How do I find the right grad school program?
September 28, 2009 10:02 PM   Subscribe

Trying to find grad school programs that kind of meld peace and conflict studies with media studies...

So I realized recently that I want to go to grad school. I've always loved learning, the sound of my own voice (or teaching as they call it) and writing about the world around me. That said I'm feeling very lost as to how I go about trying to find the right schools for me.

I'm interested in the relationship between media and conflict. In undergrad I wrote a paper about how the shift in ethno-centric Yugoslav media helped pave the way for an impending ethno-nationalist war(s) for my minor in Peace and Conflict Studies (PACs).

Ideally I'd like to find a program that has a strong media studies foundation (think Baudrillard, textual analysis, semiotics, etc) but also has oppurtunities to study how said media can either lead to situations that erupt in conflict or how media can help prolong or wind-down a conflict. My old prof from college has suggested that I look for schools with strong media and IR departments then find out if they're into cross-disciplinary stuff.

The wall I'm running into is finding either media studies departments that aren't heavy into just textual analysis or PACs programs that are super heavy into IR theory.

But to be honest I do feel incredibly lost and applications are due in Dec for most schools. It's all can I do to just work, practice for the GREs, try to find schools and get my applications in order. Any help anyone could provide (suggestions, guidance, warning, etc) is greatly appreciated. I'm honestly open to any part of the country and for (obvious reasons) any part of the english speaking world to study in.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth to Education (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Just wanted to add, the closest I've found is the NYU-Steindhardt school, specifically a professor named Dov Shinar, who's class in Political Communication, promises to teach students to: "...apply knowledge acquired about media expected and actual behavior in international conflict, peacemaking and peacekeeping to other dimensions of international political communications. The course focuses on communication aspects of international politics, using conflict and peacemaking/peacekeeping as a major analytical and critical tool. "
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 10:13 PM on September 28, 2009

Go to Google Scholar and do searches for scholars doing work similar to what you want to do.

FWIW, media studies departments are notoriously tough to get admission from. I have 2 friends who have been applying for years. They both have great GRE scores and very focused projects/interests and good LoR, one has an MA from UChicago and an MA from Columbia. The other is getting an MA from USC.

Don't want to scare you, but...

And, as with all applying to grad school questions here, I'd highly recommend LiveJournal's applyingtograd community for much more focused answers.

Good luck!
posted by k8t at 10:21 PM on September 28, 2009

Pursuing a similar line of study was one of the options I considered for grad school. I didn't get too far into my research of it before I went in a different direction, but The New School seemed to have an interesting program that would well support such a focus.
posted by teishu at 10:38 PM on September 28, 2009

Doing something interdisciplinary sounds really awesome to you now. Striking out on your own to build your own program seems like something you should be able to do and deserve to do.

But here's the thing. Or a thing anyway.

First, there are very few good really good reasons to enter an academic MA program. One is if you get funded anyway. Another is if your admission package in general, and your GRE scores in particular, won't get you into a top program now, but a good MA would help. Another is if an MA in anything is a useful credential in your profession. Otherwise, even if you're pretty sure you only want an MA, you should apply for PhD programs because that's where the funding is.

Second, the only really good reason to get a nonscience PhD is to become an academic (with a few other lines of work that tap into acquired skills).

But life as an interdisciplinary scholar in a niche that hasn't been well established isn't easy. You write a paper about semiotic something does whatever causes conflicts to worsen more quickly. Say you send it to an IR or peace studies journal -- they send it to reviewers who mostly can't make heads or tails of the semiotics stuff and textual analysis and say so quite freely, who focus on your empirical results at the end, and say reject with comments like "that theory section was unnecessarily long." Or you send it to a media studies journal, and your reviews ask what the hell that duration model was doing at the end, and also reject. That's if you can convince a poli-sci (usually) or media studies department to give a first job to an unknown someone who seems to spend half their time doing something else instead of to someone who does work they more fully understand and who they think will be able to get their work published.

Third, there's no reason your graduate program has to have departments in everything you want to do, or that you have to have had classes in everything you might want to specialize in.

What I'd suggest is to look at media studies departments and peace studies or poli-sci departments without making having a really good the-other-department a deal breaker. Look at the courses that are offered, look at a few of the pieces written by faculty in each kind of program. Then decide whether you'd like to be an IR/PACS scholar who specializes in the effects of media on conflict (and resolution), or a media-studies scholar who specializes in how media affects conflict. In neither case do you need a joint PhD, only enough knowledge gleaned from reading the relevant other-stuff literature and maybe auditing a class or two so that your IR/PACS talk is convincing to media-studies people or your media-studies stuff is convincing to IR/PACS people.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:05 PM on September 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Listen to ROU, he knows what he's talking about.
posted by lunasol at 11:45 PM on September 28, 2009

what about UPEACE ? They have an MA in Media, Peace and Conflict studies
posted by osloheart at 1:58 AM on September 29, 2009

ROU has a lot of good advice, especially about not doing an interdisciplinary degree if you think you want to do a PhD. However, if you do want to do a masters, that is the time to do the interdisciplinary degree. I did mine at Guelph's CIDS (Collaborative Interdisciplinary Development Studies), which allows you to enter the interdisciplinary program from any major, and your degree is jointly in your department and CIDS (so I got Anthropology and CIDS, but others got Political Science and CIDS and one could get, say English and CIDS or whatever). The benefits of this kind of program are that it did not hold me back from pursuing a disciplinary degree, as I maintained a discipline focus. The drawback was that it was a two year degree, making PhD programs in the US (which often have a sort of combined master's year or two) a lot less appealing.

The best route to finding a program is probably finding scholars whose work interests you and seeing where they work. You've found one; try looking up some of the people he cites to find others, or asking a librarian for some help. You may also find that your interests fit well with disciplines that are not what you've already thought of. I think your interests would work really well with some anthropology programs and possibly sociology as well. This paper may be of some use to you (I've only read the abstract, so sorry if it isn't helpful, but it is relatively short :) )

At the grad school level, it is not so much important that the department as a whole matches your interests as that you have a few people who are really on board with your project and who want to work with and support you.
posted by carmen at 5:45 AM on September 29, 2009

I'm going to give a shout out for my program/field. It is not what you precisely stated that you are looking for but it is, I believe, where the essence of your interest might be. Your paper looks like it fits with the field of public diplomacy.

Syracuse University has a Public Diplomacy program, in which you graduate with a dual degree: an MA in International Relations and an MS in Public Relations. This is the webpage of the program (they are working on updating it right now, there are more polished webpages for the PD program on other parts of the SU website, but this is more comprehensive). You can also tack on a Certificate of Advanced Study in Conflict Resolution.

What you might not like about Syracuse is that it prepares your to be a practitioner in the field, rather than focusing heavily on theory (although we do, definitely, focus on theory). The other school in the US with a public diplomacy program is USC Annenberg, which awards an MA in Public Diplomacy on completion and is a more academic study of the field.

But seriously, look into this. I know that public relations isn't exactly media studies, but in focusing on public diplomacy, we do study a lot of using the media to communicate with publics to get things done and how media affects public perceptions, etc. Email/MeFi mail me if you want any more info on the Syracuse program.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 7:28 AM on September 29, 2009

Have you looked at Columbia's School of International & Public Affairs? I'm taking a little bit of a different approach (ICT, digital media and development), but in my experience you can take a wide range of classes (conflict studies, media, human rights) and use the final papers/projects to focus on your own interests. Bonus: you can take theory classes at the journalism school (or do a dual degree, if that's more interesting).

You might also look into the media department at the London School of Economics.
posted by rebekah at 10:48 AM on September 29, 2009

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