About Noah Franken, Ph.D.: Noah Franken is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and the Graduate Program Director at West Texas A&M University, where he teaches classes on persuasion, communication theory, and interpersonal communication. In his current position at West Texas A&M University, his research focuses primarily on identity, though he has other interests in popular and rhetorical communication, especially pertaining to the expression of identity in popular music. As the Director of West Texas A&M University’s Master of Arts in Communication program, Dr. Franken advises all graduate students in the program and helps to oversee curriculum changes in the program. He was initially drawn to the field of Communication Studies due to its importance in people’s everyday lives and because of the flexibility it provides in studying various phenomena.
Dr. Franken earned his bachelor of arts in English at Marquette University, his master of arts in Communication at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, and his doctoral degree in Communication at the University of Missouri.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of West Texas A&M University’s Master of Arts in Communication program, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes for this program, and what types of careers does it prepare students for?
[Dr. Franken] The Master of Arts in Communication Program at WTAMU offers students the option of taking all their courses in the classroom, all their courses online, or a combination of both. Students choose between a thesis and a non-thesis option. The non-thesis option usually entails an applied research project with an organization or client. Our class offerings include theory, methods, crisis communication, health communication, storytelling, rhetorical criticism, and pedagogy, along with various special topics, and we offer classes in both communication studies and media communication.
Our key learning outcomes include research and writing, presentation skills, theory application, methodological competency, and strategic communication. Our students have completed theses on pop-culture-related topics, family communication, and interpersonal communication, among others, including projects that have included making documentaries and performing. Many of our graduating students go on to work in higher education (e.g., academic support, advising, recruiting).
[MastersinCommunications.com] West Texas A&M University’s Master of Arts in Communication program allows students to complete their program entirely online, entirely on-campus, or through a combination of online and campus courses. Could you elaborate on how students can mix and match online and campus courses, and what they should take into consideration when deciding which courses to take online versus on-campus?
[Dr. Franken] The online portion of our program is still somewhat new, but our faculty work hard to make sure that our online students get the same attention and resources that our on-campus students enjoy. We work closely with instructional designers to optimize the online learning experience and make every resource possible available to them. Typically, the students who take classes exclusively online do so because they are at a distance or because their jobs prevent them from being on campus. However, more and more students are starting to mix and match as our online offerings grow. Overall, when advising students, I take into consideration their unique circumstances to determine how best to structure their degree plans.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please elaborate on the online learning technologies that West Texas A&M University’s Master of Arts in Communication program uses to deliver course materials and facilitate interaction between students and faculty?
[Dr. Franken] We use Blackboard at WTAMU in both our face-to-face and online classes. As stated above, we work closely with instructional designers to optimize the online portions of our classes, and use a combination of asynchronous and synchronous instruction. Each instructor organizes their classes differently, but typical online classes utilize discussion boards, lecture capture, and video.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in West Texas A&M University’s Master of Arts in Communication program? How can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems while in the program? More broadly, is there anything you would like students to know about the College of Fine Arts and Humanities, such as its mission or additional resources that the College offers its campus and online students?
[Dr. Franken] The Texas panhandle in general is a very friendly place that strives to create a strong sense of community. Thus, WTAMU, the College of Fine Arts and Humanities, and our graduate faculty work hard to create a sense of community among our students. Obviously, this becomes a challenge when some of our students are on-campus and others are online. For on-campus students, we do our best to include them in some of our departmental initiatives such as the Communication Week Planning Committee and by inviting students to attend presentations and thesis defenses. We also make clear, as faculty members, that our doors are always open.
For our online students, we do our best to make the online experience as personal as possible by implementing creative instructional design into those classes. Basically, we try to maximize interaction whether that be through discussion boards or video interaction. Students working on theses do so in coordination with a faculty committee.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in West Texas A&M University’s Master of Arts in Communication program, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?
[Dr. Franken] The ideal student for our program is somebody who is genuinely interested in the field of communication and who can also articulate how a Master of Arts in Communication is going to advance their career and/or personal goals. Many of our students go straight from their undergraduate degrees into graduate school, so they do not necessarily have a lot professional experience, if any, but are nonetheless strong students, especially in terms of writing, and are driven and focused.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes West Texas A&M University’s Master of Arts in Communication program unique and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students? How does the program prepare students for advanced communication careers across a wide variety of professional settings, from public relations and business development to rhetorical and cultural studies?
[Dr. Franken] To begin, we have several graduate faculty members who earned doctoral degrees at R1 institutions, so we have a lot of high-level experience to offer our students. At the same time, and although we maintain high standards, we are very friendly and do our best to adapt to the needs of our students. At WTAMU, students receive a lot of attention from the faculty.
Further, we have a dedicated alumni organization for the Department of Communication called CAN (Communication Alumni Network) to make sure students stay connected to the university and department after graduation. Finally, the classes we offer give students a lot of flexibility in terms of what direction they want to go in after graduation. We are well-connected in the Texas panhandle and can help students network with area organizations to create potential job opportunities, and we can also help students prepare for doctoral programs.
Thank you, Dr. Franken, for your insight into West Texas A&M University’s Master of Arts in Communication program!