MA in Communication


A One-of-a-Kind Master's Program

The Master of Arts in Communication at Saint Mary's College of California provides students with the ability to communicate through difference to form bonds connecting cultures, to do business across borders, and to build bridges between people. 

The only one of its kind in the Bay Area, the MA in Communication is a program focused on applied research, highlighting clusters of in-demand skills and competencies that give students an edge in the post-graduate job market.  The course of study was originally designed to be completed in only one extra year after completion of an undergraduate degree from Saint Mary's but now we also accept applications from non-Saint Mary's students or SMC alumni.

Saint Mary's students have the option to complete two cross-listed graduate Bridge courses during their final two years as an undergraduate and then continue for an intensive year, earning two powerful degrees on an accelerated timeline. Non-Saint Mary's students and SMC alumni, on the other hand, are able to take these Bridge classes in the Summer before starting and/or during their Fall/Spring semesters in the program.

Professor Makiko Imamura teaching students

Connecting with People, Connecting with the World

We place emphasis on shared inquiry and critical thinking, equipping our students to work, learn, and live in an increasingly diverse, globalized, and data-driven world. Students can choose to concentrate their four electives on any of our departmental strengths (including intercultural communication, media studies, and media production) or keep their study general. In either case, our curriculum focuses on communication challenges and opportunities in professional settings across cultures. By working closely with invested faculty who bring a range of communication expertise and experience into the classroom, students can leave and make an impact outside of it.

student on laptop

A World of Possibilities

Student engagement in the program will be built on self-reflexivity, awareness, and critical thinking. These skills, coupled with data-driven research opportunities and critical involvement in decision making, embolden students to pursue leadership roles in a variety of fields:

  • Technology 
  • Content Creation
  • Digital Media
  • International Business 
  • Social Services
  • Communication
  • Development
  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Hospitality
  • Marketing
  • Public Relations
  • Healthcare


Cost Effective

As the Summer 2021 Salary Survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers recently reported, getting a Master of Arts in Communication and Media Studies provides an average starting salary boost of 46.8% over a Bachelor's degree in Communication. According to average salaries, that's just shy of a $20,000 premium for getting the advanced degree.  Given the cost of our program, that's an excellent return on the investment.

Bridge Course Options for Spring 2024

COMM 544 – Community Media (M/W/F – 10:40-11:45am – Jason Jakaitis)

In this course, students will study communal and non-commercial media production in the context of social movements and grass-roots activism. They will create videos and multimedia content with and about Saint Mary’s College and the surrounding community. The class will develop a student's basic interviewing skills, event videography and rapid-response reporting techniques. Students will familiarize themselves with a variety of tools and methods for the dissemination of digital content. COMM 544 satisfies the Artistic Understanding (Analysis and Creative Practice) and Community Engagement requirements of the Core Curriculum.

COMM 558 – Topics in Film: Brazilian Film (T/TH - 9:50-11:30am – Sam Joyce)

This is an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural course where we will emphasize the socio-economic and political issues that gave rise to specific movements – Third Cinema, Cinema Novo and New Brazilian Cinema and travels through a more recent contemporary cinema. This course is designed to introduce the students to the cinematic work of a number of Brazilian film artists, and to develop a more detailed and creative reception of each film. By studying Brazilian cinema, students will learn about cinematic traditions and cultural realities significantly different from their own. They will acquire knowledge of the social, cultural and political issues that have shaped these traditions, as well as develop a deeper understanding of the aesthetic forms and film theories that have defined this cinema both in the past and in the present. Students will also become familiar with important approaches to studying film, for example the idea of national cinemas and cinema of resistance.

COMM 560 – Communication and Social Justice: Whiteness (T/TH - 11:40-1:20pm – Scott Schonfeldt-Aultman)

This course will explore whiteness, communication, and culture broadly. As such, we will explore how whiteness is interrelated with communication, rhetoric, culture, identity, ideology, interpretation, etc. More specifically, we will explore what we mean by “whiteness,” social construction of whiteness, white fragility, white identity, cross-racial dialogue, histories of whiteness, black perspectives on whiteness, James Baldwin’s work on whiteness, whiteness as a strategic rhetoric, rhetorical strategies of whiteness, white rhetorics of crime/prison, whiteness and media, rhetorics of white backlash/disadvantage/victimization/affirmative action, whiteness and the far right, and white anti-racism/anti-racists.

COMM 563 – Death and Communication (T/TH – 1:30-3:10pm – Aaron Sachowitz)

Course description and more info TBD.

COMM 564 – Health Communication (M/W/F – 1:30-3:10pm – Veronica Hefner)

This course introduces students to the principles, theory, and practice of health communication. Emphasis is placed on understanding the communication process as it pertains to health communication in various contexts: patient-provider communication, health communication theories, strategic planning for health campaigns, social media and health concerns (e.g., privacy), community-based healthcare strategies (i.e., strategic, intercultural, patient/provider, family, etc.). Students develop critical thinking skills, refine real-world application skills in the health context, and understand the dynamic roles of health communication in diverse situations.

COMM 581 – Television Criticism (T/TH – 8-9:40am – Sam Joyce)

This is a theoretical and practical course with the objective of introducing students to Television Critical Studies, or what is commonly called, within academics, "television criticism" (a parallel with literary criticism). The course will rely on a series of interdisciplinary theories that place television as a unique meaning-producing medium. We will dissect television's narrative and non-narrative structures and its uses of mise-en-scene, cinematography/videography, editing, and sound. Additionally, we will confront the critical methods that have been applied to critically understand the social, cultural, political, and economical issues surrounding the medium: semiotics, genre study, ideological criticism, cultural studies, and so on. On the practical side, students will have the opportunity to develop their own academic criticism as well as a critical review of a TV show they currently enjoy viewing to have a more nuanced understanding of how it affects them and those around them.

Photo of Gold Pavillion

International Experience

June International Externship Option

Students have the option of spending their final June working in teams on an intercultural communication project in partnership with an intercultural or international organization. This course works as a “capstone” that synthesizes aspects of all core courses into an applied experience working for a client.  Students spend two weeks on campus and two weeks traveling to a client site (international or domestic, depending on current global health and safety conditions) with faculty for approximately two weeks, depending on the scope of the project. Students act as consultants and assist the client organization in the development and execution of a research based intercultural project. The cost of travel for this course is not included in tuition, but is estimated at an additional $4000. Students not opting for this international experience must complete a comprehensive exam.


Course work in the MA in Communication program consists of five required core courses, four cross listed electives, and one of two options for a final "capstone" culminating experience.  Students will complete a total of nine courses (35 Carnegie units). The core courses are designed to build mutually complimentary competencies that are augmented by the electives and brought together in either a comprehensive exam or an International Externship (additional cost applies) in June of the final year. Students are encouraged, though not required, to focus their four electives on an area of emphasis, such as Intercultural Communication, Media Studies, or Media Production. All MA courses have an applied component.

Course Descriptions

COMM 600: Theories of Communication

This course investigates the relationship between theories of communication and culture. Students will use case studies to apply a range of communication theories to analyze problems that typically arise in “real world” settings. Students are expected to make a clear connection between a communication phenomenon (e.g., current social issues) and  communication theories as they work toward critical engagement with professional communication competencies.

COMM 602: Strategic Mediated Communication

This course examines media and mediated forms of communication as they intersect with cultural, economic, political or social contexts.  The focus is on both the analysis and strategic use of mediated communication for various occasions, including development, social change, crisis response, corporate/organizational digital presence, and social justice. The course integrates both critical and practical approaches to understanding effective mediated communication. By the end of this course, students will have completed a digital portfolio that will highlight all of their work in the program as a case study in strategic mediated communication at the individual micro level.

COMM 605: Applied Research Design

This course is designed to focus on methods of data gathering. In this course, students will learn designs of quantitative and qualitative research, such as experiment, survey, interview, participant observation, and ethnography. Students gain research design experience by designing a project to address a particular intercultural communication phenomenon, and the importance of proper research design for professional applications, including project or training assessment and evaluation. Each student’s proposed research project will be executed in the Applied Research Methods course. This is an on-campus course, offered during the regular work week. Students must take this course in the Fall semester of the +1 year. This is the first course of the Applied Research Certificate sequence.

COMM 606: Applied Research Methods

This course prepares students to collect data for a research project using both quantitative and qualitative methods. The primary foci include experiment, survey, interview, participant observation, and ethnography. Continuing from the Applied Research Design course, students will collect data from the previous semester’s project designs, gaining experience in a variety of methods as well as how to work in research teams.

COMM 607: Applied Research Analysis

This course prepares students to analyze a research project using both quantitative and qualitative data analysis. The primary foci of data analysis include (M)ANOVA, regression, and mediation and moderation analysis for quantitative survey data and coding based on the grounded theory approach for the qualitative data. Continuing from the Applied Research Methods course, students will analyze the data, interpret and report the results. This is an on-campus course, offered during the regular work week. Students must take this course in the Spring of their +1 year. This is the third course of the Applied Research Certificate sequence.

COMM 601: Communication and Conflict

This course examines communication that creates, manages, and resolves conflict in various relational and workplace contexts. The focus is on theoretical understanding of conflict and its management and the practical skills of applying non-violent communication. Students learn and examine the sources of conflict, optimal communication skills to facilitate the conflict to resolution, and relational implications for the parties involved in the conflict.

COMM 570: Group Facilitation and Leadership

This course focuses on the development of group facilitation and critical thinking skills for making ethical decisions in diverse organizational, professional, and personal settings. Topics covered in this course include leadership, communication, theories of power, interpersonal dynamics in teams and groups, listening abilities, perspective-taking, practical discussion facilitation, skill building, understanding organizational structure and decision-making processes.

COMM 571: Identity and Intercultural Communication

This course aims to develop a critical cultural consciousness. Students begin by examining their own cultural identities and then learn how to view interactions with others through the lenses of intercultural communication. Through self-awareness and understanding how identity, culture, and communication work together, students learn critical skills to enhance their intercultural competence. Students work in groups to apply these insights by developing a diversity training activity grounded in theories of identity and intercultural communication.

COMM 512: Intergroup Communication

In this course, students conceptualize culture as a branch of larger conversations surrounding social groups. This course is designed to examine the dynamic of intergroup relations and its cyclical impact on human communication, perceptions, and relationships. Applying theories and perspectives of communication, social psychology, sociolinguistics, and history, students explore the relationship between communication and social group membership.

COMM 534: Understanding Digital Cultures

This course is a humanities-based exploration of the fundamental concepts of digital culture. The “digital” will be examined as technology, as a communicative and expressive medium, as philosophical precept and paradigm, and as political, social, economic, and psychological force. Students will explore key concepts and theories through the close reading of fundamental texts, study of representative examples of digital work (e.g. websites, gaming, media art, networked and immersive environments), and engage in complementary design and production assignments. As a significant force shaping life in the contemporary world, it is important that students learn how to examine the effect of the digital.

Intercultural Externship

This final experience works as a “capstone” that synthesizes and builds upon the competencies learned in the MA courses.  Students choosing this option spend two weeks on campus and two weeks traveling to a site (international unless global health and safety measures requires a domestic site) to conduct an applied research project as a group. Site preference, whenever possible, is given to Lasallian partner organizations working in international settings. Students act as consultants and assist the client organization in the development and execution of a data-driven research project. The cost of travel for this course is not included in tuition.

Examples of previous intercultural and international experiences led by the Communication Department faculty include:

  • Centro Bartolomé de las Casas/Colegio Andino, Cusco, Peru
  • Municipal Government of Diriamba, Nicaragua
  • Bosques de Gaia Organic Farm, Diriamba, Nicaragua
  • Taking Root, San Juan de Limay, Nicaragua
  • San Carlos Community, Diriamba, Nicaragua
  • Sunsplash Reggae Festival, Goa, India
  • People's Grocery, Oakland, California, U.S.A.
  • Mommas' Boyz, Oakland, California, U.S.A.
  • Showing Up for Racial Justice, Oakland, California, U.S.A.

Comprehensive Exam

Students who choose this option complete their "capstone" requirement by completing a 6 hour exam in June split between questions drawn from the core classes and a bibliography of texts chosen by the student that reflect the elective courses and areas of emphasis completed by the individual student for the degree.  Students will defend the answers to their exam in a one hour presentation with faculty from the program. There is no extra cost for this option.

During Undergraduate

Two cross listed upper division electives (4 units each). One each semester of senior year is recommended.

Note: not all upper division Comm electives are eligible for cross listing. Consult a faculty advisor.

+1 Graduate Year


COMM 600: Theories of Communication (4 units)
COMM 605 Applied Research Design (4 units)
Cross listed elective (4 units)

January Term

COMM 606 Applied Research Methods (3 units)


Cross listed elective (4 units)
COMM 602 Strategic Mediated Communication (4 units)
COMM 607 Applied Research Analysis (4 units)

June Term

Either Comprehensive Exam or Intercultural Externship

Communication Across Borders

Professor Makiko Imamura talking about intercultural communication

Relevant education for a changing world

Makiko Imamura, Professor of Communication discussing Intercultural Communication. Joined by Shawny Anderson, Interim Dean of Liberal Arts and Prof. Aaron Sachowitz.

School and Department Information

Veronica Hefner, Ph.D.
Program Director, MA in Communication

Collin Skeen
Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment