I am a faculty member in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington, in Seattle, USA.
Who are you?
If you’re interested in working with me, I’d like to share a bit about my perspective and the general profile of students that I work with to help you better understand how my department works and better tailor your application.
I mostly work with students that are interested in how cultural values and norms intersect with technology and social media. Students that work with me are likely to be interested in either or both post-positivist and interpretivist theorizing, primarily drawing from Communication theories. I personally mostly draw from communication and technology theories as well as interpersonal communication theories in combination with concepts and theories that are more culturally-specific. While my own focus is on Armenia and Azerbaijan, students with whom I work need not focus on those countries or Former Soviet states.
I am in a Communication Department and while I do hold an affiliation with the International Studies school, I presume that students that want to work with me are interested in being in a community of and making broader arguments to an audience of social scientists in Communication, Information Studies, Sociology, Political Science, etc. rather than a focus on area studies. That being said, students that want to work with me generally come in with extensive knowledge and training on the cultures that they are studying. Students can continue to take courses on their focus region (and I encourage students to look at the webpages of various area studies centers at UW), but I presume that their main focus will be on the communication phenomena of interest during their time in graduate school. It is very important to me that the cultural dimension of research is well-development and not a nod towards a cultural value or a brief brush stroke or a general label. Rather, my work, and often the work of students in my orbit, is engaging more deeply with the cultural value, reading and drawing from work from area studies scholars or anthropologists.
This is not to imply that I only consider students that work with cultural dimensions as a focus. However, as this is what I primarily work on and am known for, these are the kind of students that contact me. But let’s talk, regardless!
Please contact me to talk about your ideas and plans before applying to graduate school. I want to be able to help you better understand if we are a good match and make suggestions for things you should read and people you should talk to. This will also allow you to know more about the current environment and my availability to advise new students.
The admissions process
[This is all my interpretation of policy and it is possible that policies will change and this webpage will not be updated. Or I could use a word that is not as precise as the policy language is. If in doubt, trust the official university webpages, not me. And please do not point to this text as gospel.] Graduate admissions are handled through a university-wide system and facilitated by a committee within my department. Applicants should familiarize themselves with the various university and departmental requirements for acceptance. The deadline is typically in October or November and offers of admissions are typically sent out in March or April for a September academic year start. We accept two types of students. One, students who already have masters degree are accepted as PhD students. However, the MA needs to be in Communication or a related field. It is generally assumed that an MA “counts” if there was a thesis component to it. Students should check with the admissions contact about this if there are any questions. Two, students are accepted into the MA/PhD program if they are without a masters degree or with a professional masters degree or with a masters degree in an unrelated field. Students accepted to the MA/PhD program do not have to re-apply to the program after finishing their MA. It is presumed that they will continue with their PhD in the department and will do a few more years of coursework during their PhD portion of their graduate degree.
Students often apply with a particular faculty advisor in mind. And indeed, ensuring that there is at least one faculty member that could be a student’s advisor is an important part of the application evaluation. But it is also important that students demonstrate compatibility with other faculty members in the department and with the overall department graduate program goals and focuses.
If a student is not offered admission, it is not necessarily about you. There are always other factors such as a specific advisor having many graduate students already, or that there were too many good applicants in the pool and other faculty members having a greater need for a student (like they had not accepted any students for the previous two years, for example).
The Communication Department, like most U.S. PhD programs, offers students funded positions. Students work as teaching or research assistants for ~20 hours a week in exchange for tuition, fees, health insurance, and a stipend. These employment contracts are for 4-5 academic years, depending on if a student is entering the PhD program or the MA/PhD program. There are opportunities for funding over the summer but they are not guaranteed.
What it is like once you’re here
My department is paradigmatically and methodologically diverse. As such, students may find that there are fewer classes on technology and society offered than in other departments where there are more centralized foci. This diversity is a strength though, and you’ll be exposed to many different types of Communication research in this department. However, with a technology focus, the UW has an amazing Information School and other departments that do similar work on technology to what many Communication scholars do. Many technology and society Communication graduate students take courses in those programs to complement the coursework in the Communication Department or have faculty from these programs on their dissertation committees. Similarly, I serve on many committees for students from those departments. And certainly graduate students across the university take methods courses in many departments and programs. Specifically, I have affiliations with two centers on campus and it is likely that students that work with me would engage with those communities, if relevant. The Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies is part of the Jackson School of International Studies. The Ellison Center is an endowed, leading resource center which promotes in-depth interdisciplinary study of the many post-communist subregions. Through our research and programs, we seek to understand the legacies of the imperial and communist past and analyze the emerging institutions and identities that will shape Eurasia’s future. I’m also an affiliate with the Center for an Informed Public, a multidisciplinary research center that has a mission to “resist strategic misinformation, promote an informed society and strengthen democratic discourse.” The center’s work revolves around four pillars: research; education; engagement; and law and policy. It would not be unusual for students that work with me to find dissertation committee members among these centers, if applicable.
The University of Washington uses a quarter system with 10-week terms. This is different from the majority of U.S. universities that are on 14-week semesters. In practical terms, this means that we start a few weeks later and end over a month later than most U.S. universities. Also 10-week terms are very fast paced. There are benefits and drawbacks to all of these systems.
The University of Washington is located in the city of Seattle. This is fairly unusual for a research university to be based in a city. Many potential students are particularly interested in living in a city and being able to enjoy “city things.” However, it is also important to know that cities, and Seattle in particular, have a higher cost of living than other parts of the United States. I strongly advise all potential students to look at the cost of living and graduate stipends for all potential programs and talk to current students to learn about graduate student lifestyles.