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There's a New Ph.D. (Program) in Town
2005, Q4 (February 21, 2007)
By Michelle Mebust, Student Member, NCSU Chapter

Dr. Jason Swarts
Dr. Jason Swarts

Fall semester 2005 marks the advent of a new Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. A joint offering from the departments of Communications and English, the interdisciplinary doctoral program in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media (CRDM) capitalizes on the strengths of both departments.

I recently discussed the new academic program with Dr. Jason Swarts, Assistant Professor in English and a member of the six-person planning committee for the new degree. According to Dr. Swarts, the CRDM program is "fresh in orientation, tackling the difficult concepts, theories, and practices related to oral, written, and visual modes of communication that are engendered by rapid changes in information and communication technologies. The importance of communication research is increasing and we needed a new, updated approach to stake out conceptual and practical grounds for meaning-making surrounding the issues identified above."

Both Dr. Swarts and the CDRM Web site list the following goals for the CRDM program:
  • Producing educators who can teach oral, written, and visual modes of communication
  • Preparing professionals, such as industry managers, to be experienced researchers
  • Posing and solving research questions with respect to new information technologies and communication media
  • Synthesizing theories and concepts to fashion an integrated foundation for researching and teaching issues pertaining to new communication technologies
  • Familiarizing students with the existing central theories and concepts relating to oral, written, and visual communication modes
  • Acquiring detailed historical and critical understanding of how the relationships among communication technologies, theoretical perspectives, and rhetorical practices are changing
  • Gaining experience with a variety of research and analytical methods.

The degree requirements highlight the program's emphasis on research. Successful candidates must produce a dissertation displaying "original research, a clear contribution to the field," according to Dr. Swarts. CRDM students work with program faculty members to create such areas of study as computermediated communication; visual rhetoric; digital culture; electronic communication across the curriculum; media and technology policy; textual mediation; digital literacy; and online information design. Students and their advisors build an interdisciplinary track specific to each student's research interests.

Five core courses are required of CRDM students:
  • CRD 701: History and Theory of Communication Technology
  • CRD 702: Rhetoric and Digital Media
  • CRD 703: Communication in Networked Society
  • CRD 704: Pedagogy and Technology
  • CRD 790: Issues in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media

Students must also complete six hours of research methods, six hours of professional preparation, and 20 hours of research, exams, and a dissertation.

Electives may be taken through the Communications and English departments, as well as other departments, including Business Management, Computer Science, Psychology, and Design. CRDM faculty fall into two groups: program faculty and affiliated faculty. Program faculty members belong to the Communications or English departments and teach core courses, electives, and special topics courses.

According to Dr. Swarts, program faculty "direct student research and have research and teaching interests that are closely aligned with the research goals" of the program.

Affiliated faculty work in the Communication, English, or other departments and teach elective courses. All faculty members serve as needed on advisory committees for students.

Eight students are in the CRDM program this year: five full-time and three parttime, although CRDM faculty members recommend a student be enrolled fulltime. Not only are most of the courses offered during the day, but many CRDM students have teaching assistantships that often require daytime teaching. The eight-student complement represents the maximum number of new students the CRDM program expects to enroll each year, thus ensuring that each student receives adequate attention and funding.

Anyone interested in learning more about or applying to the CRDM program, including currently enrolled master's degree students in Technical Communication, can find further information on the CRDM program Web site at http://www.chass.ncsu.edu/crdm.

Michelle can be reached at michelle dot mebust at verizon dot net. End of article.

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