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Department of Communication Studies College of Arts & Letters

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Graduate Program in Communication Studies

M.A. in Communication Studies

The graduate program in Communication Studies at Sacramento State is a rigorous, methods-driven program designed to increase theoretical and applied understanding of human communication.

We are excited to foster an inclusive learning environment with students and faculty from all walks of life. In particular, we welcome students of all identities and cultural backgrounds, including international and first generation students.

Our courses are taught by award-winning faculty with expertise across communication studies, including Mass Media, Organizational, International, Intercultural, Interpersonal, Rhetorical, Political and Instructional Communication.

The 30-unit program has an excellent track record of preparing students for doctoral study as well as entering communication professions. We offer:

  • Small class sizes with lots of instructor-student interaction
  • Various culminating experiences including thesis, project or comprehensive exams
  • Funding via paid Teaching Assistantship and Graduate Assistantship program
  • Evening classes to accommodate working professionals
  • Research and internship opportunities
  • Fall and Spring admissions

With full-time coursework (six units per semester), students usually finish the program in two to three years, depending on their culminating experience option.

To learn more, please review the Catalog, which outlines admissions and program requirements; the Graduate Document; the FAQs below, and this interview about the program. For additional questions, contact Dr. Shawna Malvini Redden, Graduate Program Coordinator.

Due to COVID-19, our admission procedures have changed and we are waiving the GRE requirement. Please read the updated process carefully. Our next application deadline is September 15 for the Spring 2022 cohort.

Graduate Faculty

Dr. Kimberly Aguilar, Assistant Professor
Dr. Diego Bonilla, Professor
Dr. Nicholas F. Burnett, Professor Emeritus
Dr. Elizabeth Earle, Assistant Professor
Dr. Carlos Flores, Assistant Professor
Dr. Michele Foss-Snowden, Professor
Dr. Elaine Gale, Associate Professor
Dr. Cheng Hong, Assistant Professor
Dr. Jacqueline A. Irwin, Professor
Dr. Edith LeFebvre, Professor
Dr. Mark Ludwig, Professor
Dr. Christine Miller, Professor
Dr. Shawna Malvini Redden, Associate Professor
Dr. Kiko Omori, Assistant Professor
Dr. Gerri Smith, Professor
Dr. Carmen Stitt, Professor
Dr. Andrew Stoner, Associate Professor
Dr. Mark Stoner, Professor Emeritus
Dr. Andrea Terry, Assistant Professor
Dr. John Williams, Professor
Dr. Mark Williams, Professor
Dr. David Zuckerman, Professor

Graduate Faculty Bios & Photos

Application Process

  1. Review this site and the university catalog carefully to learn about our program. (Note: Due to COVID-19, the current admissions requirements below differ slightly from the catalog.)

  2. Start your online application via the Cal State Apply portal, accessible via the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS): Send OGS your official transcripts. (You MUST have this online application and transcripts submitted on time or your application cannot be considered.)

  3. Prepare supplemental materials. Send these directly to the Communication Studies office via email (c/o: Vicenza Weeks). Include:
    • At least one substantive, polished academic writing sample that shows your skills at using research sources, and critiquing research and/or analyzing texts. Please do not include professional writing samples, e.g., journalism, news writing, or news releases.
    • A statement of purpose explaining why you want to study communication at the graduate level in our program, who you want to work with among the faculty, and how graduate study connects to your professional goals. If relevant, offer context on weak parts of your application. In approximately two pages (single or double-spaced), discuss:
      • Why you want to study communication at the graduate level
      • What topics in communication you are interested in researching
      • Why you wish to study in this department and why you would fit in our program
      • Which faculty you want to work with, potentially
      • What type of faculty support you are looking for
      • Your professional goals
    • A personal statement, reflecting on your decisions about graduate school. In approximately one page (single or double-spaced), please craft a statement that addresses the following questions:
      • Why do you want to go to graduate school?
      • How have you prepared for graduate study in communication (e.g., relevant coursework, research projects, conference participation, independent study projects, post-baccalaureate courses)?
      • Are there personal contextual factors that the graduate committee should know when reviewing your application?
    • An analytical writing essay. In no more than two pages (single or double spaced), craft a response to one of the statements below. The statements reflect a controversy in the communication studies discipline. Your task is to write a response describing the extent to which you support or oppose the claim. There is no one right answer. We want to see you develop an argument, make a case for your position, discuss possible counter-arguments, and demonstrate your writing and analytic ability. Please use scholarly sources to support your claims.
      • (1) Communication is an effect, not a cause.
      • (2) Communication is a process, not an activity.
      • (3) Communication is something you have, not something you do.
    • Unofficial transcripts (send official transcripts to Office of Graduation Studies, unless you currently attend Sac State; then your official transcripts are already on file)
    • Resume (optional)
    • Application for the TA/GA program (optional)
    • Due to the COVID-19 crisis, we are waiving the GRE requirement listed in the Catalog
  4. Request letters of recommendation from three professors who can speak to your potential as a graduate student, including but not limited to: writing strength, understanding of communication theory, presentations made, conference participation (papers submitted or presented), poster session participation, global experience, internships, participation in educational achievement programs (e.g., McNair Scholars). Have professors email these letters directly to the Communication Studies department, c/o Vicenza Weeks

  5. Ask lots of questions. Contact the Graduate Program Coordinator, Dr. Shawna Malvini Redden at

  6. Submit your materials no later than September 15, 2021 for consideration for our Spring 2022 cohort. The priority deadline for Fall 2022 is January 15, 2022; with applications accepted as space allows until March 1, 2022.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Don’t I need straight As to get into grad school?
A: No. We require a 3.0 cumulative GPA, or a 3.25 in the last 60 units. If you don’t meet the GPA minimum, we recommend that you successfully complete some additional courses, preferably upper division communication courses, to raise it.

Q: What about pre-reqs?
A: There aren’t any, per se, although you might be asked to take extra undergraduate methods courses in rhetorical and/or quantitative methods if you earned less than a B- in your methods courses or did not complete any during your undergraduate program. These classes would count toward your M.A.

Q: Any advice for the academic writing samples?
A: Yes. Submit examples of your best academic writing that show your ability to critique and analyze ideas. Get feedback from peers and professors, and revise old class papers or create something new.

Q: What type of GRE scores are you looking for?
A: None. We have been in the process of removing the GRE as an admissions requirement due to evidence that it is biased against people of color, women, and those of lower socio-economic status, in addition to not being very useful in predicting success in graduate school according to several research studies. Due to COVID-19, we are able to waive the requirement early and have started a new supplemental application process (see above).

Q: Is the program compatible with working professionals?
A: Absolutely. Most of our students work full time during the day and take classes at night. Our courses are almost exclusively offered in the evenings starting at 5:30 or 6 p.m.

Q: How many classes do grad students usually take per semester?
A: Usually two classes. Full time graduate study is considered six units, in terms of workload. (Full time for financial aid purposes is 8 units)

Q: How much does the grad program cost?
A: For in-state students, tuition is $5,840 for six units, including fees per year for 6 units. (For comparison, basic undergrad tuition is $5,006). For non-residents, there is an extra fee of $396 per unit. (Current as of April 2020)

Q: Are grad students eligible for financial aid and grants?
A: Yes. Turn in your FAFSA early!

Q: Is there funding available?
A: Yes. We offer funding in the form of the Graduate Assistant and Teaching Associate programs. The GA salary is approximately $1,361 per semester, per lab section taught (spread over five months). The TA salary is approximately $7,099.20 per semester for two courses (spread over six months).

Q: Advice for the application materials?
A: Proofread carefully, customize materials to our program, and get everything submitted on time.

Funded Student Teaching Opportunities

Unique among many master’s-level graduate programs, the Communication Studies department at Sacramento State offers the opportunity for paid graduate student teaching. Typically, new graduate students will start out as Graduate Assistants, and after gaining experience in the classroom, become Teaching Associates who design and lead their own classes. GAs and TAs work closely with faculty mentors to hone their teaching abilities. Likewise, we offer two courses to support teaching, Instructional Communication Theory and Practicum.

Graduate students who participate in the GA/TA program leave well prepared to teach in the community college system, as part-time faculty at Sacramento State or other CSUs, and in doctoral programs. Indeed, our alumni work in our department, as well as at universities and community colleges across the country.

The GA salary is $1,361 per semester, per lab section taught (spread over five months). GAs may teach up to three lab sections per semester. The TA salary is $7,099.20 per semester for two courses (spread over six months). (Salary information as of April 2020)

For more details about the positions, requriements, and application process, please see the application forms:

Communication Studies Graduate Classes

While our curriculum varies and includes “special problems” courses that feature various contemporary communication topics, below is a list of our regular course offerings. The three required core classes must be completed as soon as possible when students enter the program.

In addition, students can take up to six units of advanced undergraduate classes or graduate courses in other departments to develop a customized course schedule.

Core Required Courses (New as of Fall 2021)

  • COMS 200A Intro to Grad Studies--Disciplinary History & Conventions (1 unit; offered in Fall)
  • COMS 200B Intro to Grad Studies--Paradigm & Methods (1 unit; offered in Spring)
  • COMS 201 Communication Theory (3 units; offered in Fall)
  • A choice of methods: COMS 202 Quantitative Methods, COMS 203 Qualitative Methods, or COMS 204 Quantitative Methods (Courses rotate every Spring)

Graduate Courses (3 units each)

  • COMS 206 Organizational Communication
  • COMS 207 Relational Communication
  • COMS 208 international Communication
  • COMS 209 Social Movements
  • COMS 210 Media Effects
  • COMS 211 Media & Culture
  • COMS 212 Communication & Leadership
  • COMS 213 Rhetorical Theory
  • COMS 214 Health communication
  • COMS 215 Political Communication
  • COMS 216 Intercultural Communication
  • COMS 217 Applied Organizational Communication
  • COMS 219 Conflict Management
  • COMS 221 Instructional Communication Theory
  • COMS 222 Instructional Communication Practicum
  • COMS 228 Corporate Advocacy and Public Policy
  • COMS 230 Computer-Mediated Communication

Variable Content Courses

  • COMS 285 Colloquium for Teaching Communication Studies (1 unit)
  • COMS 295 Apprenticeship in Communication Studies (1-3 units)
  • COMS 296A Communication Research Methods Module (1 unit)
  • COMS 296B Communication Topics Module (1 unit)
  • COMS 297 Directed Study and Comprehensive Examination (3 units)
  • COMS 298 Special Topics Course (3 units; offered in Spring)
  • COMS 299 Independent Study (Usually 3 units; proposal required)
  • COMS 500 Thesis/Project Units (6 units)