Jun 14, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog

Communication Program

Graduate Program Director: Travis Loof, Ph.D

Department Chairperson: Leah Seurer, Ph.D.
Department of Communication Studies
Dakota Hall, 334
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069
Phone: 605-658-3755


Department Chairperson: Michelle Van Maanen, Ed.D.
Department of Media & Journalism
Al Neuharth Media Center, Room 151
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069
Phone: (605) 658-6811



Professor Emeritus:

Jill Tyler, Ph.D., University of Iowa. Specialization: Interpersonal/relational communication, and health communication.


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

Associate Professor:

Leah Seurer, Ph.D., University of Denver. Specializations: interpersonal and family communication, qualitative methods, and health communication.

Assistant Professors:

Lori Costello, Ph.D., Texas A&M University. Specialization: public relations, advertising, integrated marketing communications, and agricultural communications
Kristina M. Lee, Ph.D., Colorado State University. Specializations: Religious and Political Rhetoric, Social Movement Rhetoric, Secular Rhetorical Criticism, and Interfaith Dialogue.
Travis Loof, Ph.D., Texas Tech University. Specialization: narrative engagement, advertising, entertainment education, human-AI interaction, and health communication.
Dominic Manthey, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University. Specialization: rhetorical studies, rhetoric of dissent, debates over war and peace, public memory, and US public address.
Michelle Van Maanen, Ed.D., University of South Dakota. Specialization: journalism, media promotion, media management, higher education, and mass communication theory.

Senior Lecturer:

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


Aimee Sorensen, M.A., University of South Dakota. Specializations: communication pedagogy, interpersonal/relational communication, and political communication 


Nicole Ackman, M.S., South Dakota State University. Specializations: communication pedagogy, organizational and leadership communication, gender and communication  


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 a comprehensive exam and oral defense).

WICHE Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) eligible program. 


Admission to this program requires all of the following:

  1. Completed Graduate Application form found at: https://www.usd.edu/grad/how-to-apply and a non-refundable application fee of $35.
  2. Official transcript(s) verifying receipt of an undergraduate degree and previous graduate credit (in English or with translation). Transcripts must be complete (e.g., if currently enrolled, work-in-progress coursework must be included, foreign transcripts must include a grading scale, and for countries that issue, copy of degree certificate/diploma i.e., India, Nepal, etc.). 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 institutional 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 a high school diploma, undergraduate, or graduate degree from an institutionally accredited American college or university or from an accredited institution in the approved list  of English-speaking countries are not required to submit an approved English proficiency exam score. For all other applicants with degrees from other countries, a minimum score of 79 on the Internet-Based TOEFL (iBT), 550 on the Paper-Based TOEFL (PBT), 8.5 on the TOEFL Essentials, 6.0 on the IELTS Academic, 53 on the PTE, or 110 on Duolingo 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. Resume.
  2. Three (3) professional letters of recommendation are required.
  3. 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 includes 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 CMST 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 2024
    • Priority Deadline: March 31
    • Final Deadline: Two weeks before the start of the semester
  • Spring Start 2025
    • Final Deadline: Two weeks before the start of the semester
  • Fall Start 2025
    • Priority Deadline: March 31
    • Final Deadline: Three weeks before the start of the semester
  • Spring Start 2026

    • Final Deadline: Three weeks before the start of the semester

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

Student Learning Outcomes for Communication (M.A.)

  1. Students will identify, explain and critique the major paradigms and theories that have shaped the field of communication, including their historical development and current trends. 
  2. Students will articulate the ethical and social responsibilities in communicating with others in different social contexts (i.e., interpersonal, organizational, intercultural, mediated, and public). 
  3. Students will interpret and critique research methods used in published communication research studies. Students will also design, and thesis-track students will also conduct scholarly research using one or more methods of inquiry.  Lastly, students will articulate an in-depth understanding of conceptual foundations and research methods through advanced scholarly writing. 
  4. Students will demonstrate proficiency in applied communication activities (presentations, workshops, forums, trainings, group discussions, etc.) in professional contexts.