About Dr. Rob Drew, Ph.D.: Rob Drew is the Coordinator for the Master of Arts in Communication & Media program at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU). As Coordinator, Dr. Drew reviews candidates for admission, coordinates staffing, schedules classes, advises students on courses and degree plans, and coordinates the program’s curriculum. As a Professor of Communication, Dr. Drew also teaches courses within the program, including Media, Meaning, and Audience; Research in Communication Studies; and the Capstone Course in Media Studies. His research interests center on the social uses of music technologies, and his current research examines the social history of the compact audiocassette.
Dr. Drew earned his B.A. in English from Columbia University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Pennsylvania.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Saginaw Valley State University’s Master of Arts in Communication & Media Administration (CMA) program, and how it is structured? What learning outcomes can students expect from this program?
[Dr. Drew] The CMA program originated in 1998 as an interdisciplinary master’s program designed to capitalize on the strengths of faculty in Art, English, and Communication and offer academic and professional skills relevant to a growing digital media environment. It has undergone several structural changes since then. Currently the coursework is divided into a number of core courses along with three distribution areas. The goal remains to balance an overview of this rapidly evolving field with technical and administrative skills. Core courses include a graduate-level introduction to media studies, a course in research methods, an introduction to organizational communication and leadership, and a capstone course that covers current research in communication industries and culminates with comprehensive exams.
Beyond the core courses, students take a set number of courses from each of three distribution areas: media environments, media practices, and administration. Because SVSU is primarily a teaching-focused undergraduate institution, our master’s programs are not housed within departments. Programs like CMA need to bring together the particular skills and interests of faculty in various departments. We offer electives in areas where our regular faculty members have expertise and teaching interests, which currently include studies of media industries and technologies, database and library studies, social media strategies, intercultural communication, visual criticism, and usability and experience design.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students of Saginaw Valley State University’s Master of Arts in Communication & Media Administration complete a Capstone course that culminates in an 8 hour written comprehensive examination. Could you elaborate on both the course and this exam, and how students can best prepare for the test?
[Dr. Drew] The CMA program relies on comprehensive exams to finish the program. Students generally take these exams in their final semester of coursework, and the exams test students’ learning within the capstone course and previous courses. The exams are designed by a committee of faculty and administered by the capstone instructor. These exams take place in the final four weeks of a required capstone class, and we rely on this class to prepare students for the exams and clarify what materials they will be responsible for. They combine concepts from previous courses with advanced material covered in the capstone course that builds on previous courses. The exams emphasize current developments in media industries, including media economics, regulatory structures, technologies, organizational arrangements, creative work, and distribution.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Saginaw Valley State University’s Master of Arts in Communication & Media Administration program? How can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems?
[Dr. Drew] SVSU is a teaching institution that puts great emphasis on student-instructor interaction. Students in the CMA program are not required to choose a faculty advisor as they would in a thesis-based program, but informal advising is very common. Although there is no thesis requirement, most classes require research-based writing projects, and faculty often work with students to transition these projects into papers for regional conferences. The university’s undergraduate communication program offers a large number of service courses, and many of our master’s students move into roles as adjunct instructors for these courses. Our alumni typically go on to careers in communication-related fields or to further graduate work.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Saginaw Valley State University’s Master of Arts in Communication & Media Administration unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Drew] We are part of a teaching institution that puts primary focus on our students. Our program is interdisciplinary, and small enough that every student receives individual attention. Our faculty members share a unique combination of cutting-edge curiosities and quirky passions. One of our regular instructors is an English professor who teaches courses on databases, algorithms, and social media while completing a book on protest libraries. Another is an Art professor who teaches courses in multimedia design and visual criticism while working with kids downtown on community murals. Another is a Communication professor who teaches courses in cultural studies of new media while writing a social history of cassette tapes. Another teaches intercultural communication and just co-edited a book on communication pedagogy with special populations. We share a commitment to helping students find their place in fast-moving professional fields while also encouraging them to follow their passions and create new places within these fields.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in Saginaw Valley State University’s Master of Arts in Communication & Media Administration program, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?
[Dr. Drew] Play to your strengths. At SVSU we have moved away from test scores as a criterion for admission; we find they correlate only weakly with student success and with the passion students bring to our program. Let us know what courses and topics motivate you to want to continue in this dynamic field. If you’ve had an especially significant and relevant work experience, please emphasize it. Don’t hesitate to apply, regardless of where you are in life and what you’ve done since college; many of our students are mid-career professionals and international students.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Students of master’s in communication programs often must balance work, internships, coursework, and rigorous research projects. What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully navigating their graduate school experience, and making the most of the opportunities presented to them?
[Dr. Drew] One of the central challenges I’ve noted for graduate students is remaining engaged without the more immersive academic environment and the wider support network that undergraduates typically benefit from. I would recommend you do everything you can from day one to connect and collaborate with fellow first-year students as well as those further along in the program. Our office of advanced studies holds orientations every semester for incoming grad students, and the CMA program has a mixer every fall to bring together new students with older students and alumni. Our office of alumni relations has created an in-house social media platform to connect current students with alumni mentors. Take advantage of these resources!
Thank you, Dr. Drew, for your excellent insight into Saginaw Valley State University’s Master of Arts in Communication & Media Administration program!