Advertising, PR and Media Design Graduate Degrees



The MA in Strategic Communication Design (SCD)




In the 21st century’s connected economy, design increasingly plays a strategic role in communications––from its impact on local everyday engagements to global change. Whether the end result is a product, service or branded experience, this program focuses on the delivery of useful, desired, and strategically impactful results effected by design-driven innovation.

We know that design has the power to change the world. Join us to learn how to use design to effect change that matters.

Grounded in an understanding that design has evolved from a practice focused on the look of things to how things actually work, this program is tailored to individuals who have a desire to lead by design in a career that rewards them emotionally and intellectually, as well as financially.

Entirely project-based, SCD operates as a series of studios that applies design thinking to problem solving in a learning culture shaped by collaboration, empathy, iteration, tinkering, and experimentation. We integrate design thinking into all of our activities because we know it excels as a creative solutions-based process, that produces elegant and exceptional strategic design solutions. Design thinking is, in effect, the spine of the program.

Focused, immersive, and transformative, the SCD is a 30-credit hour degree program––in three contiguous semesters––that transforms students into generative design professionals who can hit the ground running. Integrated with industry throughout all of our activities, students in the graduate program work on professional projects with our industry partners, developing innovative solutions to problems out in the world. From short and intense design sprints to larger ongoing projects, we work with our professional partners from the creative industries to develop design-driven innovative solutions.



Brand Design Studio 1 (3 credit hours)

Experiential Design Studio 1    (3 credit hours)

Critical Making Studio 1   (3 credit hours)

RE: Studio 1   (3 credit hours)

Design Sprint 1   (1 credit hour)




Brand Design Studio 2  (3 credit hours)

Experiential Design Studio 2   (3 credit hours)

Critical Making Studio  2     (3 credit hours)

RE: Studio 2        (3 credit hours)

Design Sprint 2  (1 credit hour)



Design Sprint 3 (1 credit hour)

BookLab    (3 credit hours)


Total Credit Hours:    30


Brand Design Studios 1 & 2

These studios focus on concepts of branding and visual design, including tools and workflows, principles of aesthetics and branding, along with visual tone and brand identity––all of which contribute to a strong understanding and capability to design successful brands.

Experiential Design Studios 1 & 2

With a focus on deriving actionable insights and translating them into compelling design artifacts and experiences, topics in these studios

can include responsive web design, mobile app design, UI patterns, research and prototyping relevant and necessary to designing branded experiences.

Critical Making Studios 1 & 2

These studios leverage core concepts of critical making to bridge the gap between creative physical and conceptual exploration through

hands-on productive activities that integrate digital technologies with human activities. In short, they break down the divide between thinking and making. The activities of the making studios typically include a variety of  creative hacks of existing technologies to bridge physical and digital environments.

RE: Studios 1 & 2

Dedicated to using the power of design to change the world, the RE: studios are future-focused on re-imagining and re-designing the world, especially in regard to the human possibilities of emerging Interfaces. Design explorations and builds in these studios typically take students beyond the screen to explore the Web of Things, Voice, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Wearables, Enchanted Objects, Biological Interfaces, and even No Interface.

Design Sprints I, 2, & 3

The ability to move rapidly against a design problem is a critical skill in the creative environments of today. Design Sprints I will introduce students to the concept of the design sprint, a rapid process of ideation, concept development and prototyping. Students will work in teams to design against real-world problems for real-world clients. Concepts are developed along with client representatives and presented for review by the client, helping students develop communication and collaboration skills with industry professionals and project stakeholders. Clients have included Uber, Allstate Insurance, Microsoft, ESRI, among others.


Booklab is a dedicated portfolio studio entirely focused on producing a professional portfolio. This immersive third-semester studio consists of several real-world projects from our industry partners that result in bookable work for our graduates as they head into the highly competitive creative economy.


Applications are always reviewed on a rolling admissions basis for the SCD masters. What this means to you is this: We evaluate applications as they come in through a rolling admissions process, which means acceptances are meted out on a first-come, first-served basis for each prospective student. Once your application is complete with all supporting documents, we review it through the online form and get back to you within three weeks from the completion of your application.

We currently accept only 16 students for the program, which always begins in August of each academic year. We continue accepting students for each academic year until August 1 or the class is full. For the academic year 2017-2018, the final deadline for application submission is August 1, 2017. After that date we will begin accepting applications for the academic year 2018-2019.

Applicants to the Strategic Communication Design master's degree program (SCD) are expected to hold a baccalaureate (bachelor’s) degree from an accredited college or university, and to have an undergraduate grade point average of at least 2.75.


How to Apply

Your application will be listed under Strategic Communication Design on the Graduate School site. The online Graduate School application is available here


Required forms that are linked to in the application, are as follows:

  • Personal Statement
    ​This is an essential part of your application. In a maximum of 1500 words, please supply long-form answers to the following questions:
    • What attracts you to the program at this time? What do you envision as the most compelling opportunities for you as a designer and also a future leader?
    • What particular experiences––personal or professional––have prepared you for work in design?
    • Why is interaction design important to you and how would you use it to change the world?
  • Three letters of recommendation
    These should come from professionals and/or professors. No personal recommendations please. 
  • Unofficial transcripts (three)  
  • Writing Sample
    Submit a sample of your writing that you feel is exemplary and representative of your writing abilities.
  • Portfolio
    All applicants must also submit an online portfolio of relevant work by August 1, 2017. The portfolio should represent your competence in any studio-based field, e.g., graphic design, creative advertising, environmental design, film, fine arts, and so on. Applicants are encouraged also to include examples of passion projects (e.g. not executed for a client). that demonstrate their thinking and problem-solving approach. The portfolio is the single most important component in your application.
  • A nonrefundable application fee of $50 is also required.

The contact person/email for your application is: David Slayden, executive director. Feel free to email him


The PhD in Media Research and Practice 

The Media Research and Practice PhD program is dedicated to interdisciplinary inquiry into the social, political, economic and cultural dimensions of media, strategic communication, and journalism, both nationally and internationally, and in historical and contemporary contexts. The degree combines the research and teaching emphases of the three participating departments – Advertising, Public Relations and Design (APRD); Journalism (JRNL); and Media Studies (MDST) – and encourages doctoral students to develop research agendas that bridge disciplines and cross between academic research and professional practice.

Because media and communication are central to social and individual life, to commerce, to understanding social change and supporting social justice, and to the health of democratic politics, the MDRP degree draws from a wide range of fields and disciplines, including anthropology, political science, cultural studies, sociology, philosophy, history, linguistics, economics, business, psychology, literature, law and public policy. The interdisciplinary nature of Media Research and Practice is reflected in the range of faculty research and professional practice in the media and communication industries. The program fosters theoretical and practical understanding about how media innovations serve various forms of mass and public communication, including strategic communication, journalism, entertainment industries, and the creation and maintenance of local, national, and transnational social networks. In addition to rigorous training in research and teaching, the degree program emphasizes the importance of young scholars developing the skills to share their scholarship in a variety of arenas of public life.

Students receive training in media theory, as well as qualitative and quantitative research methods, and take courses inside and outside the three departments and the college.

The program strives to produce graduates who demonstrate intellectual leadership, nationally and internationally, in the area(s) of research specialization they choose and/or pioneer, and an interest in and aptitude for generating public awareness and conversation about their scholarship.

An important part of doctoral students’ education is their participation in the college’s research and teaching missions through their assignments as research assistants, teaching assistants and instructors.

All three departments will have the same structure of requirements:

     Core courses (14 hours):

  • Pro-seminar (6 hours)
  • Qualitative research methods (3 hours)
  • Quantitative research methods (3 hours)
  • Colloquium (2 hours)  

Advanced research methods (3 hours)

One additional advanced methods course, or one media practice course (3 hours)

Inside emphasis  (15 hours)

Outside emphasis (9 hours)

Dissertation hours (30 credits)

Students are expected to complete the program and defend the dissertation in 4 years.

Applicants to the PhD program in Media Research and Practice are expected to hold the master’s degree or equivalent graduate work. In exceptional cases, applicants without a master’s degree may be considered for admission.

Completed domestic applications must be received by the program no later than Jan. 10 prior to the fall semester for which entrance is sought. International applications should be submitted by Dec. 1. Late applications may be considered under special circumstances.

Successful applications typically meet or exceed the following criteria:

  • Have a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score of at least 301 (1100 pre 2011) on verbal and quantitative combined.  The GRE requirement may be waived under special circumstances.  International applicants must also have a TOEFL score of 625 (IBT 106).

  • Have an undergraduate cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.2 and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 in previous graduate work.

  • Provide three letters of recommendation.

  • Provide a 700-word Statement of Purpose.

  • Provide a resume or CV that includes academic and employment experience.

  • Provide a writing sample that exhibits the ability to undertake the conceptual and empirical studies required of doctoral students (e.g., a chapter from a master’s thesis or graduate-level term paper).

Meeting these criteria does not guarantee acceptance into the program. Because we accept relatively few new doctoral students each fall, we may have more qualified applicants than available openings.

In the online application, select MDRP-PhD as the academic plan.

For review and decision purposes you are required to upload an unofficial copy of your transcript(s) in the online application. We require one copy of the scanned transcript from each undergraduate and graduate institution that you attended. This includes community colleges, summer sessions, and extension programs. While credits from one institution may appear on the transcript of a second institution, unofficial transcripts must be submitted from each institution, regardless of the length of attendance, and whether or not courses were completed.   Failure to list and submit transcripts from all institutions previously attended is considered to be a violation of academic ethics and may result in the cancellation of your admission or dismissal from the university.

ONLY after you are recommended for admission will you need to provide official transcripts. 

Instructions for Uploading Unofficial Transcripts to Your Application




FAQ | Online Application | International Students Online Application

Student Information

Student Volunteer Opportunities

Helpful Links

Center For Environmental Journalism | Center for Media, Religion and Culture


Research or teaching assistantships, including a tuition waiver and stipend, as well as fellowships, are available. PhD students may receive assistantships for a maximum of four years.

Phone: 303-492-7977


Campus Location: Hellems 96D