About Dr. Seok Kang, Ph.D.: Seok Kang is the Graduate Advisor for the Department of Communication at The University of Texas at San Antonio, where he also conducts research and teaches courses as an Associate Professor. As the Graduate Advisor, Dr. Kang supports students in the Department’s Master of Arts in Communication program throughout their enrollment, and also manages program recruitment. In addition, he assists graduate faculty in the Department of Communication in developing committees and advising students on their research and projects. Dr. Kang also chairs several committees, including the Graduate Program Committee that reviews applications, manages curriculum changes, and updates the graduate student handbook.

As an Associate Professor, Dr. Kang teaches classes in social media, communication research methodologies, mobile communication and marketing, and digital message design and delivery. He has received several teaching awards from The University of Texas at San Antonio for his instruction and commitment to curricular improvement, including the Star Platinum Award for teaching excellence in 2013, a teaching development award from the UTSA Provost Office in 2010, and Professor of the Semester in 2007.

Dr. Kang earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from SungKyunKwan University, Seoul, Korea in 1994, and subsequently received his Master of Arts in Mass Communication at Sogang University, Seoul, Korea in 1997. He earned his second Master of Arts in Mass Communication from Illinois State University, and received his Ph.D. in Telecommunication from the University of Georgia in 2001.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please give us an overview of your academic and professional background in communication, as well as your current responsibilities as an Associate Professor and the Graduate Advisor for the Department of Communication at The University of Texas at San Antonio?

[Dr. Kang] I am an Associate Professor in Digital Communication within the Department of Communication at The University of Texas at San Antonio. My undergraduate major was Sociology at Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Korea. I changed my major to Communication in graduate school with a concentration on digital media at Sogang University, Seoul, Korea. I came to the United States to complete another Master of Arts degree in Communication at Illinois State University, Normal, IL. I moved to the University of Georgia, Athens, GA for my doctorate in Telecommunication.

My main job as the Graduate Advisor in the Department of Communication is recruitment and the management of student coursework for graduation. I contact schools nation- and worldwide to promote our program all year long. I meet with any prospective students to answer their inquiries about the program. I also reply to emails and phone calls regarding queries about application requirements, degree completion processes, and graduation options. I schedule the Comprehensive Exam, assist in forming committees for theses and projects for the current students. I also serve as Chair or as a member of the committees. I am Chair of the Graduate Program Committee, which makes decisions on key agendas of the program such as application reviews, curriculum amendment, handbook revision, and bylaw updates. Further, I have been hosting several events for the program. They are the Communication Graduate Student Awards and Research Colloquium. The program recognizes excellent graduate students in teaching and research annually. Faculty and students present their ongoing research projects in the Research Colloquium every month.

My research interests include digital communication effects, online journalism, and market analysis. In recent years, I have conducted research on the role of digital communication in sustainable urban development, and the impact of disruptive innovation such as virtual reality in sports and journalism. I am teaching Digital Media Production, Theory and Practice: Social Media, and Communication Research Methods in the graduate program.

I have always been interested in communication and media, and fascinated by the television programs that impact the audience both emotionally and cognitively. When I was a college student, I dreamed of being a television program producer. I joined graduate school to be better prepared for being a producer. In the graduate program, however, I got interested in mass communication studies and decided to be a scholar.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Master of Arts in Communication program, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?

[Dr. Kang] The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Master’s Program in Communication offers a generalist Master’s degree with faculty who have expertise in Digital, Health, Organizational, International, Intercultural, Interpersonal, and Small Group Communication.

Our program emphasizes ontology, epistemology, and axiology of communication theories. In their first semester, new students are required to take Introduction to Graduate Studies, which covers research basics, APA styles, how to use the library, and an overview of research programs in the Communication field. The first semester students are also required to take Communication Theory, which emphasizes foundations of theories from human communication to digital media. The most important part of the theory class is the application of concepts to real life communication situations. Students need to practice how a communication theory is used in a real-life context and how the theory accounts for the phenomenon through a scientific approach.

Our program has six concentrations: Interpersonal, Small Group, Organizational, Health, International/Intercultural, and Digital Communication. Each concentration focuses on its own communication issues in scientific research procedures.

The area of interpersonal/small group communication emphasizes human communication and its role in relationship formation and maintenance. Students learn about verbal and nonverbal transactions that occur in interpersonal and small group settings. In the concentration, students can also take specialized courses in areas such as the role of interpersonal communication in health, marriage and family communication, gender dynamics and communication, interpersonal communication in social interactions, family communication, and navigating difficult communication situations.

Students of the organizational communication concentration look into the processes and purpose of communication in complex organizations. Students study organizational communication, integrated communication, conflict resolution and negotiation, leadership in organizations, crisis management, organizational culture, public relations, and strategic communication planning.

The health communication concentration covers foundational and advanced concepts in humans’ processing of health information. Students explore how health communication is delivered and received via direct and mediated communication channels, and learn about the core elements of an effective health intervention campaign. This concentration is ideal for students who want to work in a health care setting where they will encounter patients, doctors, and nurses, as it gives them the skills and knowledge to communicate effectively and efficiently on medical teams and in a medical environment.

Digital communication covers the strategies of creating and analyzing digital media, including the principles of visual design, rhetorical structure for digital media, audience analysis, and information presentation strategies. This concentration also covers digital media ethics and regulation, the theoretical and technical elements of digital communication, and the role that digital communication plays in organizations and the larger economy. The foremost goal of the digital communication concentration is to train students to be a professional in both digital media research and production. Students are exposed to elaborate research experiences in Theory and Practice (COM 5103) and production skills in Digital Media Design and Production (COM 5623).

The international/intercultural communication concentration focuses on how human communication impacts human behavior, with a particular focus on how communication shapes interactions between individuals in multicultural settings, as well as international communication processes. Students conduct an in-depth survey on the social, political, economic, and cultural boundaries within the United States and around the world. This concentration draws from theory, practices, and research in social science, public policy, and business.

In developing a course of study and research that fits their interests, students can theoretically combine more than one communication field to develop a new model in their research. Our program calls this approach integrated communication. An integration of multiple theories from different communication fields with mixed methods is a recommended research practice that can widen students’ perspectives and experience in communication research.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Students of The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Master of Arts in Communication program must complete a comprehensive examination. Could you elaborate on the components of this exam, and how students can best prepare for it?

[Dr. Kang] By the time students finish their second semester of the program (or about 18 course credits), they should consult with their faculty advisor regarding the comprehensive exam. Their advisor will help them choose two more graduate faculty members from the Department of Communication to serve on their examination committee. Students need to discuss five communication theories with their faculty advisor, from which their exam committee will select two for the closed-book examination. Students’ faculty advisor will guide them through the degree completion process and assist them with selecting a Comprehensive Exam Committee Chair. At the beginning of the exam semester, students must complete and submit an Application for Comprehensive Exams form.

The examination is comprised of three parts: a closed-book written test consisting of a single question that asks students to compare and apply two theories selected by their committee from a list of the five theories initially submitted by the students. The second part is take-home and open-book, and requires students to write a 10-20-page research proposal. The third section is the oral defense of both the closed-book test and the research proposal, which students complete after their committee has determined that their written responses are ready for defense.

The three-part examination is rigorous and I recommend that students start preparing for the exam as early as possible. Otherwise, preparing for the exam after the semester starts is too late to submit quality answers. If they fail either the written or oral portion of the exam, they must retake the entire test in a different semester, with a different theory question and a new research proposal. If the student fails the comprehensive exam twice, he or she will be dismissed from the M.A. program.

Students need to form a committee and consult with the Chair about the theories to study after the second semester. Students also need to write a proposal and get advice from the Chair ahead of time because once students start the exam, they are not allowed to ask the committee any question.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students can choose between a thesis and a project. Could you elaborate on these two options, and what they entail?

[Dr. Kang] After completing 18 hours of coursework, students should consult with their faculty advisor if they opt to pursue either the thesis or professional project option. Their faculty advisor will provide important guidance throughout the thesis or project completion process, and will support them in their selection of their committee.

Thesis Option

For students who elect to complete the thesis, their faculty advisor will help them select a Thesis Director, who must be a member of the graduate faculty in the Department of Communication. During the semester prior to the first thesis semester, students must meet with their Thesis Director and select two more members for their thesis committee. One of these two members must be from the Department of Communication, while the other can be a graduate faculty member from a different department. During this meeting, students also plan their thesis proposal, which is a 3-5-page document outlining their specific research inquiry and its scope. This proposal is due before the semester starts. Once the proposal is approved by the committee, the student can be officially registered for the first three hours of thesis in the semester.

It is important for students to plan ahead to ensure their opportunity to work with the faculty members of their choice, as faculty can only advise a limited number of thesis students. Once their thesis proposal has received approval from their director and committee, students must submit the Application for Thesis form to the Graduate Advisor of Record (GAR) before the beginning of the semester they intend to enroll in COM 6983–Master’s Thesis.

Once students’ proposal is approved, students’ first three credit hours in COM 6983 are typically comprised of work in the following areas. First, the student should develop the thesis prospectus, which includes an introduction, literature review, and methodology description. Students work on their prospectus under the guidance of their Thesis Director. Second, the student submits the prospectus to the committee before the first semester ends. The committee then holds a Formal Prospectus Meeting to provide feedback on thesis objectives, structure, and methodology. Third, once the committee approves the prospectus, the student can continue to apply for the Institutional Review Board.

In the second three hours of COM 6983, the student collects and analyzes the data, writes findings, interpretations, study limitations, suggestions, and conclusion chapters of the thesis under the supervision of the thesis director. As the final step of thesis completion, the committee hosts an oral defense meeting. Committee professors verify if the thesis has been on the right track following the proper research procedures. The student takes comments and suggestions from the committee. Following the oral defense, the student revises his or her thesis further before submitting the final draft to the Graduate School.

Project Option

Students of the Project Option must choose a Project Advisor (who must be a graduate faculty member of the Department of Communication). They must also choose two additional Project Committee members. One of the two members should be from the Communication Department. A professional project follows the same completion procedures as a thesis. In the first project semester, the student prepares a prospectus. Once the committee approves the prospectus, the student begins to create a media product in the second semester. The student should pass the oral defense in the second project semester. Upon passing the oral defense, the student is eligible for graduation.

The only difference between a professional project and a thesis is the data collection method. In the case of professional project, the student creates a media product for the topic. In other words, project students do not collect data from human subjects for analysis. Students instead produce websites, video, or audio programs that present the research goal. Students’ media product should reflect the goal of the project, presents an argument based on their findings, and answers to the questions they set out to answer on their chosen topic. For example, if a student’s topic is corporate social responsibility (CSR), the student raises a question about the issues on CSR in the current public relations industry. The student reviews the literature on the topic and creates a video documentary about how corporations implement CSR in the market. Project students can interview heads of the CSR department at corporations or provide an in-depth market report with a narration. This media product is the main outcome of the professional project. The student is still required to write a paper about the entire procedure, including introduction, literature review, production, findings, and discussion.

Many students in past years have successfully defended their theses and projects, and we have seen a wide variety of topics both for the thesis and the project options. For the thesis, we have had students focus on family communication conflicts, doctor-patient communication, adoption of new technologies in an organization, social media posts and identity building, and gender and ethnic representation via mediated communication channels. As for the professional project, students have produced videos and websites about their topics, using their media product to investigate and illustrate a particular issue in communication. For example, one student created a video documentary on agenda setting theory, which is the ability of news media to determine the importance the public places on certain topics. The student first surveyed recent news agendas covered in the media. Then the student interviewed audiences to identify any match between the media agenda and public agenda. The video was used as data for the project. The student successfully defended the project in the oral defense.

For both thesis and project, students receive guidance from the committee chair throughout the whole process. They meet as often as possible to find the right direction in the completion process of the thesis or project.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Master of Arts in Communication program? Independent of faculty instruction and support, what career development resources and academic services are available to students, and how can they make the most of these opportunities?

[Dr. Kang] Faculty mentorship in our program is a key factor in student success. From the first semester, our faculty guide students in the right paths to graduation. Students ask questions about courses to choose from, about selecting either a thesis or a project, and about Ph.D. programs after graduation. Our program has its own graduate student lounge that has desktop computers and a meeting area, which encourages students to connect outside of class hours to study together, discuss project and paper ideas, and also meet with mentors. Students can run statistical programs (SPSS, AMOS) on the computers for their theses in the lounge.

Additionally, the Graduate School of The University of Texas at San Antonio offers a variety of career development resources. The Graduate School provides students with workshops, conferences, formal and informal gatherings and networking events, and consultations. The School building has a computer lab and study rooms to accommodate students’ academic needs. We recommend that new students use these resources from the Graduate School. The Graduate Student Association can be an organization for new students to join. It hosts diverse events to benefit graduate students’ academic and social life.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Master of Arts in Communication program, what advice do you have for submitting a competitive application?

[Dr. Kang] I recommend that students pay special attention to the statement of purpose. It should elucidate the student’s research goal for the program. When the goal is ambiguous, or no research plan is included, the statement will not receive a positive response from the review committee. The statement should describe a specific plan and goal to accomplish as a graduate student of the program, rather than a life philosophy.

Strong letters of recommendation will help persuade the reviewers. Further, letters from academia are preferable to those from industry. The review committee is interested in the applicant as a student more than as a professional. An evaluation from former professors would help the review committee identify how the student performed in his or her classes.

The same review policies apply to international applicants. One administrative tip is that the deadline for international applicants is March 1.

Our program starts in the fall only. Therefore, the deadlines are March 15 (priority) and June 15 (secondary). We want applicants to expect the deadlines for their preparation of application materials. We do not require the GRE for application. Applicants need statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation, resume, and the TOEFL/IELTS scores (international students only).

[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Master of Arts in Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?

[Dr. Kang] Our program takes pride in the one-on-one mentorship between faculty and students. Our faculty are experts in their fields, fascinated with the multifaceted field of communication, and committed to their students’ success. Faculty members are always open to students for questions and requests. They also encourage students to complete extracurricular research studies and submit them to conferences and journals.

The program is also intense, and students are challenged by the heavy workload for their classes, theses, and projects. Some students may feel overwhelmed during the program but always appreciate after graduation for having the experience. The high research demand trains students harder and equips them with academic research capabilities that are directly applicable to their professional fields.

We have strengths in organizational, health, and digital communication. We recommend that students interested in the subjects consider our program as their Master’s degree destination. As we emphasize intensive theory and research, students are often well equipped with research studies for conference presentations and publications by the time they graduate. With the skills borne of many research study experiences, they become competent in professional fields and Ph.D. programs.

Our recent M.A. graduates in Communication have gone on to professional positions in a variety of fields. This includes teaching, advising, educational administration, research, academia, human resources, management, journalism, website management, health care, insurance sales, and government consulting. Many have gone on to doctoral programs in the Communication discipline.

For the past 4 years, The University of Texas at San Antonio Master’s degree in Communication program has been ranked internationally in the top 25 by Eduniversal, for the reputation of our program, the satisfaction of our students, and their salaries students earn upon graduation. We offer small classes, personalized attention, and the flexibility of both thesis and non-thesis options.

A number of paid Teaching Assistantships (TAI and TAII) are available within the program. A TAI is a reader/grader for a large undergraduate class with more than 50 students. A TAI can receive $2,000 per class a semester. A TAII is an instructor of record who teaches Public Speaking and introductory classes. A TAII gets paid $2,500 per class and can teach up to two classes a semester. Our classes are offered in the evening, 6 PM to 8:45 PM at the Main Campus.

Thank you, Dr. Kang, for your excellent insight into The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Master of Arts in Communication program!