About Michael J. Lee, Ph.D.: Michael Lee is the Director of the Master of Arts in Communication program at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. He also teaches and researches in the areas of rhetoric and political communication at the College of Charleston. He is particularly interested in political identity. Dr. Lee holds a Ph.D. (Communication) from the University of Minnesota as well as M.A. (Communication) and B.A. (Political Science) degrees from the University of Georgia. His book, Creating Conservatism: Postwar Words that Made an American Movement (2014) earned five national book awards in the field.

Additionally, Dr. Lee has written numerous award-winning essays and conference papers on American foreign policy, the presidency, American conservatism, and other topics. His essays have been published in such journals as the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Feminist Media Studies, the Journal of Applied Communication Research, and elsewhere. He has also given frequent media interviews on a number of political topics.

Interview Questions

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

[Dr. Michael Lee] The Masters of Arts in Communication (MCOM) teaches students the theoretical approaches and research practices of successful communicators. The fully online, 30-hour program provides a highly personalized graduate education in communication, integrates interdisciplinary concepts, focuses on personal and professional development, and embraces experiential education. Students will complete 30 hours of coursework in leadership communication, digital media communication, strategic communication, and leadership communication.

The program concludes with a customizable capstone. This capstone course will emphasize relationship building between students and faculty members using real-time connections via Zoom, Skype, and/or Google Hangouts as well as weekly feedback via D2L, the College of Charleston’s learning management system.

This innovative course sequence is delivered by one of the most prestigious Communication faculties in the nation. The faculty in the Department of Communication have won many of the discipline’s benchmark awards, are recognized both nationally and internationally as experts across the field’s many specializations, and are regularly invited to lecture at universities around the globe.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students must complete a capstone module. Could you elaborate on these two options, and what they entail?

[Dr. Michael Lee] For the capstone, students work alongside a faculty mentor to develop an independent study tailored to their personal and professional goals. The capstone project they select is highly flexible, so while one student might use their capstone hours to complete a traditional thesis project, another might use the hours to develop a comprehensive marketing plan for an internship organization, and yet another might complete a community-based project for a local nonprofit. Capstone deliverables will vary according to the independent study plan and will be different for each and every student. This new capstone model will help us offer a more flexible and tailored graduate experience that directly relates to each student’s goals for graduate study.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please elaborate on the Graduate Pedagogy Program that is available to students of the College of Charleston’s Master of Arts in Communication? For whom is this program most suitable, and how does it benefit students?

[Dr. Michael Lee] The graduate pedagogy program offers students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree and/or teaching in higher education the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in the teaching and learning environment. Under the supervision of a tenure-track faculty member, students gain valuable portfolio-building experience in classroom management, undergraduate student engagement, curriculum development, presentation creation, lecture delivery as well as student evaluation and course assessment.

Many of our alumni that have participated in the pedagogy program have received competitive teaching assistantship (TA) awards to support doctoral study based on their successful graduate pedagogy experience. With that said, other students that have completed the graduate pedagogy program have pursued careers in coaching, training and development, organizational consulting, and even motivational speaking. In essence, the program is a fantastic experience for students that want to refine their presentation and speaking skills as well as gain experience developing curriculum and evaluating student performance.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in the College of Charleston’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. Michael Lee] Our alumni almost always cite faculty advising and mentorship as our program’s greatest strength. However, at the graduate level, it is the student’s responsibility to take advantage of the many development opportunities presented to them. Whether it be a networking social with our world-class Advisory Council, a luncheon with our local PRSA chapter, a professional organization tour, a student-alumni Q&A panel, a faculty advising session, or our departmental picnic, MCOM students are given access to our faculty, staff, alumni, and stakeholder groups through a variety of engaging activities throughout the year.

Aside from the fairly common campus resources like our Career Center and our Center for Student Learning, MCOM graduate students also have access to the professional development opportunities available through the Graduate Student Association (GSA) as well as the Master of Arts in Communication Student Association (MCSA). Both organizations serve as not only a social support network, but an important resource for professional development and research funding as well.

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

[Dr. Michael Lee] A competitive application for our program includes strong letters of recommendation that speak to an applicant’s critical thinking, writing and research skills as well as their academic maturity. We also look for a personal statement that not only shares the student’s professional goals but also their specific interest in our program. In short, prospective students should make an argument for program fit throughout the personal statement. Finally, although several different types of writing samples are acceptable, original research that demonstrates familiarity of the research process is preferred.

As the program director, I also encourage potential applicants to visit Charleston, tour campus and meet with me as well as a few of our current graduate students prior to applying. It is extremely helpful to talk to a prospective student and vice versa; a campus meeting or even just a phone call can give life to the paper application.

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

[Dr. Michael Lee] The MCOM program offers students a convenient graduate experience through online course delivery and a flexible degree completion timeline. Full- and part-time students are welcome; students enrolled full time can complete their graduate degree in an accelerated 12 months. Beyond the virtual classroom, students can also take advantage of historic Charleston as a laboratory for final projects, professional immersion experiences, and community-based research teams.

In addition, with our 1:1 faculty to graduate student ratio, our students build rewarding relationships with faculty. Students can expect attentive and supportive advising; faculty are encouraged to work with only one graduate student throughout the academic year. In addition, our small program allows students the opportunity to develop strong peer relationships that result in an encouraging and friendly atmosphere.

While most of our students pursue careers in agency, corporate and media environments, about 12% of program alumni have pursued fully-funded doctoral degrees at top R1 programs across the U.S. Our alumni work at places like Forbes, Le Creuset, Ketchum, USDA, International Planned Parenthood Foundation, Pitney Bowes, and San Antonio Spurs, and study at doctoral programs like Purdue University, Louisiana State University, University of Minnesota and Ohio University. Regardless of where they go after graduation, MCOM graduates are well prepared for industry and/or academic positions, and many rise as leaders in their professional communities.

Note: Dr. Amanda Ruth-McSwain, the former Director for the Master of Arts in Communication program at the College of Charleston, also contributed to this interview.

Thank you, Dr. Lee and Dr. Ruth-McSwain, for your excellent insight into the College of Charleston’s Master of Arts in Communication program!