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Frequently Asked Questions

Reputation, Size and Location

How does the school rank against other programs in the discipline?
ASU is an internationally recognized research institution and center for the promotion of cultural and performing arts. It is a leading center for research and technological advancement. The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication is ranked highly in NCA's Doctoral Program Reputational Studies.

How big is your program?
The actual number of students varies from year-to-year. On average, we have 50 to 60 doctoral students in various stages of their programs.

What is life like in Tempe?
Please visit the official City of Tempe website for information about local events, museums, libraries, parks, recreational activities and transportation.

What is transportation like in Tempe?
For detailed information on campus parking please visit the ASU Parking and Transportation website (ASU parking map, parking decals, campus transportation).

Program Requirements:

What is the average time to graduate?
Four years for Ph.D. We offer a Masters in Passing as part of our Ph.D. degree.

How do I complete my degree (i.e. comps, thesis/dissertation)?
Doctoral Program:
Comprehensive Exams:Upon completion of course work and before the formal approval of the dissertation proposal, the student is examined in the relevant area of concentration and research methods. The examination consists of both written and oral components designed to test the student's interdisciplinary knowledge in the field and chosen area of concentration and the student's readiness to undertake interdisciplinary dissertation research. The examination is conducted by the student's supervisory committee.

Admission to Candidacy: After the student has passed both the written and oral portions of the comprehensive examination and the student's dissertation topic has been approved (via oral defense of the dissertation prospectus), the student will be eligible for admission to candidacy. Six hours of research (COM 792) may be taken before admission to candidacy.

Dissertation Proposal: Before conducting research for the dissertation, each student must submit a dissertation proposal that is defended orally and approved by the student's dissertation committee.

Research and Dissertation: The dissertation consists of a fully documented written analysis of a problem that extends the knowledge and/or theoretical framework of the field and reflects the student's creativity and competence in independent, interdisciplinary research using an appropriate research methodology.

Final Examinations: An oral examination in defense of the dissertation, conducted by the dissertation committee, is required.

Can I take graduate courses online?
At this time, we have no graduate courses online.

What seminars are offered?
Graduate programs in the Hugh Downs School offer a wide variety of innovative special-topics seminars as well as basic seminars in each of our five emphasis areas. Recent special-topic seminars include: Strategic Communication Health Campaigns, Communication and the Body, Communication and Relational Maintenance, Facilitating Intercultural Dialogue, Emotion in Organizations, Rhetoric and the Public Sphere

When are classes offered?
Typically, graduate level courses are offered in the late afternoon after 3:00 pm and in the evening time slots.

Can students be in multiple specialty areas?
Yes, we encourage this.

How flexible are degree requirements regarding outside classes?
Since we are an interdisciplinary degree, we encourage students to take courses outside of the School.

Are statistics courses required for the Ph.D.?
All applicants should be knowledgeable in the basic principles of both qualitative and quantitative methods of research, social statistics, and communication theory. 

What are the rules and policies on transfer credit?
A maximum of six semester hours of graduate credit taken at other institutions, or at ASU as a non-degree student, may be transferred to the doctoral program in the Hugh Downs School, and may replace elective courses only.

How competitive are the classes regarding grades?
The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication encourages a cooperative environment.

Research and Teaching

Do faculty members mentor graduate students?
Admitted graduate students are given temporary advisors at the beginning of the first fall semester. Together with the Director of the Doctoral Program, students then select a permanent thesis or dissertation director and two additional members of the supervisory committee.

Are the faculty willing and eager to do research with graduate students?
Yes! Most faculty both conduct research with graduate students as well as direct and consult on graduate student projects.

What does the faculty study or research?
Click here for faculty members and their research interests.

Are TA's always in solo sections?
TA assignments include teaching solo sections of our undergraduate courses as well as serving as teaching assistants for senior faculty in upper division courses. Advanced doctoral students often then teach upper division courses on their own.

Can I teach upper-level courses in my specialty?
Typically all Ph.D. students will have this opportunity during their time here.

What sort of professional training is provided?
We offer a teacher training orientation prior to the start of Fall semester. New instructors also are mentored by Dr. Belle Edson throughout their first year in the School. Brown Bag lunches and seminars are held as well to provide information and instruction on a variety of issues related to professionalism in the field of communication.

What will I get to teach?
Ph.D. students typically teach public speaking, small groups, or business and professional communication and then upper division courses in their specialty area.

When will I be trained to teach my classes?
One to two weeks prior to starting with us at ASU, TAs will be required to attend teacher training orientation. New instructors will be mentored during their first year by Dr. Belle Edson. You may also serve as an apprentice with a faculty member teaching in your area.

What kinds of technology are available to graduate students?
Computers, printers and internet access are available in every graduate student office. In addition, graduate students often teach in our mediated classrooms, which include videotaping and playback facilities. The School also owns a variety of equipment for research and teaching purposes. 

Funding:

Are assistantships available outside communication?
Yes. Interested students should check with student employment for other on-campus assistantship opportunities. Previous students have had assistantships offered by the Provost's Office and the Center for Urban Inquiry, among others.

Are research assistantships available?
Graduate Teaching and Research Assistantships are available for Ph.D. students. Funded graduate students have the opportunity to teach a broad range of communication courses, assist with the Forensics team or Interpreters Theatre, and/or serve as Research Assistants for faculty. All students receiving Graduate Assistantships automatically receive a waiver of tuition. The University also offers a variety of Graduate Fellowships and research funding opportunities for which qualified graduate students may apply.

What are you assistantship packages like?
Presently, Graduate Associateships (for doctoral students) pay $15,000 per academic year. Students may be allowed to teach a summer course, for which doctoral students receive additional funds. These packages include a waiver of tuition and health insurance.

Is there health insurance for students?
In cooperation with Arizona Board of Regents and Student Health and Wellness Center, ASU sponsors an affordable policy in which students may enroll. For information visit Campus Health. The Health Insurance Office is located at Student Health and Wellness Center to handle questions about this policy. Call (480) 965-2411 for more information or e-mail to insurance@asu.edu.

Is there support for graduate student research and expenses? Graduate Education and the Graduate and Professional Student Association each provide some support for graduate student research and expenses. However, students must apply and are selected on a competitive basis.

Is there money to travel to conferences to present papers?
Typically the School provides funding if you are presenting or co-presenting a paper. You may also apply to Graduate Education and The Graduate and Professional Student Association which often provides matching funds for graduate student travel to conferences. The School also may provide limited funding for conferences as a first-time attendee.