About Dr. Marina Vujnovic, Ph.D.: Marina Vujnovic is the Director of the Master of Arts in Corporate and Public Communication program at Monmouth University, where she also teaches courses and conducts research as an Associate Professor. As Director, Dr. Vujnovic mentors students in the program, handles recruitment, supports faculty, oversees additions and revisions to the program’s curriculum, and helps connect students with faculty advisors as they progress through the program. She teaches courses and conducts research in research theory, global communication, journalism studies, public relations, and the emergence of new communication technologies.

Dr. Vujnovic completed her undergraduate degree in journalism and political science from the University of Zagreb in Croatia in 1998. After graduating, she worked as a journalist for a local newspaper and in 2000 she began working at the University of Zagreb within the School for Graphic Arts. There, she assisted faculty with research and taught courses in communications research and visual communication. During this time, she also worked for a public relations company. After several years of work, Dr. Vujnovic decided to return to school to earn her Ph.D. and in 2003 she enrolled in the University of Northern Iowa’s master’s program in communication. She subsequently earned her Ph.D. from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Upon receiving her Ph.D. in 2008, she was hired by Monmouth University to teach communication and journalism courses.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Monmouth University’s Master of Arts in Corporate and Public 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. Vujnovic] The Master of Arts in Corporate and Public Communication is comprised of 30 course credits that are divided between core courses, electives, and a thesis or project. Students take the following four core courses:

  • Communication Theories for Professional Life: This course introduces students to essential theories and concepts in human and mass communication, and explores how human communication intersects with other elements of society, including social responsibility, public service, relationship building, etc.
  • Research Methods for Professional Life: In this course, students learn the qualitative and quantitative research methods that are involved in conducting communications research, as well as how to design and implement a pilot study including a formal research proposal. We recognize that many of our students come into our program with the goal of entering industry upon graduating, and therefore we try to make sure we connect research theories and methodologies to professional contexts.
  • Graduate Foundations in Communication: In this course, students explore the field of communication and its relationship with public service. Students learn the foundations of research, departmental policies within the program, and choose and plan their thesis or project. This course is meant to support students in their transition to graduate school.
  • Communication, Culture and Community: The idea of community as a function of communication is explored, as is the role of civic engagement and democratic participation in the development and improvement of community. Both non-profit and corporate contexts are discussed. Students explore the interplay of community and individual responsibility both in the classroom and as part of a community service project.

After these core courses, students take two classes either in thesis proposal and completion work, or project proposal and completion. The remaining 12 credits of the program are open for students to fill with electives according to their interests. We offer elective courses in a wide variety of areas, including global communication, strategic digital communication, conflict management and negotiation, public relations, communication ethics, political communication, and crisis management.

Students can further hone their area of focus in their program by pursuing one or more of our optional graduate certificates in Strategic Public Relations and New Media, Public Service Communication Specialist, and Human Resources Management & Communication. We are also working on a fourth track in our program on communication technologies, which will focus on everything from augmented reality to other emerging technologies and their impact on the field of communication.

Across our entire program there is a strong sense of public communication, and how to apply principles of public service to work in both the non-profit and the corporate spaces. Another key theme in our program is the impact that communication technologies have had on communication principles and best practices. Communication technologies today are, in many ways, both enhancing and attacking the dominant paradigms that we have in the field. Technology not only impacts daily practices, but also changes the ethics by which we determine how to communicate with one another individually, in small group settings, and in widely disseminated media forms such as social media and mass marketing.

Communication complements–or rather is necessary for–so many areas and industries, and as such we want to make sure that we provide the flexibility and faculty support for students to craft a program of study that meets their precise professional goals and personal interests.

Students also have the option to take electives from departments and schools at Monmouth University that are outside of the Department of Communication. Students who envision working in the corporate world may take electives in our business department, and take classes alongside MBA students, while students who are interested in health communication may take courses in nursing and health studies with approval from their program advisor. People who want to focus in-depth on communication technologies can take courses in computer science along with some electives in our department. Communication complements–or rather is necessary for–so many areas and industries, and as such we want to make sure that we provide the flexibility and faculty support for students to craft a program of study that meets their precise professional goals and personal interests.

Note: As of the Summer of 2018, we will be making a few modifications to our program. It will be called the Master of Arts in Communication rather than the Master of Arts in Corporate and Public Communication, and we will offer two concentrations: Interactive Digital Media, and Public Relations and Social Media. We will still offer certificates in Human Resource Management and Public Service Communication.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students can choose between completing a master’s thesis, a communication project, or a comprehensive exam. Could you describe these three options in detail, and what they entail?

[Dr. Vujnovic] The master’s thesis is a traditional graduate research paper through which students investigate a particular research inquiry concerning human communication as it relates to issues in social service, politics, corporate communication, political communication, and other areas. This option is ideal for students who are interested in pursuing further communication studies at the doctorate level. Students who choose this option consult their advisor and select members for a committee who advise them in their completion of their thesis. In the Communication Thesis Proposal course, students complete a ten to fifteen page proposal that includes a focused research inquiry, a study rationale, a literature review, a thesis research methodology, and if applicable an Institutional Review Board approval for research with human subjects. Students then complete a course that allows them to delve specifically into their thesis, and complete 25 to 30 pages of their thesis. This course also encompasses students’ presentation and defense of their thesis before their committee members.

The project option is ideal for students who wish to enter industry after they graduate, and is more flexible in terms of structure. It emphasizes practical skills that are directly applicable to industry projects and roles. Many of our students either acquire or come in with certain skills like television production, radio production, video production, programming, film design and development, and how to construct messages for media channels, and therefore want to use their culminating experience to further hone these skills. Students take two project-specific courses. The first course is a Communication Project Proposal course, during which students review scholarly and industry literature and develop a project proposal for submission and approval by their advisor and committee. The second course is where they dive into their work on their project under the supervision of their advisor.

Examples of projects that students have engaged in in the past include a video for the local SPCA branch, content for AVP (an alternatives for violence corporation that helps former prisoners and incarcerated people), and a study that examined how elementary school teachers integrate communication technologies both inside and outside of the classroom. Typically, for the project, the work that students complete connects to a real world organization and/or issue. We have had students work with PR agencies, a non-profit organization, or a corporation, and they present their work and research in front of this organization in order to get feedback.

The third option, the comprehensive exam, is one of our most popular options, as approximately half of students choose it. The exam does not count for course credit, so students who choose this track must take an additional six course credits in order to graduate. The comprehensive exam is designed to test the knowledge that students have acquired in their graduate studies. It is typically held on a Saturday, and is a four-hour examination about communication theory and methods, research, surveying human subjects, and other core and advanced concepts. Students also write an essay to apply their knowledge of the theories they learned to practical examples. After students complete the four hour exam, their committee reviews their responses in a blind review, and typically revisions are requested. Some students may consider the comprehensive exam option because they think it will be easier and faster than the thesis or project. But I will say taking the exam is not easy either! It is highly rigorous, and even though students finish this requirement faster than they would a thesis or a project, the other two options have the benefit of giving students something concrete that they can include in their portfolio.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Monmouth University’s Master of Arts in Corporate and Public 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?

We conduct regular surveys with our students, and also our alumni. And overwhelmingly, our alums say that what really stuck with them in the program after they left is faculty. Our faculty truly care, and focus on each students’ needs, accessibility, and potential.

[Dr. Vujnovic] We have numerous mentorship opportunities and support systems both within and outside of the classroom. We conduct regular surveys with our students, and also our alumni. And overwhelmingly, our alums say that what really stuck with them in the program after they left is faculty. Our faculty truly care, and focus on each students’ needs, accessibility, and potential. Even if you have a faculty advisor and thesis advisor already, all doors are open in our department, and students can chat with different faculty about different concepts and issues. I think that faculty mentorship plays a huge role in our department in this way.

Students begin the program with me as their advisor, and then they narrow down to an advisor that matches their areas of interest within the program. Once they get to the point where they have determined their final graduation requirement option, and (in the case of project or thesis) the topic of their culminating experience, students then seek faculty advisors who can best support their work. For instance, one student is investigating propaganda, new media, and democracy, and we have faculty who focus on political communication. He’s chosen to work with one of the faculty members whose expertise is in media technologies and democracy. So depending on where their interests are or the methodologies they want to use, students have a wide range of options in terms of their graduate advisors and committee members throughout the program.

Many of our students also do internships. We have an internship course that students take advantage of, and which we implemented in response to student feedback saying that they would find a course devoted to practical internship work to be helpful. We have always been very responsive to students’ input regarding how we can make our program better.

Alongside our curriculum, which focuses on technological innovation and communication for the public good, we also work to provide our students with the latest in cutting edge communication technologies that they can interact with both in the classroom and in their own extracurricular work. We are building a new lab for communication technologies that allows students to interact directly with state of the art media technology for both independent research and work on projects for classes.

In terms of devoted career development services in the program, our department focuses on what we call “Life After Monmouth”; in other words, we work to answer students’ questions around, “What is going to happen to me once I’m no longer a student at Monmouth? What resources will be available to me after I graduate?” Every spring, our department organizes a networking event where we invite professionals from the field. It’s an all day event, and we have over 100 participants and organizations that hold both undergraduate and graduate panels there. Students have to be dressed up nicely, and organizations have tables and booths that students can circulate. Students are encouraged to bring their resumes and portfolios. Organizations often give them other resources and contact information. There have been very successful partnerships between students and these organizations in terms of internships, employment, etc. That is our department-specific career event.

Monmouth University also has general, campus-wide job fairs and career events. And the career center is available to students at any time, where they provide resume help, portfolio feedback, job and internship databases, interview prep, and more. In terms of academic services, we have a writing center that students use a lot, as well as library resources that help them in their research.

One thing I wanted to mention is graduate assistantships, which are in high demand in our program. We have three types: graduate research assistant, graduate teaching assistant, and a general graduate assistant who can be assigned to various tasks. Our graduate research assistants are typically paired with a faculty member to work on research that interests them. Graduate teaching assistants are paired with a faculty member based on their interest, and help with teaching and assignments. The general graduate assistants can be assigned to do a variety of work. For example, some of our students work in production services within our department, which is a company that works with clients to develop films and short films. We also have a polling institute where students can work. And currently, one of our students is working with a faculty member who is working with the American Society of Andrology to critique their communication and social media strategies so that the organization can better understand where they should put their resources and what their communication plan should look like moving forward. This student feels really grateful that she has the opportunity to work with real clients and do the kind of research that interested her and apply what she learned in classes to actual projects. GAships are great opportunities for students that can also offset the cost. We have about six GAships per semester, so 12 per year.

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

[Dr. Vujnovic] We look for an essay that shows real intention, strong letters of recommendation, and a GPA of 3.0 or higher. We also ask for a portfolio of past work. Some students see that requirement and worry that, as they are just coming from undergraduate, they don’t have the work history to put forth a strong portfolio. However, a portfolio as we define it can include everything from writing samples from your past courses to any kind of service work you completed within and outside of school. And if you are a working professional, it can include any of your past work, including communications campaigns or press releases, video releases, etc. Typically students submit their portfolio in electronic form.

Our students come from a wide variety of academic, professional, and social backgrounds. We have a mix of people who come from industry, as well as people coming straight from undergraduate. Our students have degrees or work experiences in areas such as journalism, broadcasting, or communication disciplines, oftentimes. But occasionally, we get people from the business discipline, computer science, psychology, sociology, history, and anthropology. We believe that this diversity in our program enhances students’ potential for growth, which is why we have a foundational course where students discuss advanced communication concepts and bring their own experiences, insights, and ways of thinking and problem solving to the discussion table.

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

[Dr. Vujnovic] I would say one of the core ways in which our program is unique is how we bring corporate and public communication elements together, so that students can see the intersections between these two fields. Many programs are more narrowly defined, such as master’s programs in public relations, organizational communication in corporate settings, marketing, or broadcasting and journalism.

Our program allows students to be specific in the skills and knowledge they obtain for their jobs post-graduation, but also the larger aim is for our students to be able to look at communication and how it encompasses a wide variety of areas–emerging technologies and media, message construction, public speaking–all of these areas are helpful whether you work in corporate communication or public communication and social responsibility.

Another element of our program that is really important to us is our ethics as a Department, and as a program. One of our central aims is empowering students to give back to the community, and also teaching them how to think about communication and its role in organizational culture. Culture is a really important aspect of an organization, whether you work for a corporation, a non-profit, or a governmental agency. We teach students that whatever they do, whatever communications occur within an organization and between that organization and the public has reverberations in the community. So I would say that our emphasis on ethics and social service is a major reason why our program is unique and a strong option for students who want to maximize their options and impact in the communications field.

Thank you, Dr. Vujnovic, for your excellent insight into Monmouth University’s Master of Arts Corporate and Public Communication program!