from around the corner and across the world. We’d like to expand this dynamic further. This only strengthens what we do together. One example: some of our students just finished their undergraduate degrees, while others have been out of school for decades. Through our early-entry program, Bellarmine undergraduates can begin their graduate study before they’ve finished their undergraduate degrees (they pay undergraduate tuition for graduate classes). We also have students at varying stages of their career – ten, twenty, or thirty years into a given profession – who come to us in search of retooling their skillset or setting a new course for what’s next.

An ideal application shows care and thoughtfulness, one that gives voice to who you are, while providing a narrative of what you hope to accomplish. It’s an application that isn’t necessarily impeccable in terms of past educational achievement, but one that convinces us that you can excel in graduate study. Beyond that, we most want students who are interested in going beyond being prepared for the changes in communication to come. The ideal students are those that want to be a part of the kinds of change we’d all like to see.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes the Bellarmine University’s Master of Arts in Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?

[Dr. Kyle Barnett] Most programs that try to provide both a grounding in ideas on the one hand and hands-on experience on the other fail to integrate them in any meaningful way. So far, we’ve managed to accomplish that, based on the notion that the ideas inform the practice and the practice informs the ideas. All of our graduate faculty are engaged in both theory and practice, or “studies” and “production.” We encourage this in our students too, even if they have little experience in a given area. Embracing that amateurism can lead to better outcomes. We have students that go on to Ph.D. programs and this program will prepare you for that. We regularly consult with students on their graduate applications.

But most of our MA in Communication students choose the degree because their approach to communication is broader in focus. They want to prepare for any number of careers in communication and in media and they want to chart their path accordingly. We have graduates in media management positions and in strategic communication roles. Others are in sports media or work in the film, TV, radio, and recording industries. Some have started tech companies and others work in media relations. Still others work in communication and fundraising for non-profit organizations. A student recently approached me about how we might communicate with visitors to our National Parks in such a way so we could protect those spaces from excessive use (too many Instagram posts). There are many interesting links between communication, media, and environmental concerns. We’re interested and open to what you want to do.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Bellarmine University also offers a Master of Science in Digital Media. Could you please elaborate on the curriculum and key learning outcomes for this program? What kinds of careers does this program prepare students for, and how does this program differ from the Master of Arts in Communication?

[Dr. Kyle Barnett] Yes, our M.S. in Digital Media program offers a more hands-on approach, meant to allow students to become full digital practitioners and participants. Just as we encourage our M.A. in Communication students to try hands-on applications, we teach our M.S. in Digital Media students to inform their media practice in ways that go beyond technical skill. We firmly believe that your ability to think through problems and contexts will allow you to create digital media that goes beyond mere production work by rote. Mere technical prowess is not enough, especially in an era in which technologies change with great regularity. We want to equip our students with the ability to adapt and intervene when the changes come.

I also should highlight the interdisciplinary nature of our M.S. in Digital Media program. All MSDM students are required to take a class in Bellarmine’s Master in Business Administration (MBA) program, in order to contextualize both the theoretical and technological approaches in digital media with the realities of contemporary business culture and practice. The MBA classes our MSDM students take have been especially useful to those students with specific entrepreneurial goals. Having this as part of our MSDM program is a real strength.

We also designed the MSDM program to share a few foundational courses with our M.A. in Communication program. Both MAC and MSDM share a core curriculum (e.g., Introduction to Graduate Study and Introduction to Media Studies) which allows for connections to be made, friendships to develop, and thinking across the curriculum to occur. It’s quite nice when we aren’t always sure which students are in which program. Sometimes MAC students make movies and sometimes MSDM students write papers. It’s good that they keep us guessing. It shows range and creativity.

I’d like to invite prospective students interested in either our Master of Arts in Communication or our Master of Science in Digital Media program to get in touch with me at kbarnett@bellarmine.edu. I look forward to speaking with you.

Thank you, Dr. Kyle Barnett, for your thoughtful responses and excellent insight into both Bellarmine University’s Master of Arts in Communication and Master of Science in Digital Media programs!