MA in Contemporary Communication

Communication Arts Department

Pamela O'Brien, Ph.D., Chair

Britt Christensen, Ph.D.

Fran Mindel, Ph.D.

Degrees offered



Main Campus


The Master of Arts in Contemporary Communication is an interdisciplinary program for students seeking graduate education in new communication approaches. The Program of Study allows students options to explore their interests and goals ranging from development of communication skills in new media to entrepreneurial communication.

Through their coursework, students learn to bring critical analysis, creative insights, technological competence, and new media skills to their endeavors in communication. The curriculum prepares students for careers as effective, strategically-oriented communications professionals by providing them with a set of essential communication skills enhanced by knowledge of new communication technologies.

The M.A. in Contemporary Communication produces graduates who can write clear, purposeful, audience-oriented communications and apply creative approaches to communications planning and problem solving. Job opportunities for students who complete the program include positions in public relations, organizational communication, website and social media development—some of the most rapidly-growing segments of the professional communication field.

In addition to the face-to-face course offerings at Notre Dame’s main campus, the Contemporary Communication program has a fully online option for students interested in exploring this mode of course delivery. The online program provides learners with flexible degree completion options that allow them to further their educations while continuing to pursue their careers and lives. Students may complete the degree totally through face-to-face courses, totally through online courses or through a combination of both. Consultation with an advisor will help the student determine which mode is best.

Program Objectives

  1. Integrate computer skills and creativity in media through visual images and written communication.
  2. Write clear, purposeful, audience-oriented communications across a variety of media.
  3. Apply creative approaches to communications planning and problem solving.
  4. Coordinate the production of visually effective and informative print, graphic and electronic communications.
  5. Exhibit a solid grounding in communication theories.
  6. Employ research techniques, applications and organizational methods and skills in new and emerging technologies.
  7. Demonstrate a comprehension of the language and complexities of communication modes: visual, written and oral.
  8. Develop skills to pursue professional careers in new opportunities for communication or creative expression.

Students must maintain a 3.0 (B) Cumulative Grade Point Average to remain in Academic Good Standing. Students whose Cumulative Grade Point Average falls below 3.0 will be placed on Academic Probation. More than 2 grades of C or C+ will result in Academic Dismissal from the program.

Students may enroll in up to 6 hours of a different University Program of Study (graduate level) with the permission of their Academic Advisor and the Program Director of the additional Program of Study.

Curriculum (36 Credits)

  • Required Courses (6 Credits)
  • Discipline Requirements (30 Credits)
Required Courses 

IDS-510 Approaches to Contemporary Communication (3)
CST-515 Technology in Contemporary Communication (3)

In addition to the required courses, students complete 30 credits, including at least 18 credits in any combination of CST and COM courses. The remaining credits may be taken in any combination of ENG, PHL, ART, COM, CST, and IDS from the list below.


ART-509 Graduate Photography Workshop (3)
ART-520 Visual Culture (3)

Communication Arts

COM-505 Business Communication (3)
COM-507 Film Themes (3)
COM-509 Media Criticism and Theory (3)
COM-511 Communication Issues (3)
COM-515 Cross-Cultural Communication (3)
COM-517 Communication and Gender (3)
COM-520 Media Technology Management (3)
COM-530 Independent Study (3)
COM-556 Research Methods for Professionals (3)
COM-565 Campaign Design and Execution(3)
COM-620 Public Relations Management (3)
COM-610 Social Media for Professionals

Computer Studies 

CST-511 Topics in Information Systems (3)
CST-530 Fundamentals of Knowledge Management (3)
CST-531 Data Design and Management (3)
CST-534 Data Driven Business Decisions (3)
CST-580 Managing Info in Web-Based World (3)
CST-593 Web Development (3)
CST-595 Multimedia Applications (3)


ENG-503 Graduate Writing (3)
ENG-512 Topics in Contemporary Interpretation (3)


PHL-511 Topics in Philosophy (3)
PHL-521 Ethical Issues in Leadership (3)


IDS-512 Writing Workshop (3)
IDS-600 Colloquium in Contemporary Communication (6)


ART-509 Graduate Photography Workshop

Promotes the visual literacy and technical skills to allow students to effectively use photography as a visual means of communication. Students will develop a critical and contextual understanding of photography within the framework of contemporary art and visual communication while exploring the theoretical perspectives, artistic and practical applications of digital photography. [3 credits]

ART-520 Visual Culture

Introduces a critical knowledge and understanding of images, their history, and their permeation of contemporary culture. Through historical and theoretical approaches, students gain skills necessary to analyze and interpret images and visual information. [ 3 credits ]

COM-507 Film Themes

Provides students with a grasp of the communicative art of this global medium through analyzing selected films based in theories of film making, particular genre, specific director, culture phenomena or historical location. Discussion focuses on theoretical understanding of the art through an analysis of the selected topic. Students are allowed to take this course more than once if the focus topic is different. [3 credits]

COM-509 Media Criticism and Theory

Presents traditional and contemporary critical frameworks for evaluation of the rhetoric of diverse mediated messages. Students explore how to apply these critical theories to a number of media messages. The course examines the connection between the medium and message in successful communication. [3 credits]

COM-511 Communication Issues

Engages students in a critical examination of an emerging issue or problem of interest to communication practitioners. Possible topics: crisis communication, non-profit public relations, the computer/human interaction and impact of social media on human communication. [3 credits]

COM-515 Cross-Cultural Communication

Explores, in our diverse and global world, how an understanding of communication between persons, or groups, of different cultures or sub-cultures is essential. This course looks at the dimensions that differentiate cultures, the diversity of perceptual and behavioral habits and the role of language and rituals within cultures. Study is applicable to building awareness of communication problems and solving them in multicultural and international settings. [3 credits]

COM-517 Communication and Gender

Explores how communication creates, perpetuates and recreates gender roles. The course considers the perception and theoretical foundations that explain these situations. The rhetorical movements that provide the foundation for gender and communication in diverse settings are analyzed. This includes the role of the media and the personal environment be it workplace, social or educational setting. [3 credits]

COM-520 Digital Asset Management

Closely examines the nature and uses of media technology in organizations and aids students in developing skills in this technology. The course explores strategies for using multimedia as effective communication devices. These include uses of print, broadcast and/or Internet with a focus on the World Wide Web. Students also learn to develop skills in video conferencing, multimedia presentations and interactive computer instruction. [3 credits]

COM-530 Independent Study

Allows the graduate student an opportunity to explore independently under faculty supervision a specialized topic in contemporary communication that is not part of the regular curriculum. The nature, scope and design of this area of study or writing, as well as a schedule of prearranged meetings will be individually contracted between the instructor and student with the approval of the contemporary communication chair. Required forms must be completed through the Graduate Studies office. This course may not be repeated. [3 credits]

COM-556 Research Methods for Professionals

Develops the skills and knowledge central in engaging in human communication research. Students gain an understanding in how to formulate communication questions, review pertinent research literature, collect and analyze information/data from answers in research question and report research findings in both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Ethical and social/cultural implications of research findings are stressed. [3 credits]

COM-565 Campaign Design and Execution

Guides students through developing successful advertising, public relations and marketing campaigns. Through analysis of objectives, strategies, tactics and messages, students explore what is necessary and essential to reflect an organization's mission and strategic plans in order to devise a coherent campaign. Students will examine what succeeds, what fails, and why. [3 credits]

COM-610 Social Media for Professional

Explores the practical uses of, and rationale behind the strategic uses of various social media platforms in businesses and organizations. Students will engage in hands-on activities while developing a broad understanding of how social media can play a strategic role in developing an organization's mission and communication goals and objectives. [ 3 credits ]

COM-620 Public Relations Management

Analyzes the practices of public relations in the corporate and nonprofit sectors as a function of management. Effective ways of preparing public relations messages are explored in depth. Strategies for communicating with an organization's internal and external constituencies including employees, clients, stockholders, media representatives, consumer advocates and regulatory agencies are evaluated. Emphasis in the course is placed on trends in public relations since the 1970s. [3 credits]

CST-515 Technology in Contemporary Communication

Explores the use of technology in expression and culture, including legal, social and ethical issues. Introduces the development of Web pages and multimedia as forms of expression. Students demonstrate an understanding of the power of technology through a series of computer projects. CST 515 should be taken within first 12 credits of program. [ 3 credits ]

CST-530 Foundations of Analytics

Introduces the data, information, knowledge, wisdom continuum. Topics covered include the historical roots of knowledge management, theories/definitions of knowledge, and culture and strategies of knowledge management. [ 3 credits ]

CST-531 Data Design and Management

Covers fundamental concepts for the design, use and implementation of database systems. Concepts include basic database modeling and design, query optimization, concurrency control, recovery and integrity. [ 3 credits ]

CST-534 Data Driven Business Decision

Introduces the role that data play in understanding business outcomes, including uncertainty, the relationship between inputs and outputs, and complex decisions with tradeoffs. Students work with real-life examples to interpret statistical distributions, understand hypothesis testing and evaluate reliability. [3 credits]

CST-580 Managing Information in a Web-Based World

Examines the Internet as an organizational tool for data gathering, marketing, learning and communication. Students will study the advantages and disadvantages of using the Web as a major organizational decision support tool, including its social, legal and ethical impact. [3 credits]

CST-593 Web Development

Focuses on a user-centered approach to designing Web sites, including requirements gathering, conceptual design, physical design, coding, testing and implementation. Students will complete a number of practical projects as well as a Web site for a nonprofit organization. [3 credits]

CST-595  Digital Design

Explores strategic uses of various developmental platforms in businesses and organizations. Students will engage in hands-on activities while developing a broad understanding of how digital media can play a strategic role in developing an organization's communication goals and objectives. [ 3 credits ]

IDS-600 Colloquium in Contemporary Communication

Develops the master's project to integrate and build upon previous work in contemporary communication. Under the direction of a faculty advisor, the student produces a scholarly research manuscript, an original work of creative writing or art, or an original technical/software product. The format and length of the project will be determined with the guidance of the Contemporary Communication Council and the project advisor. Prerequisite: at least 27 credits completed in the program. [6 credits]

PHL-521 Ethical Issues in Leadership

Analyzes a range of ethical issues and dilemmas inherent to corporations and leadership in relation to both the external environment and the internal processes of the organizations. Learners explore these issues through a series of cases analyses. [3 credits]