About Nadia Kaneva, Ph.D.: Nadia Kaneva is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media, Film, and Journalism Studies at the University of Denver and Director of the master’s program in Media and Public Communication. Dr. Kaneva’s research focuses on nation branding, public diplomacy, and promotional culture from a critical perspective. An internationally recognized scholar, she has presented her work in countries around the world, including Finland, Greece, Peru, Romania, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Before becoming an academic, she worked in advertising and public relations in the United States and in her native country, Bulgaria. At DU, Dr. Kaneva teaches media theory, strategic communication, branding, and public diplomacy.
Dr. Kaneva holds a PhD in Media Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder, an MA in Advertising from Syracuse University, and a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from the American University in Bulgaria.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of the University of Denver’s Master of Arts in Media 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. Kaneva] The M.A. in Media and Public Communication at DU combines theoretical and practical courses and prepares students for a wide range of careers in the fields of strategic communication and public relations, brand management, public affairs and government relations, public diplomacy, health communication, nonprofit management, education, and research. All students are required to take three core classes, which introduce them to foundational concepts in media theory, research methods, and media law. In addition, students can choose a concentration in Strategic Communication or in Media and Globalization.
Courses in the Strategic Communication concentration cover such topics as campaign planning and evaluation, strategic message design, branding, and multicultural communication. Each class allows students to develop both conceptual knowledge and practical skills and many classes include hands-on projects where students work with local nonprofit organizations as their clients. This allows every student to build a professional portfolio of work, which helps our graduates stand out in the job market. The coursework is designed in such a way that our students are equally prepared for success in the nonprofit and government sectors, in corporate and agency settings, or in higher education and research.
Classes in the Media and Globalization concentration explore the ways in which media and public communication are intertwined with cultural, economic and political processes in both local and global settings. This concentration is particularly suitable for students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree and an academic career. Throughout their classes, students develop a deep understanding of the relationships between media, communication, and social change.
Within this framework, students in both concentrations can select from a menu of classes in order to dive deeper into topics and professional areas that appeal to them. As graduate director, I work with each student in the beginning of their studies to create a customized course plan that best meets the student’s goals and interests.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Students of the University of Denver’s Master of Arts in Media and Public Communication program have a choice between completing a thesis or an internship for their final graduation requirement. Could you please elaborate on each of these options? What are the required deliverables for each, and what steps must students take to complete them?
[Dr. Kaneva] We believe that research and practice must go hand in hand as they work to address real-world problems. That’s why the curriculum of our master’s program is structured so that it will prepare students equally well for professional and for academic careers. At the same time, based on their own goals and interests, students can choose between completing a professional internship, a master’s thesis, or a substantial research paper as a capstone experience. Each student makes that decision in consultation with the graduate director and with his or her individual faculty advisor.
Typically, students who wish to pursue a professional career opt for an internship. Our internship program is highly regarded by employers and we have seen many cases where an internship turns into a job offer upon graduation. At the end of their internships, students submit a paper or a professional portfolio, and complete an exit interview with the department’s Internship Director.
Students interested in a PhD and an academic career usually opt for a master’s thesis or a substantial research paper (SRP). There are differences between these two types of research projects, but in both cases the student is supervised by a faculty advisor who guides them through the research and writing process. As graduate director, I help students identify the best faculty advisor based on their research interests. Overall, the process of completing a thesis or an SRP requires multiple steps, but we make sure that students get the support they need at every stage. Our faculty are leaders in their fields and they cherish the opportunity to mentor the next generation of scholars.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in the University of Denver’s Master of Arts in Media 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?
[Dr. Kaneva] Individual faculty mentorship is one of the defining features of our program. As soon as a student enrolls in our program, we connect them with a faculty advisor who becomes a key resource and guide. Advisors meet with students at least once per academic quarter and go over academic progress, coursework selection, research plans, or any other questions. As Graduate Director, I also meet with all new students at the start of the program and I discuss with them their overall plans and their big-picture goals. I interact with graduate students throughout the year and provide advice on anything related to graduate school – from choosing the right classes, to accessing student resources on campus, to career planning.
Students who choose to complete an internship also benefit from the mentorship and experience of the department’s Internship Director, Dr. Erika Polson. She works with students individually to help them find a good placement and ensure that their internship experience would be productive and valuable. Internship and career advising are also available through the University of Denver’s Office of Career Services, which maintains an extensive network of contacts with employers and alumni nationwide.
Our master’s program is relatively small, which allows for a lot of close and genuine interactions between professors and students. Graduate class sizes range from 8 to 20 students, ensuring that every student’s ideas can be shared and recognized. We believe that the best learning happens in safe and collaborative settings and we apply this principle outside of regular coursework as well. Many of our professors involve graduate students in their research, and I’m happy to say that, in several cases, this has led to conference papers and published research articles, which were co-authored by a student and a professor.
On a lighter note, we also hold quarterly parties where graduate students, faculty, and staff socialize in an informal setting. Many students have told me how much they appreciated the friendships and bonds they established with both classmates and professors during their time in our program. We are also fortunate to have an incredibly dedicated network of alumni who are eager to meet current and prospective students and offer advice about graduate school and career paths.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application for the Master of Arts in Media and Public Communication program?
[Dr. Kaneva] What most applicants don’t realize is that the application process is a two-way street. You choose a school and a program as much as they choose you. With this in mind, my advice to all applicants is to expand their vetting of graduate programs beyond reading what’s on their website. If you can, please come and visit us on the DU campus before or after you submit your application. We may be able to help pay for your trip – just ask us. If visiting Denver is not possible, make an appointment to speak with a faculty advisor on the phone or online. We can also connect you to current graduate students or recent alumni, so that you get different perspectives on what it would be like to join the M.A. in Media and Public Communication at DU. All of this first-hand information will help you craft a stronger, better informed application statement. More importantly, this process will help you choose the graduate program that is best for you.
When our admissions committee reviews graduate applications, we want to get a sense of who you are as a person and how our graduate program can help you achieve your personal and professional goals. Yes, your GRE scores and college grades are important factors in our selection, but we look beyond the numbers and try to see the whole person. We really want to know what inspires and motivates you. So, use your personal statement to tell us why you think our program is the right fit for you. Show us that you’ve done your homework and you are ready to take on the challenges of graduate school and join our learning community.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes the University of Denver’s Master of Arts in Media and Public Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Kaneva] I like to say that the M.A. in Media and Public Communication at DU offers a boutique graduate experience. We are a small, close-knit, and supportive community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Whenever I’m asked to write a letter of recommendation for a former student, I can easily speak not only about their academic record, but also about their aspirations, talents, and dreams – because I’ve had the opportunity to get to know them really well. Many former students are now good friends and I love to follow their accomplishments.
In terms of our program’s curriculum, our classes are designed very purposefully to balance theory and practice. This expands the professional options of our graduates and it also transforms the way they think about media and communication. We want our students to be able to draw the connections between day-to-day communication activities and the cultural and social impacts they have. We want students to get the critical skills that would allow them to see the bigger picture so that they can become leaders in their chosen fields.
Professional communicators today have a greater power and a greater social responsibility than ever, and our program is committed to understanding how media and communication can be used in service of the greater good. This means that all of our classes emphasize ethical practices, awareness of social justice issues, and building global and multicultural bridges. These values are not just buzzwords to us; they are reflected in the research our professors do, in our ongoing partnerships with nonprofit organizations, and in the accomplishments of our alumni.
Finally, I want prospective students to know that when they enroll in our program, they will not only earn a degree and gain valuable knowledge. They will also be joining a network of dedicated people who will be there to help and cheer them on through the rest of their professional lives.
Thank you, Dr. Kaneva, for your excellent insight into the University of Denver’s Master of Arts in Media and Public Communication!