Curriculum and requirements

The four divisions of our curriculum are:

Communication and Culture

We experience our everyday lives through a variety of cultural artifacts and discourses including news reporting, law and public policy, commodity markets, popular music, films and television shows, advertisements, museum displays, landscape and urban design, and health and identity documentation systems. How can we understand the histories and changing practices associated with these forms of representation? What is the role of media (print, visual, electronic, material) in forming ideas about social identity and in shaping subjectivity? This part of the curriculum draws on the humanities, anthropology, history, political theory, cultural studies and the sociology of culture to offer students a range of methods and theoretical frameworks for interpreting the production and circulation of artifacts, discourses, and meanings in a range of local, national, transnational, and diasporic cultural contexts.

Communication and The Person

Our experience as human beings is created by the communicative practices of the societies in which we live and the cultural practices of our families and communities with which we interact from the earliest days of life. The Communication and the Person area of the curriculum examines, with a sociocultural lens, the role of communication through language and other organized symbolic media. Because both individuals and their environments are constantly changing, the study of culture and the person pays special attention to the cultural and historical contexts of personal experience and the practices that constitute the proximal environments of individual development. This part of the curriculum draws particularly on the fields of anthropology, sociology, psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, and education to examine such processes as learning and cognition, language structure and language use, the construction and negotiation of meaning, and the organization of mental worlds.

Communication as a Social Force

The Social Force area of the curriculum focuses on the structural context of communication: the media as social institutions, their relation to the state, the market, and other social institutions, media ownership and labor in cultural industries, communication law and policy, the structural context and effects of information technology, political communication and issues of media and democracy. As in all parts of the curriculum, in different ways, there is a strong focus on structures of power, and how they shape and are shaped by institutions and technologies of communication. Faculty in Communication as a Social Force work with approaches drawn from political economy and media sociology as well as ethnographic studies of the production of culture. In recent years new faculty have extended the range of perspectives in this area by putting traditional forms of political economy and political sociology into dialogue with new bodies of theory on gender, race and post-colonial societies. As in other areas of the curriculum, there is a strong emphasis on processes of globalization, and faculty research interests cover a number of different regions of the world.

Media Practice

Our program considers and applies multiple, cross-disciplinary and cross genre approaches to media practice. We ask our PhD students to consider the many areas of production, including the traditional areas of video, film, photography, radio and music, emerging networked media forms including games and web-based applications, as well as performance, ethnography, poetry, installation, and environmental art. We understand that media methods offer unique expressive possibilities as well as necessary opportunities for critical engagement in the areas of culture, social force and communication and the person. We offer PhD students the opportunity to do significant work in production. A media project may serve as one of the two qualifying papers and media may comprise a significant component of a PhD student’s dissertation work. All students are required to complete one course in Media Practice (COGR 280) that addresses one form of media practice through an intensive combination of theoretical, technical and hands-on instruction.

Graduate program requirements

Coursework:

  • COGR 200A: Introduction to the Study of Communication as a Social Force
  • COGR 200B: Introduction to the Study of Communication: Communication and Culture
  • COGR 200C: Introduction to the Study of Communication: Communication and the Individual
  • COGR 280: Advanced Workshop/Media Communication
  • COGR 294: The History of Communication Research
  • COGR 296: Communication Research as an Interdisciplinary Activity
  • Three methodology courses
  • Four history/theory courses

First year examination:

  • The first year consists, at a minimum, of COGR 200A-B-C, 294, and 296. At the end of the spring quarter of the student’s first year, the student must pass a comprehensive written examination based on the core course work completed during the first year.

Language Requirement:

  • All students must demonstrate competence in a natural language other than English.

Teaching Requirement:

  • In order to acquire teaching experience, all students are required to participate in the teaching activities of the department for at least three academic quarters.

Qualifying Examinations:

  • Before the end of the fourth year, the student must take and pass an oral qualifying examination. The exam will be based on two substantial papers encompassing two of the subfields covered in the program. Prior to taking qualifying examinations students must complete all course requirements as well as the language and teaching requirements.

Dissertation:

  • Acceptance of the dissertation by the student’s committee and by the University Librarian represents the final step in completing all requirements for a Ph.D. The dissertation committee must be approved by the Department Chair and the Dean of Graduate Studies.
  • Additional university requirements also apply as to academic standing and residency.

Financial assistance

The University of California, San Diego attempts in every way possible to assist its graduate students with their financial needs. All entering students are urged to seek financial assistance within the university and through appropriate granting agencies such as the National Science Foundation or National Endowment for the Humanities. Applications for financial assistance should be submitted as early as possible; competition is intense and the deadlines are set early in the year.
The department attempts to fund entering students in their first year of graduate study, but funds are limited by complex university formulas. A combination of tuition and fee waivers, stipends, and teaching assistantships are the norm.