About Dr. Paul Booth, PhD: Paul Booth is an Associate Professor of Communication at DePaul University. He earned his PhD in Rhetoric and Communication at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, his MA in Communication from Northern Illinois University, and his BA in English Literature from the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. Dr. Booth is the Graduate Director of DePaul’s Digital Communication and Media Arts (DCMA) degree, for which he oversees the student applications and enrollment, class and organizational structure, and student assessment and thesis options, and also advises students on the program. He teaches courses in both the DCMA program and the Media and Cinema Studies program, including Fandom and Active Audiences, New Media and Culture, Communication and Technology, Monsters in Popular Culture, Writing Television Criticism, and other courses in popular culture, fandom, and technology.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of the Master of Arts in Digital Communication and Media Arts program at DePaul University, 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. Paul Booth] The Digital Communication and Media Arts program is a flexible, student-centered program that combines both theoretical and practical knowledge about how digital technology is changing communication practices and patterns. In the DCMA program we believe that the most effective communicators and producers of information in the future will be those that not only understand how to communicate critically and ethically, but also have experience with contemporary technology. Students in the program have the chance to take courses from both the College of Communication and the School of Design in the College of Computing and Digital Media, and all students will leave the program with the knowledge and the experience to shape digital communication moving forward.
After graduating from the program, students will be able to explain how digital technology has affected communication practices across a range of subjects and disciplines, to compare new technological practices and evaluate changes in technological practices across a range of communication subjects, to demonstrate key competencies in video production, audio production, graphic design, and other technologies within digital media arts, and to identify the underlying ethical issues that the advent of digital technology has brought to contemporary society.
The program is split into two tracks (more on that below), but all students in the program regardless of track take four core courses: Introduction to Digital Communication, Digital Media Ethics, Creative Process and Strategy, and Foundations of Digital Media. Two of these courses are in Communication and two are in Design. Each class brings a useful perspective on the field of digital communication and media arts. Intro to Digital Communication focuses on the changes digital technology has brought to communication practices across a range of fields and Digital Media Ethics emphasizes the need for ethical and moral consideration for new communication practices (one of the original professors for this course has written a textbook on Digital Media Ethics!). The two Design courses have a more technological bent, as students in Creative Process and Strategy focus on developing their own creative process by working on project concepts, and those in Foundations of Digital Media engage with a range of digital technologies, including video, audio, graphic design, and human-computer interaction. (There are technical competencies required for these courses, and we offer two introductory courses for students that don’t meet the prerequisites.)
The program is split into two “tracks,” although students in either track have the option of taking any of the courses we offer in the program. The Digital Communication track requires students to take three “digital communication” electives from the many offerings in our journalism, public relations, advertising, and media studies curricula. Digital Communication students also take two Digital Design courses from the School of Design, and have four open electives (two of which can be used for the Thesis completion option, if eligible).
The Media Arts track asks students to take an additional course, “Storytelling Across Media,” and two electives from production workshops. Additionally, students in the Media Arts track are required to complete a thesis project, which is two additional courses. Finally, the Media Arts track asks students to take four open electives, two of which must be from Communication.
Astute readers will notice that there are so many open electives in both tracks that students can actually graft their own interests onto the curriculum–the DCMA program has been designed to be flexible and movable, so that students can really benefit from the range of courses that DePaul University offers. Under guidance from the graduate advisor and the graduate director, students can pick a curriculum that suits their particular needs and desires.
[MastersinCommunications.com] This program offers two tracks–one in Digital Communication offered through the College of Communication, and a Media Arts track offered through the College of Computing and Digital Media. Are students able to access resources and take classes from both colleges, regardless of their chosen track?
[Dr. Paul Booth] One of the strengths of the DCMA program is the way it comprehensively integrates the advantages of two colleges, the College of Communication (home to the Digital Communication track) and the School of Design in the College of Computing and Digital Media (home to the Media Arts track). However, the program is designed as a whole, and students are required to take courses in both tracks in order to fulfill the program’s inter-disciplinary mandate. In truth, the split between the tracks is more administrative than pedagogical, as all students have four required courses (two from Communication and two from Design) and have requirements to take courses from each of the colleges, no matter which track they choose. All students have equal access to resources and courses; all the courses are open to all students.
The question that you may be asking, then, is how to choose between the tracks, given that they can be navigated in such similar manners? There are some differences that may help illuminate the answer. First, the two tracks have different completion options (which I talk about below). Second, there are some differences in requirements between the two tracks. The Digital Communication track asks students to take three digital elective courses across the range of communication classes in the college, and the Media Arts track asks students to take three courses (one required) in Digital Media production/design. However, there are enough open electives in each track that students can choose to augment these electives with a variety of courses that fit the students’ interests.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Students can choose between a comprehensive examination, a scholarly paper/project, and a master’s project for their final graduation requirement. Could you please elaborate on what each of these options entails? What are the required deliverables for each, and what steps must students take to complete them?
[Dr. Paul Booth] The Digital Communication track does feature three completion options, while the Media Arts track only has one, the Master’s Project. With the Master’s Project (in the Digital Communication track, this option is open to students with a 3.7 GPA), the student will work closely with a faculty mentor to build a digital media based project and write a short paper about it, or they can choose to write a longer (70–100 page) thesis paper. There are two classes students take as part of this Master’s Project–Thesis I is a group course for all students to begin to work on their project. The Digital Communication students then have the option to take a Communication Thesis course where they can work with a faculty member on their project or paper. The Media Arts students take Thesis II to continue to work on their projects. In Thesis II, students can continue to work in groups to complete their projects. In total, the two Thesis classes (required for those students working on this completion option) would fulfill two of the four open electives for the program. Students do participate in a showcase of their work at the end of the year.
The other options are available only to the Digital Communication track. The comprehensive exam is open to all students and is a four hour exam during which students answer three questions, one posed by professors the students have had in the program. The Scholarly Paper/Project is a good option as well, and our most popular completion option. It is open to students with a 3.5 GPA. With this, students choose a particular project or paper they completed for a class and, working with that professor, expand it in particular ways, as decided by both the professor and the student. So, for example, students may be asked to write an additional 1500 words to turn a paper into a publishable length; or they may be asked to re-edit a scene in a document, or submit it to a film festival. The specific requirements vary by project but the result is the same: students work about 10-15 hours during their final quarter to create a paper or project they can use for something in the future.
All of the completion options help to “cap” the career of the student in the program. We’ve found that many students add their work to their portfolio, or use the projects and papers to apply for jobs or additional schooling. The goal of the final projects is to create something memorable from the program that can be useful in the future.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in DePaul University’s Master of Arts in Digital Communication and Media Arts 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. Paul Booth] Students in the DCMA program receive a lot of support from their faculty and staff. The program is incredibly student-centered, meaning that there are enough open electives that students can effectively create their own emphasis in the program to suit their needs. The graduate director and graduate advisor work closely with students interested in taking a variety of courses to help plan out their schedule. In addition, students working on their completion options will work closely with additional faculty to do the research or project. We also have internship advisors who help students find internships if needed.
DePaul University also has a robust support system for students, including a career center for any student interested in starting or changing a career, or just moving up in the career they are already in. There are writing centers on campus to help students who may not be used to graduate-level writing yet. DePaul University is well prepared for students with a variety of experiences.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application for the Master of Arts in Digital Communication and Media Arts?
[Dr. Paul Booth] The most successful applications for the DCMA program not only demonstrate a capacity for academic achievement, but also illustrate how the DCMA program can help fulfill the applicant’s goals for the future, whatever they may be. The application for the DCMA program requires a statement of purpose (750-1000 words) which explains the applicant’s interest in pursuing the degree, their future goals, as well as attributes and skills they may bring to the program. In addition, we like to see how the DCMA program itself will be useful to the applicant. We also require two letters of recommendation and a resume or curriculum vitae. We do not require the GRE, and writing samples can be submitted to strengthen the application.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes DePaul University’s Master of Arts in Digital Communication and Media Arts program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Paul Booth] I think one of the most exciting and vibrant aspects of the DCMA program is its flexibility both for the students and for the curriculum. Students have the freedom to take a variety of open electives, and even within some required electives they have scores of classes to choose from; it really means that students can pick the courses and the curriculum that best suits their interests. No two students ever graduate from the program having taken the same course load! At the same time, the flexibility means that the program is always keeping up-to-date with contemporary changes in technology. The required classes give a firm grounding in the discipline but the rapidly changing options for electives means students get the most relevant and current materials, be it technology or theoretical.
Students who graduate from the program find themselves well poised to enter or further a career in a variety of fields, from social media management to media director, from content specialist to design strategist. We have students in the program who are fresh out of undergrad as well as students who are returning to a graduate program after working in the field–the interaction between the two groups is one of the best parts about teaching in the program! Students become experts in the DCMA program and can leverage their work in the program to change careers, move ahead in the one they’ve got, or develop new skills. Many students also opt to go on to get a PhD in a related field. Like the field of digital communication and media arts itself, our program aims not to limit, but to expand opportunities for all students.
Thank you, Dr. Booth, for your insight into DePaul University’s Master of Arts in Digital Communication and Media Arts program!