About Dr. Leanne Knobloch, PhD: Leanne Knobloch is a professor and director of graduate study in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois. She joined the department in 2002 after earning her bachelor’s degree from St. Norbert College in Wisconsin and her master’s degree and doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests focus on interpersonal communication within close relationships, particularly how spouses and family members communicate during times of transition. She teaches courses in interpersonal communication, conflict management, relationship development, and research methods.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of the Master of Arts in Communication program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 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. Leanne Knobloch] Our master’s program is incredibly flexible. It is designed to be completed in two years (with or without coursework during the middle summer), but it can be accomplished in an accelerated route of two semesters plus a summer. Some of our students study with us on their way to careers in industry; others choose our program as a pathway towards a doctoral program.
Our coursework is flexible as well. We do not have a required core curriculum because we want students to have the freedom to tailor our course offerings to their unique career goals. Students build an individualized program of study in collaboration with their advisor, which allows them to take the courses that best meet their needs. Some students develop specific expertise in interpersonal communication, health communication, organizational communication, rhetoric, mediated communication and technology, communication and culture, and so on. Other students take unique combinations of courses on these topics to build a customized expertise. Because our students take so much ownership of their degree, our program is the best fit for students who have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students must pass a comprehensive examination. Could we please have some additional details on this requirement? How are exam questions determined, and how can students optimally prepare for it?
[Dr. Leanne Knobloch] Our comprehensive exam process is designed to give students the opportunity to revisit what they have learned during their master’s coursework and apply it in new and interesting ways. Students select six courses to include in their exam, and they work closely with their advisor and the individual faculty members to devise questions that invite them to reflect on their expertise and what they would still like to learn. Students devote one hour to each of the six questions and another hour to a general question crafted by their adviser. Students usually complete the exam on two days of their choosing during the same calendar week. After the exams are over, students often tell us that they enjoyed the chance to think critically about their coursework.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in the University of Illinois’ Master of Arts in Communication program, and how can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems?
[Dr. Leanne Knobloch] Our faculty are very focused on helping students succeed in our program. Professors invite students to work on research projects, mentor students in professional development issues, advise students on coursework, and provide information about career paths. Our department culture is warm, welcoming, and collaborative.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Additionally, what career development resources and academic services are available to students of this program?
[Dr. Leanne Knobloch] Our department offers extensive support for professional development. In terms of research, our graduate seminars emphasize strategies for conducting and evaluating communication scholarship. Second, students benefit from our low faculty-to-student ratio, which allows them access to direct participation in faculty research.
We also provide lots of opportunities for our students to get acquainted with the field. All new graduate students enroll in an introductory course to learn about the discipline. A series of professional development workshops also offer key information about the discipline (typical topics include presenting at conferences, preparing a CV, and navigating the job market). Third, we encourage students to attend conferences in the field and we support them with travel funds to do so. In part because of our culture of research involvement and travel support, our students regularly present their work at national and international conferences.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application for the University of Illinois’ Master of Arts in Communication program?
[Dr. Leanne Knobloch] We evaluate students based on their application as a whole (taking into account undergraduate grades and coursework, career goals, research experience, personal statement, writing sample, GRE scores, and letters of recommendation). We are looking for students who are prepared for graduate-level work and have given considerable thought to their career goals. Ideal candidates spell out in their personal statement why they are interested in our department and how their interests fit with our expertise.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Master of Arts in Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Leanne Knobloch] A unique feature of our department is how much autonomy students have to build a master’s degree program that fits with their career goals. Our curriculum is helpful for students who are planning careers in education, business, government, public policy, health care, and many other areas. At the same time, our curriculum is an excellent springboard into top doctoral programs and our aspiring doctoral students have the opportunity to work closely with faculty on publishable research projects. And the best part is that we don’t require students to choose a single path when they enter the program: They have time to explore our coursework and see how their goals take shape.
Thank you, Dr. Knobloch, for your insight into the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Master of Arts in Communication program!