May 28, 2024  
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog 
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Communication Program

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Department Chairperson: Jill Tyler, Ph.D.
Graduate Program Co-Directors: Kelly McKay-Semmler, Ph.D. and Travis Loof, Ph.D.

Department of Communication Studies
Dakota Hall, 3rd floor
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069
Phone: 605-677-5476


Department Chairperson: Michelle Van Maanen, Ed.D.

Department of Media & Journalism
Al Neuharth Media Center
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069
Phone: (605) 677-5477


Associate Professors:

Kelly McKay-Semmler, Ph.D., University of Oklahoma. Specialization: intercultural/intergroup communication, conflict resolution, and communication & gender.
Shane Semmler, Ph.D., University of Oklahoma. Specialization: persuasion, public speaking, entertainment education, and political communication.
Jill Tyler, Ph.D., University of Iowa. Specialization: interpersonal/relational communication, and health communication.

Assistant Professor:

Leah Seurer, Ph.D., University of Denver. Specializations: family communication and qualitative research. 


Nicole Ackman, M.S., South Dakota State University. Specialization: organizational communication, leadership styles, and teambuilding.



Charles Lubbers, Ph.D., University of Nebraska. Specialization: public relations, advertising and integrated marketing communications.

Assistant Professors:

Lori Costello, Ph.D., Texas A&M University. Specialization: Integrated marketing communications, agricultural communications, public relations, consumer brand engagement, and advertising.
Travis Loof, Ph.D., Texas Tech University. Specialization: narrative engagement, advertising, entertainment education, human-AI interaction, and health communication.
Kyle Miller, Ph.D., University of Iowa. Specialization: Podcasting, college and local media, media’s educational value, digital journalism, media perceptions, and sports broadcasting.
Michelle Van Maanen, Ed.D., University of South Dakota. Specialization: journalism, media promotion, media management, higher education, and mass communication theory.


Janet Davison, Ph.D., University of South Dakota. Specialization: newswriting (print and broadcast), radio production, media history and literary journalism.
Gary Larson, Ed.S., University of South Dakota. Specialization: digital media and sport media.


Master of Arts in Communication, Plan A and Plan B  

Program Description

The Master of Arts in Communication examines human symbolic activity in a variety of contexts and through a variety of channels. We explore interpersonal identities and relationships, culture and organizational life, as well as traditional and new forms of media. After completing foundational courses in research and theory, students build on their own interests and goals by selecting courses from the Department of Communication Studies and the Department of Media & Journalism, as well as related departments throughout the University.

Sound, ethical practice, rigorous intellectual inquiry, and the free expression of ideas form the basis for studying communication practices, interactions, discourses, strategies, messages, and effects. Students come to the graduate program from a variety of undergraduate programs, such as communication, mass communication, psychology, sociology, business, English, political science, counseling, and education.

The curriculum prepares students for leadership positions in a variety of fields - business, education, law, politics, social and human services, health care management, human resource development, public relations, advertising, marketing, media management, technology, media research, public administration, and the arts and entertainment. The program also prepares students for doctoral study, and for teaching at the secondary and post-secondary levels.

Principal Fields for Specialization and Research: Based on their own professional and academic goals, graduate students are encouraged to design individual programs of study in areas such as interpersonal and relational communication, organizational communication, health communication, political communication, intercultural and interethnic communication, media studies, mass communication, strategic communication (advertising, integrated marketing and public relations), journalism and media management.

A student pursuing a graduate degree in communication may select between two options: Plan A (scholarly thesis and oral defense); Plan B (coursework with comprehensive exam and oral defense).


Admission to this program requires all of the following:

  1. Completed Graduate Application form found at: and a non-refundable application fee of $35.
  2. Official transcript(s) verifying receipt of an undergraduate degree and previous graduate credit (with English translation) must accompany an application. Official transcripts of all academic work at the undergraduate and graduate levels are required for international students. The USD Graduate School and/or academic units retain the right to require credential evaluations from organizations, such as Educational Credential Evaluators/World Education Services (ECE/WES), for a student if such an evaluation is deemed necessary.
  3. Baccalaureate degree must be from an institution with full regional accreditation for that degree. A minimum undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 on conferred degree and/or graduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better, based on a 4.0 scale, on all graduate coursework is required for full admission. Each graduate program may admit students on provisional status per university policy.
  4. Applicants with degrees from countries other than the United States who have obtained an undergraduate or graduate degree from a regionally accredited American college or university or from an accredited institution in the following English-speaking countries: United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Canada (Excluding Quebec), Australia, and New Zealand are not required to submit an approved English proficiency exam score. For all other applicants, a minimum score of 79 on the Internet-Based TOEFL (iBT) or 550 on the Paper-Based TOEFL (PBT), a minimum IELTS score of 6.0, or a minimum PTE score of 53 is required for graduate admission. 
  5. Applicants are required to submit a statement of purpose or goal statement. Applicants must submit an original 2-4 page statement of purpose carefully outlining their experience, preparation, interests and goals in pursuing a graduate degree in Communication.

Additional Program Admission Requirements:

  1. Three (3) professional letters of recommendation are required.
  2. Applicants must have completed a minimum of 15 credit hours of undergraduate coursework in Communication Studies, Mass Communication, or a related discipline, as approved by the department. The coursework usually considered applicable to the 15 credit hour requirement include sociology, psychology, anthropology, and other social sciences or literature. For any student whose undergraduate degree is not in Communication Studies or Mass Communication specifically, we strongly advise enrollment in SPCM 505 THEORIES OF COMMUNICATION (C) in the first semester (offered every fall) to provide a solid background in Communication. This course will be considered part of the 36 hours required in the graduate program.

Subject to faculty approval, those who do not meet all of the criteria above may be admitted on a provisional basis.


  • Fall Start
    • Priority Deadline: March 31
    • Final Deadline: Two weeks before the start of the semester
  • Spring Start
    • Final Deadline: Two weeks before the start of the semester

We recommend entering in the fall semester for the optimum sequencing of courses.


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