About Dr. Taylor Hahn, Ph.D.: Taylor Hahn is the Director of the Masters in Communication program at Johns Hopkins University. As Director, he oversees all aspects of the program, including curriculum development, instructor oversight, student advising, enrollment and admissions, budgeting, and long-term planning. In addition to his administrative duties, Dr. Hahn teaches multiple courses in the program including Utilizing Images: Media Literacy in Practice, Persuasion, and Argument and Public Address. He is also the thesis adviser for the Communication program.
Dr. Hahn’s interest in communication began in middle school when he joined his high school’s debate team. Since then, he has competed, judged, and coached competitive and public debate on the high school and college level. In 2009, Dr. Hahn helped to coach the national debate champions from Wake Forest University. His interest in debate and argumentation has influenced his scholarly research and he has published multiple books and articles on issues relating to argumentation, debate, civic engagement, and the roles and trajectories of higher education in society. Dr. Hahn’s most recent publication (released in December of 2017) examines the appropriateness of debating contentious, controversial, or sensitive issues in both public and competitive contexts.
In addition to his work at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Hahn serves as the Director of Civic Engagement at the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Institute (BFTF). The BFTF is a Department of State sponsored exchange program for American and European students that focused on promoting civic engagement, debate, and deliberation. His work at the BFTF includes coordinating with community partners to teach students how to develop non-profit, volunteer, and humanitarian organizations in their home communities.
Dr. Hahn earned his Bachelor of Arts from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. He then went on to earn his Masters in Communication from Wake Forest University and his Doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Johns Hopkins University’s (JHU) Master of Arts in Communication program, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?
[Dr. Hahn] The Masters in Communication program at JHU prioritizes student learning geared toward practitioner skillsets. This means that courses are structured around core concepts that can be immediately understood and utilized in both professional and personal contexts. The goal of each class is for students to learn new concepts, lessons, and theories that can be immediately applied to their lives. To deliver this form of practical learning, each course centers around a project or paper that mirrors tasks found in the workplace.
The program offers two learning tracks: Strategic Planning and Research. The primary difference between these tracks is that Research track students complete a thesis project whereas Strategic Planning students will either enter a one-semester Practicum program or can complete an additional elective course. The majority of students in the program select the Strategic Planning track due to the time and research requirements of thesis projects. The Research track is primarily geared toward students that are either planning to enter a doctoral program or wish to conduct independent research that can be later utilized by themselves or their employers.
The Communication program offers six concentration options for students: Applied Research in Communication, Public and Media Relations, Political Communication, Health Communication, Digital Communication, and Corporate and Non-Profit Communication. Each of these options offers students a focused, detailed study of the concentration. However, concentrations are not required in the program. Students may declare up to two concentrations, each one requiring completion of three courses that are outlined on the program website.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Johns Hopkins University’s Master of Arts in Communication program gives students the option of completing all or part of their program online, or at JHU’s Washington, D.C. Center. Could you please describe the online program, how students take classes and interact with faculty and peers, and how the online and campus programs differ?
[Dr. Hahn] In addition to traditional, on-ground courses, the Communication program offers students the chance to complete some or all of their degree online. Online courses take place through Blackboard, a leading learning platform that prioritizes user-friendly interfaces and intuitive course design. Online courses occur asynchronously, offering students the chance to complete weekly assignments on their own schedule. Because of this opportunity, the majority of online students take courses while either working full-time or serving in the armed forces.
Because online learning can be initially daunting, the program offers tutorials for Blackboard and students have access to the fantastic information technology and support staffs at JHU. With minimal effort, students can quickly adapt to an online environment. Online courses offer a mixture of lectures, reading materials, discussion forums, and specialized course items that relate to specific classes.
One of the common answers I get from prospective students is “which is better, online or on-ground learning?” The short answer is “it depends.” While online and on-ground education are fundamentally different, the benefits of each learning type are contingent on the needs, skills, and preferences of each student. Students interested in working on their own schedule and completing tasks gradually throughout the week will find online learning to be ideal. Meanwhile, students that prefer a face-to-face, synchronic sessions might prefer on-ground coursework.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How does Johns Hopkins University evolve its curriculum to align with advancements in the field of communication? What have been some of the recent and most distinctive additions to the curriculum?
[Dr. Hahn] As a leader in the field, the program works to constantly innovate and redevelop its curriculum to ensure that students learn materials on the cutting edge of communication theory and practice. As part of this initiative, we recruit instructors that specialize in the courses they teach–theory and research courses are taught by leading minds in academia, speechwriting courses are taught by former White House speechwriters, and public relations courses are taught by renowned experts with decades of experience. This combination of social scientists, industry practitioners, and academics offers students a diverse and ever-evolving perspective on the field.
Instructors update the curriculum for each course each semester, ensuring students a standard level of excellence that is regularly infused with the expertise and guidance of these experts. In addition, new courses are constantly being developing, tapping into innovative techniques and ongoing concerns in the field.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students of the Research track must complete a thesis, while students of the Strategic Planning track must complete an additional core class in Informing Practice through Research, as well as more electives. Could you elaborate on each of these options, and what they entail?
[Dr. Hahn] Students interested in the Research track will work with a faculty adviser to develop their Masters thesis. Theses are considered capstone projects that require original research, offering students the chance to apply their communication skills and contribute to the field. Upon entering the thesis process, students work with their adviser to develop a timeline and set of deliverables. Theses typically take between two and four semesters to complete depending on the student’s schedule, writing, and research requirements. Advisers provide regular feedback on thesis drafts and help the student to maximize their work through guidance and research oversight. Examples of recent Masters theses are available here: https://advanced.jhu.edu/academics/graduate-degree-programs/communication/the-experience-2/thesis/.
Students interested in the Strategic Planning track have the option of either completing one additional elective course (totaling ten courses for the degree) or enrolling in a one-semester practicum. Practicum offers students the chance to hone their professional skillsets by collaborating with an external institution, contributing their knowledge by developing a project while working with their faculty instructor. Students who wish to maximize their coursework can instead enroll in one additional course to complete their degree.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Johns Hopkins University’s Master of Arts in Communication program? Independent of faculty instruction and support, what career development resources and academic services are available to students of both the online and campus-based programs? How can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems while in the program?
[Dr. Hahn] Each student works with a faculty adviser who is also a full-time instructor in the program. Advisors help students determine their course schedule and understand their progress in the program. In addition, advisors work with students by discussing their plans upon successful graduation. These conversations work in tandem with the career services office, offering both online and on-ground students an opportunity to meet and work with potential employers.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in Johns Hopkins University’s Master of Arts in Communication program, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?
[Dr. Hahn] Whenever I talk to prospective students, I tell them to prioritize refinement of the personal statement. When reviewing applications I am most interested in answering three questions: 1. Does the applicant know what the program offers 2. Does the applicant know how and why they fit in the program and 3. Does the applicant know what they want to do upon graduation? Of course, proven academic excellence and/or professional expertise is a factor when considering admission, but we also want to make sure students know why they are applying and that we can offer them the education they are seeking. Choosing a degree program can be difficult, so my best piece of advice is to know what you want and to know where it is available.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Johns Hopkins University’s Master of Arts in Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Hahn] There are a number of factors making the JHU Masters program one of the best in the country. First, each of our courses are taught by experts specializing in the class’ subject matter. This ensures that you are not only learning critical skills, but you are also doing so under the tutelage of someone who has taught, used, and sometimes even pioneered the concepts being discussed. Second, we are constantly updating our courses to keep up with new trends and ideas in the field. This ensures that you are learning something new and applicable each time you log in or attend a class. Third, the access to Johns Hopkins’ vast resources cannot be underappreciated. Students have full access to JHU’s research materials, technological assets, and top-tier learning support. Finally, one of the major things that makes the program stand out is our students. Taking courses in the program means that you will be exchanging ideas with other energetic, creative, and impressive learners. From members of parliament in multiple countries to VPs of industry, our student body welcomes learners from all around the world and from all backgrounds. Whether you are new to the Communication industry or you are a seasoned expert, I think you will find our program to be inviting and truly exceptional.
Thank you, Dr. Hahn, for your excellent insight into Johns Hopkins University’s Master of Arts in Communication program!