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Graduate Student Manual

Graduate Student Manual

Graduate Student Manual Chapters

The graduate student policies and procedures, requirements, and resources listed on this page are relevant to all students enrolled in advanced-degree programs in the Department of Communication Studies.

Department Focus & Ethics

The focus of the Department of Communication Studies is on the examination – grounded in the rhetorical bases of the discipline – of communication processes and products in three areas:  Film and Media Studies, Relational and Organizational Communication, and Rhetoric and Civic Engagement.

Code of Ethical Behavior and Values

The faculty of the Department of Communication Studies believes that ethical behavior in all professional endeavors is paramount. As noted in the National Communication Association’s Code of Professional Ethics (accessed February 4, 2021):

Members of the communication discipline have a special responsibility to model ethical communication practices. Communication scholars are particularly concerned with free and responsible communication among all members of society. Ethical communication should begin with ourselves and govern our interactions with others.

We believe that our communication and professional conduct should be guided by honesty, integrity, rigor, prudence, and appreciation of the diversity of ideas and perspectives that contribute to the richness of our community.

Specific guidelines for ethical conduct are outlined in the Code of Ethical Behavior in the Colorado State University Academic Faculty and Administrative Professional Manual section D. 9.

Program Requirements

Master of Arts in Communication Studies Program Requirements

Thesis Track (Plan A)

The Master of Arts in Communication Studies is a two-year program which includes a master’s thesis project.

Core Courses
SPCM 601 History of Rhetorical Theory 3
SPCM 612 Rhetorical Criticism 3
SPCM 638 Communication Research Methods 3
SPCM 639 Communication Theory 3
SPCM 646 Media Theory 3
SPCM 692 Seminar (Introduction to Graduate Studies) 3
SPCM 699 Thesis 6
Electives Take 12 graduate credits (500 and above). At least 9 credits must be SPCM credits. No more than 3 credits from outside the department may be counted toward your M.A. plan of study. 12
Additional Courses for GTAs
SPCM 675 Speech Communication Pedagogy 3
SPCM 684 Supervised College Teaching 3


Total Credits: 36-42

Sample Course Rotation

Year 1

Fall Semester

SPCM 601
SPCM 646
SPCM 675
SPCM 692
SPCM elective

 

Spring Semester

SPCM 612
SPCM 638
SPCM 684
SPCM elective

 

Year 2

Fall Semester

SPCM 639
SPCM elective
SPCM 699

 

Spring Semester

SPCM elective or outside elective
SPCM 699

 

Plan A Thesis

All Plan A graduate students are required to write a thesis under the supervision of a graduate advisor and thesis committee. Students must follow the Graduate School’s guidelines and requirements for master’s theses. Below are departmental policies and guidelines.

Thesis Committee

Each thesis committee has at least three members, two from within the department and one from outside the department. The chair of the committee must have a Ph.D. and be a member of the graduate faculty. The chair works with the student to select the other committee members. Committees must be formatted in accordance with graduate school requirements for committee member eligibility.

No faculty member shall chair more than two M.A. theses in one year. No faculty shall serve as a chair or an inside member on more than four thesis committees. Faculty with joint appointments will chair and serve as inside members in proportion to their commitments to the department.

No thesis committee commitments will be made by faculty or M.A. students before the last weekday of February.

Thesis Process

All Plan A graduate students must write and defend a prospectus. This defense is expected to occur during the fall semester of the student’s second year. The thesis committee must evaluate the prospectus for the purposes of departmental assessment; the evaluation form is found at S:Forms.

All drafts of thesis work, once they are approved by the chair and the student, must go to the inside member before being presented to the outside member. Once the inside member is satisfied, the draft then goes to the outside member.

The outside member must have a minimum of two weeks to review the final draft of the thesis (approved by the chair and inside member) before the final defense of the thesis takes place. A student can present the outside member with the final draft (approved by the chair and inside member) and schedule a defense two weeks from the date of delivery.  Students should not request a quicker turnaround time from outside members—it’s bad form, indicates poor planning on the student’s part, and could make it more difficult for future students to secure outside members for their committees.

Response or turn-times for drafts of work should be arranged by the chair, student, and inside member. Please note, though, that the department sets as its normal turn-time for a draft of a chapter as two weeks.

Graduate students must pay tuition for all regular (fall and spring) semesters until they graduate. If they do not successfully defend their thesis in their second year, they must enroll in continuous registration credits each fall and spring until they graduate. Students must be enrolled (in regular or continuous registration credits) during the semester in which they graduate. So, if a student plans to defend in the summer, they must register for continuous registration credits in the summer.

Deliberative Practices Track (Plan B)

The Master of Arts in Communication Studies, Deliberative Practices Specialization is a two-year program in which students work closely with our nationally-recognized Center for Public Deliberation and are trained to design and facilitate deliberative dialogues. Interested students apply for the Deliberative Practices Specialization during the fall of their first semester in the program. Admission into this track must be approved by the Director of the CPD.

Core Courses

SPCM 408 Applied Deliberative Techniques 3
SPCM 508 Deliberative Theory and Practice 3
SPCM 601 History of Rhetorical Theory 3
SPCM 612 Rhetorical Criticism 3
SPCM 638 Communication Research Methods 3
SPCM 639 Communication Theory 3
SPCM 646 Media Theory 3
SPCM 692 Seminar (Introduction to Graduate Studies) 3
SPCM 686 Practicum 3
SPCM 695 Independent Study 3
Electives Take 9 graduate credits (500 and above). At least 6 credits must be SPCM credits. No more than 3 credits from outside the department may be counted toward your M.A. plan of study. 9

Additional Courses for GTAs

SPCM 675 Speech Communication Pedagogy 3
SPCM 684 Supervised College Teaching 3


Total Credits: 39-42

Sample Course Rotation

Year 1

Fall Semester

SPCM 601
SPCM 646
SPCM 408
SPCM 675
SPCM 692

Spring Semester

SPCM 612
SPCM 638
SPCM 508
SPCM 684SPCM elective

Year 2

Fall Semester

SPCM 639
SPCM elective
SPCM 686

Spring Semester

SPCM elective
SPCM 695
SPCM elective or outside elective

Additional Plan B Requirements

Deliberative Practices students must complete an applied research project under the supervision of a graduate committee, submit a research paper to a scholarly conference, and participate in departmental research colloquia and conference preparation sessions.

Applied Research Project Process

All Plan B graduate students must complete an applied research project that is supervised by a graduate faculty member with expertise in deliberation, and a graduate committee comprised of one additional member from inside the department and one faculty member from outside the department. Requirements for the applied research project are more flexible than those for a master’s thesis. Students may complete a project independently, or they may contribute to the ongoing research of the CPD. Plan B students should prepare and defend a prospectus or research project plan during the fall semester of their second year. Additional requirements and project outcomes will be determined by the student’s advisor in consultation with the full committee.

Note: Students in either track may take SPCM 508 and be affiliated with the Center for Public Deliberation. The Deliberative Practices Track is designed for those who want to emphasize public deliberation and work extensively with the CPD.

Additional M.A. Program Requirements

M.A. students must submit a research paper to a scholarly conference and participate in departmental research colloquia and conference preparation sessions.

Ph.D. in Communication Program Requirements

The Ph.D. in Communication is a four-year program with the following requirements:

Pre-requisite Courses

Students must have earned an M.A. in communication or a related field. Up to 27 credits may be accepted toward the Ph.D.

The following Ph.D. prerequisite courses should be included. Students who earned their M.A. in our department will have completed all prerequisites. Students who earned an M.A. in Communication in a different department likely will have to take 2-3 prerequisites. Students who earned a master’s degree in a different field may have to take all program prerequisites. Because we want all Ph.D. students to be able to complete their program of study in 5 semesters or fewer, students who have to take one or more of the following courses as Ph.D. students may count up to 9 credits toward their 24-elective credit minimum on their Ph.D. program of study.

SPCM 601 History of Rhetorical Theory 3
SPCM 612 Rhetorical Criticism 3
SPCM 638 Communication Research Methods 3
SPCM 639 Communication Theory 3
SPCM 646 Media Theory 3
SPCM 675 Speech Communication Pedagogy 3

Core Courses

SPCM 701 Seminar in Academic Writing 3
SPCM 702 Professional Writing and Public Scholarship 3
SPCM 712 Critical/Cultural Analysis in Communication 3
SPCM 793 Seminar: Communication Research Methods 3
SPCM 798 Research (comprehensive exams) 6
SPCM 799 Dissertation 12
Electives Take 24 graduate credits (500 and above). No more than 6 credits from outside the department may be counted toward your Ph.D. plan of study. The plan of study must be approved by the student’s committee, and students may not make changes without their advisor’s approval. 24

 

Total Credits: 81

Sample Course Rotation

Year 1

Year 2

Fall Semester

SPCM 701
SPCM elective
SPCM elective

Spring Semester

SPCM 702
SPCM elective
SPCM elective or outside elective

Year 2

Fall Semester

SPCM 712
SPCM elective
SPCM elective or outside elective

Spring Semester

SPCM 793
SPCM elective
SPCM elective

Year 3

Fall Semester

SPCM 798 (6 credits)
Preliminary examination
SPCM 799 (3 credits)

Fall Semester

SPCM 799 (9 credits)

Year 4

Fall Semester

Enroll in continuous registration credits until the dissertation is complete

Fall Semester

Enroll in continuous registration credits until the dissertation is complete

Advanced Research Methods

Given the increasing importance of multi-methodological research inside and outside of academe, we want our Ph.D. graduates to be experts in a variety of research methods. We require all students to take advanced research methods courses grounded in both social science and critical/humanistic perspectives.

Advanced Writing

Given our program’s emphasis on engagement, we want our Ph.D. graduates to be able to write successfully for scholarly and lay audiences. Our Ph.D. core includes instruction in academic and professional writing, as well as in adapting scholarly information for extra-disciplinary and lay audiences (e.g. public scholarship, scholarly blogging, digital engagement, etc.).

Elective Courses

Doctoral students choose graduate electives from the department in consultation with their advisor. Our program is designed to serve students who appreciate our programmatic breadth and flexibility. Students will need to choose electives from more than one of our areas of study. Doctoral students may count up to two courses outside the department toward their program of study requirements. Graduate students who wish to take additional courses outside the department may do so, but the credits will not count toward departmental program of study requirements.

Preliminary Exam and Dissertation

Doctoral students’ third year is devoted to the preliminary exam and dissertation process. Students whose dissertation research extends beyond the third year may register for continuous registration credits until they complete their dissertation.

Conference Submission and Departmental Colloquia

Ph.D. students must submit their research to and engage in professional development at scholarly conferences. They also must participate in departmental research colloquia and conference preparation sessions.

Ph.D. Advisory Committee

The director of graduate studies serves as temporary advisor to all incoming graduate students until they secure a permanent advisor. Incoming students should identify an advisor and secure their agreement to chair their Ph.D. committee by February 1st during their first year. The full committee must be composed by fall of the second year, no later than the Graduate School’s deadline for filing the program of study. Committee members’ names must be forwarded to the Graduate Studies Support Coordinator after they agree to serve on a student’s committee.

Doctoral students must compose a doctoral committee in accordance with the Graduate School’s committee requirements. Doctoral committees consist of at least four faculty members and typically include an advisor from the Communication Studies graduate faculty, two inside members from Communication Studies, and one outside member.

The purpose of the Ph.D. committee is to advise, mentor, and evaluate doctoral students. Major responsibilities include developing a doctoral student’s program of study, preparing and evaluating the student’s preliminary exam, and serving as the student’s dissertation committee. The initial agreement to serve as a student’s advisor/committee member does not guarantee that those faculty members will remain in those roles during the student’s entire graduate career. Graduate students may replace committee members in advance of preliminary exams or when composing their dissertation committee. Faculty members may decline to continue serving on a Ph.D. committee at either of those two stages.

Annual Mentoring and Advising Meeting

Each spring, prior to spring break, doctoral students should have formal mentoring and evaluation from their advisor and/or committee. Prior to that meeting, submit an updated CV and list of goals for the upcoming year to your advisor and committee members. The following meetings are required. Individual faculty members may have additional mentoring opportunities and requirements:

Spring - Year 1

Identify a committee chair by mid-February. In consultation with your chair, assemble the rest of your committee by the end of spring semester.

Spring - Year 2

Meet with your full committee. Discuss the student’s teaching, research, and service commitments and goals. Begin to plan for the preliminary examination.

Spring – Year 3 and each spring until your graduation semester

Meet with your advisor and inside committee members. (Participation of the outside member is optional.) Discuss the student’s teaching, research, and service commitments and goals. Discuss progress on the dissertation and set goals for timely completion.

We created this requirement to ensure that every grad student receives formal mentoring from their advisor and committee members. This meeting also offers us an opportunity to discuss problems or concerns, if we have them. Faculty members who have a concern about a graduate student should communicate that concern to the student’s advisor so that it may be addressed in the annual meeting. Students should review the department’s Satisfactory Academic Performance and Satisfactory Progress guidelines to ensure timely and successful degree completion.

Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examination is designed to assess doctoral students’ mastery of their area(s) of specialization and engage in work that positions them to exhibit their expertise on the job market. Doctoral students will complete an equivalent of 18 hours of written examination and 2 hours of oral examination. Competency will be determined by the student’s committee. Per the Graduate School’s policy, a majority vote is required for students to pass their exam, and all committee members, including the outside member, must participate in the examination process. A tie vote counts as a failed exam. If a student fails the exam (according to the committee’s judgment), they may have one opportunity to retake it. If the student fails a second time, they will not be allowed to continue in the program.

Preliminary Examination Design

Part I*

Choose a combination of the following:
• Develop an academic paper for publication; 6-8 hours
• Dissertation literature review (preliminary research/development); 2-4 hours
• Dissertation methods (preliminary research/development); 2-4 hours
• Construct a teaching philosophy and sample syllabus for a course the student has not taught; 2 hours

Part II*

• (6-8 hours) Timed question(s) over areas of research (in office, closed book, no notes).

• (the equivalent of 6-8 timed hours) 3-5 questions that the student answers during the 4-5 day span of Part II of       their exam. 1-2 questions would be given to the student to answer during a 24-hour period. The student would       prepare their answer at their preferred location and would be allowed to use notes and readings.

The purpose of Part II of the exam is to test students’ ability to synthesize large literatures in their areas of expertise, enter ongoing debates in the literature, apply existing literature to specific contexts relevant to the student’s expertise, etc. The goal is to demonstrate to your committee that you can participate in ongoing scholarly conversations in meaningful ways. There are advantages and challenges with either approach. A closed-book, timed exam offers a built-in limitation on how much one is expected to write; allows the student to schedule that portion of the exam around their other obligations (e.g., teaching, office hours); and has less stringent expectations regarding the quality of the answer’s composition and the specificity of the discussion of particular articles and books. A take-home exam offers flexibility for accommodating students with a variety of needs and challenges (students whose first language is not English; neurodiverse students; students with anxiety or mobility challenges. etc.). Since students have opted to take longer to prepare their answer, however, expectations regarding the quality of the take-home answer’s composition and coverage of the literature are more substantial.

 

Note: these two options were designed to respond to students’ diverse test-taking needs and strengths. Additional accommodations (e.g., taking more than 24-hours per question, expanding Part II of the exam into longer than a 5-day period, etc.) are not consistent with the overall goals of comprehensive exams and should not be sought.

* Parts I and II must total 18 hours.

Part III

Oral defense; 2 hours

The preliminary exam process typically spans one semester. Students take several months to study and prepare their Part I materials. Students have one week to complete Part II. Part I materials must be submitted by the deadline for Part II. The oral defense must be completed within two weeks after the written answers are submitted.

Note: The “hours” designation in Part I represents the proportional weight of each activity rather than the actual amount of time spent on the activity—students will prepare Part I in advance of receiving their in-office questions for Part II.

Graduate Elective Courses for M.A. and Ph.D.

The following graduate elective courses are currently being offered and are available to students in any track:

  • SPCM 508 Deliberative Theory and Practice
  • SPCM 538 Relating & Organizing for Health
  • SPCM 604 Rhetoric of Everyday Life
  • SPCM 611 Topics in Public Address
  • SPCM 620 Rhetoric and Public Affairs
  • SPCM 623 Feminist Theories of Discourse
  • SPCM 632 Theories of Interpersonal Communication
  • SPCM 633 Discourse, Work, and Organization
  • SPCM 634 Communication and Cultural Diversity
  • SPCM 647 Media Industries
  • SPCM 648 Media Texts
  • SPCM 549 Media Audiences
  • SPCM 649 Media Audiences
  • SPCM 650 Contemporary Issues in Media
  • SPCM 792A Topics in Rhetoric and Civic Engagement
  • SPCM 792B Topics in Relational and Organizational Communication
  • SPCM 792C Topics in Film and Media Studies

Graduate Program Policies

Establishing Residency

For graduate students seeking residency, please visit the Office of Financial Aid website and follow the instructions and deadline dates carefully.

Graduate School Policies & Procedures

Graduate Forms and Steps to Graduation

Please refer to the Graduate and Professional Bulletin for current policies and procedures.

Access frequently referenced policies, such as health insurance, advisor and committee requirements, and university policy resources here.

The Graduate School website houses all forms, instructions and deadlines related to graduation. Check these sites often for any updates.

Steps to Graduation

Graduate Student Professional Development

Each year, pending availability of funds, the Department will create a professional development funding pool for graduate students. Typically, the Department will support participation in two conferences per year for PhD students, who are required to have one or more competitively-selected research presentation(s) at one of the two conferences.  The Department will support participation in one conference per year for MA students, who are required to have one or more competitively-selected research presentation(s) at that conference. If the Department’s budget permits, students accepted to a conference occurring internationally may receive more funds for that conference than are awarded for national or regional conferences. Graduate students also may apply for one-time research support if they have a specific need (such as organizing an event, compensating respondents, or visiting an archive). The Department Chair, in consultation with the Executive Committee and the Graduate Committee, will administer the graduate student professional development fund.

Each year, graduate students will elect 4 representatives to serve as graduate student leadership and represent the interests of graduate students. Two representatives must be M.A. students (elected by all M.A. students) and two must be Ph.D. students (elected by all Ph.D. students). Elections will be run by the Graduate Program Support Coordinator each April. CSU Communication Studies M.A. students who have been accepted into our Ph.D. program are eligible to vote for the Ph.D. representative in that year’s election. They also are eligible to be candidates for the Ph.D. representative position in that year’s election.

Graduate student representatives will meet with the Director of Graduate Studies at least once a semester. Graduate representatives are encouraged to discuss matters of concern to the graduate students at those meetings. Graduate representatives may be asked to participate in other meetings and committees on an ad-hoc basis.

Graduate student representative duties include:

  • Soliciting and sharing graduate student perspectives on matters of departmental policy with the faculty.
  • Hosting graduate student sessions with candidates for faculty positions during their on-campus interview and sharing graduate student feedback about faculty candidates with the faculty.
  • Coordinating conference and job talk practice sessions.
  • Assist with graduate student recruitment
  • Other duties as needed.

Thesis, Project, and Dissertation Forms & Guidelines

Department prospectus and final defense forms can be found here:

Students must have their advisor print off and bring these forms (or the student must print the form and bring them) to each defense. After the defense the form must be filled out and singed by all three committee members and returned to the Graduate Studies Support Coordinator for recording purposes.

Please pay close attention to the forms required for thesis/dissertation examinations, the GS24, GS30 and, if you need to change a committee member, GS9. Ph.D. Candidates must also complete a preliminary exam and fill out a GS16. The preliminary exam must be completed at least two semesters prior to the Ph.D. student’s final examination/defense. To learn more about these please reference the forms section on the Graduate School website.

Prior to starting your thesis please review the formatting guidelines: Thesis/Dissertation pages for formatting requirements. After your thesis is complete submit it electronically to ProQuest/UMI.

Your document must be approved for formatting prior to the deadline date of the semester that you intend to complete your degree requirements. Corrections to your thesis/dissertation may be required so it is recommended that you submit well in advance of the deadline date.

Graduate Scholarships & Awards

The department recognizes graduate students with the following awards. If awards include money, exact amounts are determined each year based on funds available.

Awardees are chosen annual by the Graduate Committee. In the event that Graduate Committee does not have a representative from each area of departmental emphasis, one will be added from the missing area for this task. When the committee has 4 members (DGS + a representative from each area) either the DGS or the representative from the DGS’s area will recuse themselves from the vote, however, they will remain on the committee and participate in deliberations. The committee may solicit input from the full TTT faculty via a survey or other measures.

Gordon F. Hostettler Memorial Scholarship for Outstanding Graduate Students

Outstanding Master’s Student (monetary award)

  • Awarded: every Fall semester
  • Eligible: 2nd year MA students
  • Application materials: CV

Outstanding Doctoral Student (monetary award)

  • Awarded: every Spring semester
  • Eligible: PhD students who have successfully completed their comprehensive exams
  • Application materials: PhD annual evaluation materials

Total projected annual funds: $3,000

Excellence in Teaching Award, MA student

  • Awarded: every Spring semester
  • Eligible: MA students who have successfully completed three semesters of teaching
  • Application materials: Teaching portfolio
  • Non-monetary

Excellence in Teaching Award, PhD student

  • Awarded: every Spring semester
  • Eligible: PhD students who have successfully completed their comprehensive exams
  • Application materials: Teaching portfolio
  • Non-monetary

Gordon F. Hostettler Memorial Scholarship for Outstanding Graduate Students

James R. Irvine Scholarship (recruiting fellowship)

  • Awarded every spring for disbursement the following Fall
  • Eligible: incoming PhD student
  • Application materials: Graduate program application

Colorado State Graduate Fellowship (recruiting fellowship)

  • Awarded every spring for disbursement the following Fall
  • Eligible: incoming MA student
  • Application materials: Graduate program application

Graduate Offices & Office Procedures

Graduate Offices

Please keep your office locked at all times when you’re not there and be responsible for locking desks and doors and otherwise ensuring the safety of the equipment in the building. Unfortunately, theft is a problem on campus, so these precautions are necessary.

Office Procedures

Campus & Community Resources

Campus Resources

Professional Development for Graduate Students
Discover resources and participate in our professional development events to polish your skills and enhance your career goals.

Campus Dining Options
Learn about dining options at Colorado State University including RamCard and university dining halls and menus.

Career Center
Located in the basement of the Lory Student Center, the Career Center hosts several events and workshops throughout the year.

College of Liberal Arts
Communication Studies is one of 16 departments/programs within the College of Liberal Arts. Comm Studies typically ranks as the top undergraduate major in the college (in terms of size). Dr. Ben Withers is the dean of the college. He began his appointment in the fall of 2016.

CSU Health Network
Everything you need to know about staying healthy in body and mind during your time as a Ram.


Emergency Text Alert System

Are classes canceled because of a snow day? Is there an emergency situation on campus? Sign up for the university’s emergency text alert system.

Legal Services
Student Legal Services provides free legal advice to fee-paying students on a variety of legal matters.

Lory Student Center
CSU’s hub of student life and your one stop shop for coffee, lunch, supplies, computer software and equipment, CSU Bookstore, CSU-branded clothing, student activities, Recycled Cycles, and much more.

Student Resources and Campus Life
Quick links to campus life resources.

Tell Someone Campaign
If you are concerned about a student OR an employee, tell someone.

Parking and Transportation Services

Parking

It is expensive and time-consuming to park on campus. However, it’s doable. If you must drive, explore your options:

  • Student parking permits and passes
  • Limited hourly parking is available in the Animal Sciences lot just east of the Behavioral Sciences Building where CMST is located
  • Pay-to-park short term parking options are scattered across campus

Biking
Colorado State University received platinum-level “Bicycle Friendly University” status from the League of American Cyclists for the second time in fall 2019. From bicycle-designated paths and a city bus system that supports bikes, to commuter showers and conveniently located bicycle racks, commuting to campus by bicycle is about as easy as it can get.

Around the Horn
Free on-campus transit

Public Transit
All students receive a Transfort transit pass (on their Ramcard) included in their student fees thanks to the commitment from the Associated Students of Colorado State University. You can ride any Transfort route in the city, via bus or MAX.  Your transit pass can also get you to Loveland, Longmont and Boulder via the FLEX.

University Center for the Arts
The UCA houses the School of Music, Theatre and Dance and is located on Remington St, just east of College Ave. Many music performances are free to students and those that required a paid ticket are offered at a low student rate.

Community Resources

Downtown Fort Collins Business Association

Events, dining, nightlife, shopping, services and arts and culture

Visit Fort Collins

Official visitor guide to Fort Collins – where to eat and drink, what to do, community calendar.

Recommended local activities

  • Explore City of Fort Collins natural areas west of town and east of Horsetooth Reservoir.
  • Explore the Poudre Canyon.
  • Explore the city’s vast network of bicycle trails.