May 25, 2024  
Ohio University Graduate Catalog 2017-19 
Ohio University Graduate Catalog 2017-19 [Archived Catalog]

Communication and Development Studies - MA

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Degree Title: Master of Arts

Program Name and Number: Communication & Development - MA4218

Department/Unit: Center for International Studies

Delivery Mode: Athens Campus  

Terms of Entry: [Fall]

Program Mission: The Communication and Development Studies master’s degree program emphasizes the use of communication to promote positive social change.

Program Learning Objectives:

  • Knowledge of contemporary topics and issues in the field of communication and social change
  • Media production techniques
  • Facility with one or more research methods
  • Comprehension of key theories related to the field of communication and development
  • Critical thinking skills

Program Overview: The Communication and Development Studies program is a unique and internationally recognized program. It has been identified by major development organizations as one of the few world centers for education in communication for development and social change, and the Comm Dev program is one of only two stand-alone master’s degree programs in the United States that exclusively focuses on communication for social change. Incoming cohorts average around 15 students, yet the program has an exceptionally diverse international student population. Approximately three-quarters of the students in a given incoming cohort come from outside the United States – from countries throughout the entire world. Comm Dev graduates tend to pursue professional careers working for international NGOs, non-profit organizations in the U.S., government agencies, and as consultants. Many also seek careers as teachers and in higher education. Recently, approximately half of any given graduating class has gone on to enroll in a PhD program.

Concentrations: As an interdisciplinary program, Comm Dev students build upon core courses taken during their first year in the program by then devising a curriculum that suits their individual objectives, drawing upon courses across graduate programs at Ohio University

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Graduation Requirements: The curriculum encompasses four core courses that emphasize topics and proficiencies in areas that include development theory, communication for development, strategic communications, communication theory, and research methods. Requirements somewhat vary by capstone track, though all students are required to take the program’s core courses and complete a capstone requirement (either a thesis, professional project, or comprehensive exam).  To suit their individual objectives, students build upon the core courses as described below by devising a curriculum that draws upon courses in graduate programs from across the university.The minimum number of semester hours required to graduate is 48. The expected time to degree if studying fulltime is two years.

Comm Dev Core Courses

Seminar in Communication and Development (MDIA 6080)

This course provides an overview of the historical and contemporary nature of issues and theories that have influenced the field of development communication (a.k.a. communication and social change; C4D; etc.). The course serves as a foundation for the subsequent in-depth study and analysis of specific aspects of the role of communication in development and social change. The course explores the complex relationships between communication and socioeconomic development, and the role that communication plays in promoting (or impeding) social change and development. This is one of three core courses taken by first year students during their first semester.

Introduction to Audio and Video Production (MDIA 6100)

An introductory course for graduate students lacking production experience. Covers audio and video theory and terminology and production planning. Provides experience in audio and video production.

Introduction to Research Methods in Communication and Development (MDIA 6082)

This course introduces students to basic principles associated with conducting graduate-level research, including identifying a research topic; accessing and critiquing scholarly research; writing a literature review; and research ethics. Students are also introduced to research design and to qualitative and quantitative methodological approaches to collecting and analyzing data. Given the nature of the discipline, the course provides some emphasis on participatory research methods. This is one of three core courses taken by first year students during their first semester.

Applied Research Methods in Communication and Development (MDIA 6090)

This fourth core course is taken by first year students during their second semester. It complements MDIA 6082 (Intro to Research Methods) in that it continues with a focus on research methods, though in this course students focus more intensively on key research methods used by development practitioners and NGOs. It is also more applied than the Intro to Research Methods course. Topical emphases include monitoring and evaluation, and a more rigorous engagement of qualitative and quantitative methods than in the previous, introductory course.

By the end of this course, students will hopefully have developed a proposal for their thesis or final project (or at least a conference paper or journal article), which they will then begin working on and complete by the end of their second year in the program.


As suggested above, to suit their individual objectives, students build upon the program’s core coursework by devising a curriculum that draws upon courses in graduate programs from across Ohio University. Specific examples of some of the specializations and related schools/colleges across the university where Comm Dev students have taken courses over the past few years are listed below. However, this list should be seen as only an example of some of the specialization possibilities, as students are encouraged to actively devise their own curriculum, including one that might be truly original in nature.



Key Areas of Coursework

Women’s & Gender Studies

Women’s & Gender Studies and related courses

Human Rights/Conflict Negotiation

Communication Studies; Political Science; Journalism

Media & Social Change; Media Studies

Media Arts & Studies

New Media/Digital Media

Media Arts & Studies; Journalism; Education

Video Production/Documentary

Media Arts & Studies; Visual Communications; Film

Management in Media Organizations

Media Arts & Studies; Journalism

Economics/Economic Development

Economics; Geography; International Studies

Political Communication; Public Policy

Political Science; School of Public Affairs

Education - Including Educational Technology

College of Education

Strategic Communications/Public Relations

Journalism; Communication Studies

Health Policy/Health Communication

College of Health Sciences; Communication Studies

Environmental Sustainability

School of Public Affairs

In the program, students take four core courses in Comm Dev and then specialize in a particular area of interest.

Issues associated with development tend to remain at the center of what students do throughout their time in the program (e.g. for their capstone project or thesis), including as informed by one or two particular areas of specialization. At the same time, some students stray from a more development-oriented approach. In general, within any given cohort students range from taking more strictly applied, to more highly theoretical, approaches to their studies.

The Comm Dev curriculum also encourages students to be involved with internships and service learning projects. Comm Dev students often complete internships in various parts of the world, and they are also often involved in service learning projects in the local community. The program encourages original research, with most students completing a thesis or a professional project.

*For more information on specific courses, please visit the Ohio University Registrar.

Credit Hour Breakdown of Requirements (48 hours required to graduate):

  1. Core Courses: 16 credit hours
  2. MDIA Elective: 4 credit hours
  3. Scripps College Elective: 3-4 credit hours
  4. Development Theory Course: 3-4 credit hours
  5. Two Area of Study Electives: 6-8 credit hours
  6. Two Specialization Electives: 6-8 credit hours (unless capstone is a Comprehensive Exam, see below)
  7. Comm Dev Colloquium: 5 credit hours
  8. Language Requirement:
    1. Students can take one year (no more than 5 credit hours will count toward the 48 needed to graduate) of a language at the Intermediate Level (second year), test out of the requirement, or the requirement can be waived if the student is a native speaker of a language other than English.  Waivers of the requirement can only be approved by the program director; contact them for more information
  9. Capstone (see credit hours below)
  10. Independent Study Courses:
    1. Independent Study courses are not required in order to graduate.  However, if a student chooses to do an Independent Study with a professor other than the program director, they must fill out an “Independent Study Approval Form” and no more than 8 hours of Independent Study courses will count toward the 48 hours.

Culminating Experience: The choice of a capstone affects the graduation requirements depending on which capstone a student picks.


  1. Students will be required to take Thesis hours, up to 5 credits
  2. Students will be required to meet the Thesis and Dissertation office deadlines and defend their thesis
  3. Total Hours: 48-54 credit hours

Professional Project:

  1. Students will be required to take Professional Project hours, up to 4 credits
  2. Students will be required to participate in an Internship for up to 5 credit hours or Service Learning for up to 4 credit hours
  3. Students will be required to finish and present on their professional project
  4. Total Hours: 51-58 credit hours

Comprehensive Exam:

  1. Students will be required to take 12-16 credit hours of specialization courses, rather than the normal 6-8
  2. Students will be required to take an pass a comprehensive exam
  3. Total Hours: 49-59 credit hours

Admission Requirements: Aside from the university minimum of a 4-year bachelors degree and a TOEFL of 80+ for non-native English speakers, applicants are required to submit a personal statement and three letters of recommendation.

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