Media Studies Programs
January 28, 2005 1:51 PM   Subscribe

RetreatingIntoAcademia filter: I've decided to go back to school to study and teach Media Studies. Except I have no idea how to find the perfect school/program for me. Suggestions? [mi]

I've already got two degrees -- a BS in Advertising (Communications) and an MFA in Advertising Design -- copywriting concentration. In addition to working a marketing job as a writer (heavy strategy, linguistics and analysis), I've been teaching grad school at night.

I enjoy teaching grad students far more than anything else I'm doing. The things I seem to excel at and enjoy are analyzing cultural context and meaning.

I don't want to go back for a PhD in advertising, as I want to take a broader perspective -- all media or mass media. And I don't want to study industry or production -- I've had enough of that from the inside.

I’ve got some school rankings and googled “media studies” and “phd”, but there seems to be almost no way to find the kind of degree I want to get.

I'll take recommendations of:
* Other majors besides Media Studies that will accomplish the same sort of program (Humanities? Mass Communications? Semiotics?)
* Ways to find a school like this (most search sites are geared to undergrad and media studies doesn't seem to be very prevalent as a PhD level
* Schools that I might want to look into
* What I should keep in mind going back to school after working for 5+ years
* People calling me crazy

My dream school has:
* A PhD program that doesn’t make me get an MA along the way, although I realize I’ll have to do lots of MA-level work
* Strong TA/funding so I get to teach right away and don’t add to my student loans
* Urban setting, because I’ve done the cornfield thing and I’m not down with that
posted by Gucky to Education (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Random thoughts:

1) Check out this thread, which is about pursuing an academic career more generally. Lots of good advice. My two cents (its in there, but I'll mention here anyway): don't go to grad school unless you are really, really sure that this is what you want to do, and that you are willing to make serious financial and geographic sacrifices for the foreseeable future.

2) Look into graduate programs in communications or communications studies. University of Michigan has one; so does the University of Pennsylvania.

3) Strong TA funding = big research university with lots of undergraduates to teach. But be aware that funding for graduate students across the board is very competitive.

4) Check out the faculty at different schools/programs and see what their interests are. Go to your local university library and browse through some media studies/communications journals and see whose work piques your interest, and track down where they are from. Go to a bookstore and flip through books in the media/communications field and do the same thing. While you're at it, try to get a general feel for what sort of media studies you want to do. Do you want to do empirical work in media effects, tracking peoples' consumption and responses to media? Then you should try to find programs that are heavy in empirical research. Do you want to do media criticism? Then a more theoretical cultural-studies type of program will suit you better. You can really help yourself out if you can get a general feel for the sub-disciplines within media studies before you start trying to figure what program is best for you.

5) Go to Google Scholar, type in some areas of study that you might be interested in, and see who turns up.

Good luck!
posted by googly at 2:11 PM on January 28, 2005


Gucky: It would be helpful in thinking about related fields where you could study if you could give us some idea of the kind of research you want to do. For example, what might be topics you might be interested in writing a thesis on?
posted by duck at 2:17 PM on January 28, 2005


I don't know what I'm talking about ...

but what about MIT's Media Lab?

... or is that more technical, application-based media stuff?
posted by Alt F4 at 2:19 PM on January 28, 2005


I've browsed the media studies departments links from Flow before and always had a secret crush on the cultural studies major at Columbia College Chicago. Remember me when you need an intern/T.A.
posted by glibhamdreck at 2:20 PM on January 28, 2005


The things I seem to excel at and enjoy are analyzing cultural context and meaning.

My apologies for mentioning anything you might already be aware of. Other programs you should look into that will include components of media studies, will be Cultural Studies programs and Film Studies Programs. In fact, it seems like last I was on the scene media studies tended to be living under the umbrella or side by side with these other designations. I'd also add that at some more conservative schools this stuff is simply housed in the English department without necessarily calling out a program of sorts. This may help in your search.

Off the top of my head I would say....

Check out Berkeley's Rhetoric program, specifically the film and media studies component.

Check out The University of Chicago's Committee on Cinema and Media studies. [second link]

Both are urban, both are from top schools with good reps, and I think both might be direct to PhD (either through waiving credits or skipping the MA entirely).

It's quite an investment of time, energy and all that other wild stuff, good luck and have fun!
posted by safetyfork at 2:29 PM on January 28, 2005


It would be helpful in thinking about related fields where you could study if you could give us some idea of the kind of research you want to do. For example, what might be topics you might be interested in writing a thesis on?

I'm very interested in cultural currency. The relationship between human-made culture and corporate-made culture, the feedback loop between them. With a background in advertising, I'd like to bring cultural appropriation into the mix: how advertising, TV, film, etc creates false authenticity and its effect on "reality."

I'm very interested in semiotics, sociology and psychology. Tracking trends and undercurrents in culture and watching their lifecycle within media would be interesting to me. I haven't delved far into a thesis topic as I assume that will depend somewhat on the program I'm interested in.

Currently, I teach people how to steal cool stuff from sincere culture and use it to sell soda and dirt bikes.

Don't go to grad school unless you are really, really sure that this is what you want to do, and that you are willing to make serious financial and geographic sacrifices for the foreseeable future

Well, I've done it once for my MFA and I realize the financial, geographic and personal sacrifices I'm making. But I've come to the realization that a neurotic straight A student who is really, really good at teaching should probably do that rather than write the back of Coors cans.

It's a huge shift in my life, but the risk/benefit seems to fit my sense of the rest of my life. And my desire to be downwardly mobile ;)
posted by Gucky at 2:35 PM on January 28, 2005


For more on academic life, browsing around the Chronicle of Higher Education might be helpful They have one column today on going back to get a Ph.D. One thing to consider, as the column emphasizes, is that in general you'll want to have some passion for research as well as teaching if you are planning on making a career of college teaching.
posted by Pattie at 2:53 PM on January 28, 2005


Gucky: Sounds like sociology to me, but I'm a sociologist, so... Princeton is top of the line in cultural soc, and they'll have good funding and a direct-to-PhD program.

As others have said, though... Teaching would be a small part of a PhD program and a small part of most jobs you would get after a PhD. So unless you're really into research, too, exploring other routes into teaching might be worthwhile. (Not saying don't get a PhD, just saying find out what the other options are for getting into teaching, and weigh those as well, rather than just PhD vs. Coors cans).
posted by duck at 3:04 PM on January 28, 2005


Gucky:

offtopic question for you -- I've been interested in getting into the advertising industry (specifically, writing copy or developing campaigns -- not sure exactly what the words would be for this sort of work) -- i already have a BFA (from berkeley, if that's important) but no work experience (done some freelance design, *maybe* enough for a half-assed portfolio, but I'm guessing that doesn't apply). I'd be willing to go back to school to get another degree if necessary, but I couldn't afford to go to an expensive private school (unless they cut me a break). what would be good things to do to work towards this sort of goal? get a degree? intern? try to freelance/build some sort of portfolio?

is advertising a field with a ton of office politics and dress-codes and shit like that? 'cause i can't handle shaving on a regular basis, for example.

what does a typical day for someone writing copy look like? what kind of deadlines are there? is there a lot of room for creativity or is it soul-sucking work with some management douchebag trying to take credit for your ideas?

anyways, just curious. i love advertising.
posted by fishfucker at 4:41 PM on January 28, 2005


I am guessing you are in the United States, but The University of Western Ontario has a PhD program in media studies. I'll be applying myself next year.
posted by synecdoche at 6:05 PM on January 28, 2005


I'd suggest a KMDI program-- knowledge management design issues. There is a KMDI center at the University of Toronto run through the faculty of Information Science (FIS).

I am not big on the University of Toronto, or on FIS, but the KMDI institute seems really wonderful. The teachers are quite nice, and the students are pretty interesting.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:17 PM on January 28, 2005


I hear good things about the School of Communication at SFU (Vancouver, Canada)
posted by ori at 8:46 PM on January 28, 2005


gesamtkunstwerk, if you don't mind and the poster doesn't mind, could you elaborate a bit on why you don't care for u toronto? please be somewhat candid if possible; i'm not an offended alumni :D just a potential grad student sniffing everywhere...
posted by ifjuly at 9:05 PM on January 28, 2005


You might want to take a look at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. The Center for the Study of Popular Television headed by Robert Thompson sounds like something that would interest you.

(I've got two graduate degrees from SU but I have no personal experience with the Newhouse School.)
posted by maurice at 7:52 AM on January 29, 2005


I think the best way to apply to graduate school is to read a good number of new books in your field, and get an idea of what you want to do as a project. Then talk to potential advisors before applying. Finding the right dept means finding a professor who will help you develop intellectually. It's a much more important decision than choosing an undergraduate college. Choose a department, not a university.

Then ask to see a list of class that have been taught in the last two years, or, if available, what will be taught in the next two years. I came to the U. of T. to work with a professor who neglected to mention that he would be on sabbatical while I was taking my classes. In fact in my first year, nothing was taught in my specialty. (Happily, I found other interests and a better advisor, who is now one of my closest friends)

My sister had a really good question to ask potential advisors: what will my colleagues be like if I start in your program? One potential advisor at a very good University answered: "To be honest, lazy and unfocused, you'd be one of the best." (This was a very good university (Northwestern), so my sister took it as a sign that the rapport was terrible between faculty and students in that department). Other good ones: How long will I have to finish my dissertation? How much emphasis is there on career development and finding a place in the job market? If they don't have good answers, run.

Sorry if this is rambling. Doing a Ph.D. is a difficult thing. I find that many graduate students get quite bitter because the don't know what to expect. But it's still a great experience for many people.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:47 AM on January 29, 2005 [2 favorites]


What about The New School?

Caveat: I'm just a media studies undergrad who due to laziness in the past, will never have sufficient grades to pull myself in to a decent grad school (and nowadays, I wouldn't want to anyway). If I were to consider it, I'd want to go there though.
posted by TTIKTDA at 9:48 AM on January 29, 2005


i enjoyed all the classes i took in this department. great professors and almost all grad students TA.

university of florida film and media studies
posted by c at 2:36 PM on January 29, 2005


I'd be willing to go back to school to get another degree if necessary, but I couldn't afford to go to an expensive private school (unless they cut me a break). what would be good things to do to work towards this sort of goal? get a degree? intern? try to freelance/build some sort of portfolio?

is advertising a field with a ton of office politics and dress-codes and shit like that? 'cause i can't handle shaving on a regular basis, for example.

what does a typical day for someone writing copy look like? what kind of deadlines are there? is there a lot of room for creativity or is it soul-sucking work with some management douchebag trying to take credit for your ideas?


I could answer this two ways.

1) Advertising is f-ing amazing. There's politics, but it depends on the agency. Every job comes with some. There's never a dress code unless you're in front of a client (my old partner wore "Whitey Will Pay" shirts almost every day to the office). Get Luke Sullivan's "Hey Whipple, Squeeze This", the Copy Workshop Workbook, put a portfolio together the best you can and drop me a line when you want an honest critique. (gucky at guck dot net). Or email me off board and I can give you a full rundown. (And sign up at adholes. great site)

2) I'm looking to get out of it. It's a young man's game, and being a 30-year-old woman, I'm ready to have a life that doesn't involve working late nights, weekends, holidays, my kid's birthday, etc. It's a painful industry to get into, to be successful in, to survive in. And, as I'm getting out, probably not the best person to cheer you on.
posted by Gucky at 4:37 PM on January 29, 2005


I'd add the PhD program in Digital Media at Georiga Tech's School of Literature, Communication and Culture. It's new, but the school has had a very strong master's program and the funding is good (afaik); I finished an allied degree at GT in 2004. It leans toward the digital, as opposed to the film, tv, old media angles. But hey, that's what all the kewl kids are doing.
posted by zpousman at 2:02 PM on January 30, 2005


thanks gucky.
posted by fishfucker at 12:20 PM on January 31, 2005


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