More information about the COMM MA program

Data current as of 2020.

  • Since 1988 (the earliest records available), the MA in Communication program has graduated 144 students (with all but 12 students graduating since 2000).
  • In recent years, the MA in Communication program has averaged 30 students (includes both full time and part time).
  • Approximately 70% of MA in Communication program graduates work as professional communicators or communication managers in business, nonprofit, or government organizations.
  • Approximately 20% of MA in Communication program graduates work in the academic field.
  • The undergraduate majors of our MA students are diverse, ranging from Art History to Business, Communication, English, Journalism, Sociology, and many others

Interview with Hamilton Bean, former Director of Graduate Studies

This is an interview from from when Dr. Bean was the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado Denver. This interview has been edited to update the program requirements.

Faculty member Hamilton Bean

About Hamilton Bean, Ph.D., MBA, APR: Hamilton Bean is an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Denver in the Department of Communication, where he has served as Director of Graduate Studies since 2016. Dr. Bean is also the Director of CU Denver’s International Studies Program, and previously served as the Department of Communication’s Associate Chair. He teaches Introduction to Graduate Studies in Communication. He is also Occasional Visiting Professor at the International College Beijing, where he teaches courses in strategic communication.

Dr. Bean has won multiple awards for scholarship from the National Communication Association. He was drawn to the field of Organizational Communication as a result of his experiences as director of business development for a contractor in the U.S. defense and intelligence sector in Washington, DC in the years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. His research interests include security and communication, mobile public alert and warning technology, and U.S.-China communication.

He earned his BA at the University of New Mexico (History), MA (International Communication) and MBA (Management of Global Information Technology) at American University in Washington, DC, and Ph.D. (Organizational Communication) at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Interview Questions

Could you please provide an overview of the University of Colorado Denver’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. Bean] CU Denver’s Master of Arts in Communication program offers a 30-credit generalist degree. The program is especially strong in the areas of rhetorical studies, media studies, health communication, and strategic communication. All incoming students take COMM 6013 Introduction to Graduate Work in Communication. They then take a research methods course. The remaining courses are divided among two graduate seminars (discussion-based and research-oriented courses), one exit course (a research project or an internship) and five electives, which may include seminar-type courses, but also practice-oriented courses involving new media production, strategic communication planning, independent studies, graduate-level internships, or courses outside our Department. Seminars typically relate to the specialties of our graduate faculty members and include courses in rhetoric, health and medicine, media studies, security, conflict, environment, U.S.-China communication, and others.

All MA students present their work from their exit course at a symposium in the final semester. Our program is customized to the interests of each student (we admit about nine new students across the academic year), with some gaining intense Ph.D. program preparation (these students receive excellent offers from top Ph.D. programs across the country), and others specializing in communication management, media, social justice, or civic engagement.

All of our graduates are able to describe and explain multiple and diverse theories and metatheoretical perspectives in Communication. They are able to select, apply, and justify the use of communication theories and approaches to provide understanding of (or solutions to) specific, real-world exigencies or problems. Our graduates also are able to critically evaluate communication research, as well as develop original, actionable communication research about real-world problems.

What role does faculty mentorship play in the University of Colorado Denver’s Master of Arts in Communication? 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 mentorship opportunities and support systems?

[Dr. Bean] Faculty mentorship plays a critical role in our program. After the first year, MA students select their advisor and chart a degree completion plan, including preparing for the symposium, Ph.D. program applications, and/or post-graduation career options. Our faculty members are committed to student success, working closely with students to ensure that they meet their goals and objectives. As a result, our MA program has a near 100% graduation rate. Occasionally, students will conduct and publish research with faculty members (check out our website and social media platforms). Students routinely secure additional funding via research or teaching projects funded by our Dean’s Office, the Office of International Affairs, the Puksta Foundation, the Graduate School, and other campus or community organizations. Our travel support for academic conference presentation is strong, with up to $1,250 in travel support per year.

Career development resources and academic services available to students are what one would expect at a major, urban university — from knowledgeable staff at the Career Services office to helpful volunteers at the LGBTQ Student Resource Center. Our instructors routinely invite staff members from various offices on campus to visit courses, discuss important issues, or support student projects. Students are also encouraged to make their own connections and develop opportunities. But perhaps the most useful resource are our MA program alumni who never hesitate to speak with current students, offer advice, and share their perspectives during classroom visits and Department events.

For students interested in the University of Colorado Denver’s Master of Arts in Communication, what advice do you have for submitting a competitive application?

[Dr. Bean] We seek diverse applicants from the U.S. and abroad who can demonstrate a commitment to (or strong interest in) furthering our Department’s mission, which is to cultivate “the ability to use communication to create a more equitable and humane world.” Competitive students will ensure that their personal statement describes what they hope our program will help them accomplish personally and professionally, identify the specific elements of our program that they think best match their interests and can help them achieve their goals (including linking to the research interests of graduate faculty members), and demonstrate that they have carefully considered the elements of our program. Overly generalized personal statements typically are not useful enough to convince admissions committees that students are a good fit for our program.

We also ask students to provide a writing sample, and those that demonstrate interesting, innovative, and critical thinking (and that are error-free) are well received. We are a writing-intensive program, and we need to ensure that admitted students will be able to meet our high standards of scholarship. Letters of recommendation from people who can speak to a student’s probable success in a graduate education program are more useful to admissions committees than generalized letters of support. We strive to provide teaching assistantships to MA students who seek them, when possible, so indicating one’s desire to teach in our program and what preparation they have toward that end is useful. Finally, most of our MA students have earned undergraduate degrees in the Communication discipline, but not all; nevertheless, successful applicants emphasize their commitment to gaining a deeper, more critical understanding of how people use communication to inform and influence each other.

What makes the University of Colorado Denver’s Master of Arts in Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?

[Dr. Bean] The quality of MA-level education is highly dependent on the expertise, engagement, and mentorship of graduate faculty. In that regard, CU Denver’s MA program is competitive with the best in the country. Our graduate faculty members have won multiple awards from regional, national, and international communication associations for research, teaching, and service. Our previous Department Chair is Past-President of the National Communication Association, and all of our faculty are active in the discipline. The research output of our faculty is on par with Ph.D. programs. As a result, our Ph.D.-bound graduates often find themselves with multiple offers from top programs across the country, and they have gone on to become successful assistant professors. We also have a strong track record of securing new positions or promotions for students pursing communication management roles in government, nonprofit, and commercial enterprises — especially those with a social service mandate. Our program prides itself on community engagement (via our annual Communication Days celebrations), and the publication Captured Words Free Thoughts), global education (via our International College Beijing program), and quality of life (balancing academics with taking advantage of all the fantastic opportunities provided by living on the Front Range).

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. Bean] We engage with all of these issues in our Introduction to Graduate Work in Communication course. My advice is to chart a plan for what you want to achieve. Talk to multiple faculty members and other stakeholders about that plan and gain feedback. Keep your eye on the ball but be open to unique opportunities that might lead you in a new and unexpected direction. For example, some of our students have entered the program thinking that they wanted to be communication managers only to fall in love with teaching and research and instead pursue an academic career. Finally, check out the helpful essays in this volume: