In Graduate Students

PR Student: Cloud He
This article was produced in cooperation with the COMMS 425 lab.

Writing an 80-page, well-argued, deeply analytical and clearly structured thesis can be daunting to many who are thinking of applying to grad school, but the BYU Mass Communications graduate program encourages students to obtain a master’s degree by turning their passions into professional projects.

“The people working in the industry want more technical hands-on communicators – that’s why we give students the freedom to do projects … It’s a different kind of academic experience,” said associate professor Chris Cutri.

A professional project allows students to present their findings and analysis in a more fluid format instead of a long report. It can be in a form of a documentary, advertisement or even a mobile game. However, each project still requires extensive research on relevant topics.

“Looking again at graduate work, we are always finding opportunities to add something new or interesting to the body of knowledge. Just like papers do, I think documentaries or other creative projects contribute to the knowledge of a topic,” Cutri said.

The School of Communications is home to faculty with a wide expertise spectrum ranging from health communication to media ecology. Students can explore their interests and work with professors who specialized in their field of interest.

“I have always wanted to shoot a film that belongs to me,” said Jina Shih, a second-year Mass Communications student from Taiwan. “When professor Cutri showed us the documentary that he did on extreme sports, I was totally enlightened and inspired at that moment, and I knew that I was going to make a documentary.”

Jina was working on a sign language club promotional project in a studio in Taiwan. Photo courtesy of Jina Shih.

Shih is researching how foreign students adapt to an environment with active pre-absorption of American media. By studying her brother’s behavior and reactions in Taiwan and America, Shih seeks to draw correlations between culture adaption and media exposure.

“My brother is a very special case. Since secondary school, he has immersed himself in American music, movies, blogs, and he even follows U.S. news closely… He is very westernized,” Shih said.

Sports fan Zach Miller also chose to do a professional project. “I am very passionate about sports, specifically college football. It’s been an interest of mine most of my life and is one of the major reasons why I got into communications and marketing to begin with.”

The current Mass Communication cohort gathering at Dr. Boyle’s house for an end-of-the-semester 2016 Christmas party. Photo courtesy of Jina Shih.

Miller is researching sports marketing in social media. His study evaluates the effectiveness of BYU Football’s marketing strategies on fan attendance.

“Doing a professional project allows me to combine my interests in communication with my passion for sports to create a project that would be fun, interesting and hopefully helpful to BYU’s athletic department.”

No matter which path the students take, a key aspect of the Mass Communications program is to help students think innovatively and integrate their passions into the professional field.


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