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Graduate School



Department Chair

Dr. Mark Meister

Graduate Coordinator

Dr. Amy O'Connor

Department Location

Minard Hall

Telephone Number

(701) 231-7705

Degrees Offered

Ph.D., M.A., M.S.

Application Deadline

March 1 for Fall (Ph.D. only)

Test Requirements

GRE (general required; subject recommended)

English Proficiency Requirements

TOEFL ibT 100, IELTS 7 for admission
TOEFL ibT114, IELTS 8 for teaching assistantship


Program Description

The graduate program in communication offers graduate study leading to the M.A., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees. The program prepares students for advanced graduate work, management-level positions, teaching or advancement within their current careers.

The department tailors student research projects and academic programs to individual needs and interests. Students may take interdisciplinary graduate course work to enhance their program of study. In addition, the M.A. and M.S. degrees are available through online delivery.  Information also is available on the department's Web site,

Admission Requirements

Programs are open to students holding baccalaureate degrees from accredited universities or colleges.

Master of Science or Arts

To be admitted with full status to the program, the applicant must meet the Graduate School requirements found on page 5; have adequate study in communication, journalism or a related area; and provide a score for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). 

Doctor of Philosophy

To be admitted with full status to the program, the applicant must meet the Graduate School requirements found on page 5. In addition to materials required by the Graduate School applicants must submit:

  • A CV or resume which clearly identifies your current position, including your responsibilities; your professional publications and papers; your service and professional activity; and your teaching and training experiences
  • A professional writing sample, such as a master's thesis, a final paper for a course, a conference paper, a briefing paper or a news article
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores. The department’s typical combined GRE score is 300+ and 4.0+ writing.  

Financial Assistance

Students admitted at full or conditional status may apply for teaching assistantships at the master's degree level or at the doctoral level. Teaching assistants teach two speech fundamentals classes or media writing classes each semester. Doctoral-level teaching assistants teach two classes each semester. Depending on experience, a portion of the assistantship may be devoted to assisting with other communication courses. Teaching assistantship deadline is Feb. 15 for the following fall semester.

Graduate assistants receive a stipend and tuition waiver. Applications are available from the department office or online from the department's Web site ( Other assistantships requiring specialized media knowledge may be available through other university offices. 

Degree Requirements

Master's program

The Master of Arts program is designed for students who are interested in conducting qualitative or rhetorical research, while the Master of Science program is designed for those interested in quantitative research. Both programs require completion of 30 credit hours of graduate coursework with an overall GPA of 3.0 or better. The student can elect to complete a research-based thesis, for which six of the 30 credits are awarded, or a written exam, for which three credits are awarded. A prospectus meeting and final defense of the thesis/written exam is required.

Core (6 credits)

COMM 700 - Research Methods in Communication
COMM 711 - Communication Theory

Teaching assistants are also required to take COMM 702 - Introduction to College Teaching in their first or second semester.

Research Tools (6 credits)

Students must take at least two of the following courses:

COMM 704 - Qualitative Research Methods in Communication
COMM 707 - Quantitative Research Methods in Communication
COMM 767 - Rhetorical Criticism
SOC 700 - Qualitative Research Methods
SOC 701 - Quantitative Research Methods
STAT 725 - Applied Statistics

Students pursuing the M.A. degree must take at least one qualitative methods course (COMM 704, COMM 708, COMM 767, or SOC 700). Students pursuing the M.S. degree must complete at least one quantitative methods course (COMM 707, COMM 710, SOC 701, or STAT 725).

Elective Specialization (12-15 credits)

12-15 credits of additional coursework, depending on whether the thesis or paper/project option is selected. Students can select from a wide range of specializations, pending approval from their advisor. Students may also choose graduate-level electives from other departments that may enhance specialized communication study goals.

Thesis or Paper/Project (3-6 credits) The paper/project option requires three credits of COMM 797. The thesis requires six credits of COMM 798.

Doctor of Philosophy

The Ph.D. program is designed to be completed in 4 years, and requires at least 60 credit hours beyond the master's degree. These hours will be in a planned course of study approved and overseen by the student's advisor and advisory committee.

The department currently offers two areas of concentration:

  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Organizational Communication

Students with a master's degree in another discipline may be required to complete additional graduate course work in specific areas of communication deemed necessary by the student's advisor and advisory committee. Graduate work taken beyond the master's degree may be judged applicable by the advisory committee, but post-master's graduate credits beyond 9 semester hours will not count toward the 60 credit minimum required for the Ph.D. 

Students are strongly encouraged to take all of the Summer Scholars courses and are required to take at least two. 

Course Requirements

Minimum of 30 credit hours in core or content concentration:
Core Courses (9 credits)

  • COMM 701- Advanced Research Methods in Communication I
  • COMM 703 - Advanced Research Methods in Communication II
  • COMM 711 - Communication Theory

Teaching assistants, without adequate prior teaching experience, are also required to take COMM 702 - Introduction to College Teaching in their first or second semester.

Content Concentration (at least 21 credits)

  • Minimum of 12 credit hours in the department's 700-level courses in the student's major concentration area
  • Minimum of 3 credit hours in the department's 700-level courses in the student's minor concentration area
  • Minimum of 6 credit hours at the 700-level in a cognate area outside the department

Research Courses (at least 15 credits)

  • Minimum of 3 credit hours of research method courses
  • Maximum of 6 credit hours of independent study

Dissertation (at least 15 credit hours) 

Comprehensive Exams

When coursework is nearly completed, doctoral students will meet with their advisors to determine if they are prepared to complete the comprehensive examination. The advisor will consider the program of study, the student’s professional presentations and publications, the student’s teaching or other applied work, and the student’s professional service. 

When the advisor agrees, the student will complete the comprehensive examination. After completion of the examination, the doctoral committee will evaluate the written work. If the committee deems the work to be generally acceptable, the advisor will schedule an oral examination in which the student will defend his or her exam.

Click here for course descriptions.


Stephenson J. Beck, Ph.D.
University of Kansas, 2008
Research Interests: Group and Organizational Communication, Interaction Analysis, Communication Strategy 

Ann Burnett, Ph.D.
University of Utah, 1986
Research Interests: Legal Communication, Small Group Communication, Interpersonal Communication, Gender and Communication 

Ross F. Collins, Ph.D.
University of Cambridge, 1992
Research Interests: Media History, International Media 

Elizabeth Crisp Crawford, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee, 2007
Research Interests: Visual Storytelling, Advertising Message Strategy, Advertising Education 

Robert S. Littlefield, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota, 1983
Research Interests: Intercultural Communication, Risk and Crisis Communication, Forensic History and Pedagogy 

Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik, Ph.D.
Arizona State University, 2005
Research interests: workplace bullying, organizational communication 

Zoltan Majdik, Ph.D.
University of Southern California , 2008
Research Interests:  Science and Risk Communication in Biotechnological Practice, Rhetorical and Argumentation Theory, Ethics and Moral Theory 

Mark Meister, Ph.D.
University of Nebraska, 1997
Research Interests: Rhetorical and Critical Theory, Environmental Communication

Amy O'Connor, Ph.D.
Purdue University, 2004
Research Interests: Organizational Communication, Corporate Advocacy, Public Affairs and Issues Management

Charles Okigbo, Ph.D.
Southern Illinois University, 1982
Research Interests: Social and Behavioral Change Communication, Health Communication 

Carrie Anne Platt, Ph.D.
University of Southern California, 2008
Research Interests: Rhetoric of Cultural Politics, Gender and Technology, Media in Society 

Catherine Kingsley Westerman, Ph.D.
Michigan State University
Research Interests: Organizational Communication, workplace friendships 

David Westerman, Ph.D.
Michigan State University
Research Interests: Computer mediated communication, interpersonal communication 

Nan Yu, Ph.D.
Penn State University, 2009
Research Interests: Health Communication, International Communication 



Paul E. Nelson, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota 

Judy C. Pearson, Ph.D.
Indiana University

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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NDSU Graduate School
Phone: +1 (701) 231-7033
Campus address:  106 Putnam Hall
Physical/delivery address:  NDSU Graduate School/106 Putnam Hall/1349 12th Avenue Northwest/Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address:  NDSU Dept. 2820/PO Box 6050/Fargo, ND 58108
Page manager: NDSU Graduate School

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 3:11:31 PM