About Dr. Tricia Burke, PhD: Tricia Burke earned her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. As Director of Graduate Studies at Texas State University, Dr. Burke advises current graduate students about their program of study; communicates with interested students about the program; serves on the graduate council; and manages administrative tasks related to graduate student enrollment.
Dr. Burke teaches graduate courses in interpersonal communication, relational communication, empirical research methods, and health communication. Her research focuses on the intersection of interpersonal and health communication; specifically, she examines how people communicate about health in their relationships, as well as how people’s relational communication is associated with their health and well-being.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Texas State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies, and how it is structured? What topics are covered in the core curriculum and electives, and what are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?
[Dr. Tricia Burke] The M.A. program at Texas State offers a comprehensive education in communication studies, including exposure to a variety of methodological approaches and topics. In their first semester, students enroll in our proseminar course, which provides an orientation to graduate school, as well as an overview of rhetorical, quantitative, and qualitative research methods in communication. After completing this course, students choose a method on which to focus.
Aside from these required courses, students can choose from courses aligned with one of six topic areas: Interpersonal Communication (e.g., Interpersonal, Nonverbal), Organizational Communication (e.g., Organizational; Work/Life Intersections), Health Communication (e.g., Health Communication, Critical Health), Rhetorical Studies (e.g., Social Movements, American Speeches), Instructional Communication (e.g., Instructional, Assessment), and Communication Training & Development (e.g., Training & Development, Small Group). These courses are designed to help students identify, analyze, and apply communication theory and frameworks across these topic areas. Students can take any course that is in line with their area of interest/career goals, including up to two out-of-department courses. Faculty design their courses to appeal to students seeking academic and non-academic career paths.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students can choose to complete a master’s thesis or a comprehensive examination. Could you please elaborate on these two options, and what they entail?
[Dr. Tricia Burke] M.A. Students in our program can either complete a comprehensive examination or a master’s thesis as part of their graduation requirement. Most students complete the comprehensive exam option, which offers them the chance to take 36 hours of communication courses and to articulate their knowledge of communication studies to their chosen two-member faculty member committee. The comprehensive exam is an oral exam that lasts about 75 minutes. During this exam, committee members ask students to discuss standard discipline-related and methods questions, and to explain and apply the theories, topics, and research covered in the courses in which those students were enrolled. This exam is meant to be a discussion in which the students demonstrate their ability to articulate their communication knowledge.
Students who choose the thesis option complete a full research project, guided by one faculty member who serves as chair, as well as two additional faculty members. These students take 30 hours of coursework, and are required to complete a proposal and oral defense the semester prior to graduation, and an oral defense of their thesis in their final semester. Both of these options allow the student to choose a chair, who serves to support and advise them as they work to complete their master’s degree in communication studies.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Texas State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies 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. Tricia Burke] The faculty at Texas State are truly dedicated to mentoring our graduate students. We recognize that our students have diverse career goals; as a result, we offer a variety of mentorship opportunities. Faculty members regularly invite students to get involved in research, and encourage them to submit to and attend academic conferences. The department provides funding to support these activities.
Faculty also invite our graduate students to get involved with and participate in department events, including CoSearch (research event), TEDx, and CommWeek. These events are widely attended by alumni and faculty, making them excellent opportunities for professional development. In addition to these events, faculty direct independent studies and internships, and often share professional development information during meetings and workshops for the Communication Studies Graduate Association.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application for Texas State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program?
[Dr. Tricia Burke] Beyond the information presented on our website, students who are interested in applying to the M.A. program at Texas State should write a letter identifying their interest in communication studies, as well as faculty members from whom they are particularly interested in learning. We also encourage students to coordinate a visit to Texas State so that they can meet our students and faculty.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Texas State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Tricia Burke] Students who receive their M.A. from Texas State learn how to analyze and assess messages from different perspectives, which is a valuable tool in both academic and non-academic career paths. We have a variety of courses that offer students an applied experience, including organizational communication, training and development, and health communication. In these courses, students learn about communication through their work with clients. Even our more theory-based courses offer assignment options that are geared towards a professional skill set (e.g., training manual). While our courses offer these applied experiences, theory is integrated into all of our courses, which prepares students who are interested in pursuing more academic endeavors. Moreover, our graduate teaching assistants are enrolled in our award-winning teaching and learning academy, which provides them an outstanding foundation for teaching college level courses. Together, these opportunities make our students well-suited for diverse career paths.
Thank you, Dr. Burke, for your insight into Texas State University’s Master of Arts in Communication Studies program!