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Graduate Program Information

Graduate Advising

The graduate program chair serves as advisor to all communication graduate students when they first enter the program.

You may select another member of the school's graduate faculty as your advisor at any time. Here's what usually happens: students stay with the program chair until they discover, typically through course work, a faculty member whose research or other professional interests coincide more with the student's interests. It makes good sense to work with one faculty member as your advisor and your thesis or project committee chair because that individual will best know you and your work.

However, students may continue to be advised at registration by their initial advisor if they choose.

Graduate Certificates

The School of Communication offers two graduate certificates:

  • Human Resources and Training
    For more information regarding the graduate certificate in Human Resources and training please contact Dr. Karen Dwyer at (402)554-2253, or e-mail
  • Technical Communication
    For more information regarding the graduate certificate in Technical Communication contact Dr. Tracy Bridgeford at (402)554-3312, or e-mail
Comprehensive Examinations


The comprehensive exam process represents a unique moment in a graduate student's career. It comes at a time when the individual has completed an organized plan of study that has included courses from a rather broad range of subjects. At the completion of this program of study, the individual is in a position to reflect on the nature and substance of that experience before moving on to a more specialized undertaking of writing a thesis or completing a project.

The reflection and synthesis of knowledge gained through graduate study lies at the heart of the comprehensive examination process. Comprehensive exams provide the individual with the opportunity to pull together a sometimes seemingly diverse body of information gained through formal course work into a more coherent whole. The exams, in other words, are not tied to specific courses (i.e., such as final exams are) but rather are written in such a manner that passing responses must draw upon knowledge gained through course work in one's entire program of study.

In order to achieve this all-encompassing nature of the examination process, the actual exams are divided into three areas of emphasis: (1) communication research, (2) communication theory and (3) communication specialization.  A brief discussion of each of the areas follows:

Communication Theory

The exam area places primary emphasis on a general understanding of the trends, issues, and theories that underlie human communication.  The communication theory area may (and should) address both speech communication and mass communication theories.

Communication Research Process

This exam area places primary emphasis on understanding how one embarks on a quest for new knowledge including an overall knowledge of how to organize and conduct a specific research task.  The communication research process may (and should) include quantitative and qualitative approaches as well as other approaches represented in the student’s course work.

Communication Specialization

This exam area concentrates on the student’s own area of interest and expertise as expressed through papers and projects in elective and core courses.  In this section, the student demonstrates a thorough understanding of a particular sub-field of communication. 

Comprehensive Examination Procedures

There are 16 comprehensive examination procedures approved by the graduate faculty in 1990:

1. Each student must take a written comprehensive examination as part of her/his graduate studies.  The exam will usually be taken following the completion of all course work. A student may, with the approval of her/his thesis or project committee advisor and GPC, take the comprehensive exam during the final semester after the core courses and area of specialization course is successfully completed.  

2. The comprehensive exam will be based upon the following three areas:  communication theory, communication research, and communication specialization.   A detailed description of each of the three areas is included in the Comprehensive Exam Policy Statement.

3. The student should prepare a program curriculum vita (CV), which is amaster list of all courses taken in her/his program of study. The CV should begin with discussion of the communication specialization.  The CV should include titles of all papers written, projects conducted, key texts read, and any other relevant information that will provide graduate faculty members with an overall view of the student's graduate training.”

4. The student should consult with his/her thesis or project advisor, as well as the GPC, to identify which three graduate faculty members will be approached to write comprehensive exam questions.  If the student has not yet selected a thesis or project advisor, the student should consult with the GPC.

5.  Once the student has contacted and received confirmation from the three graduate faculty members who will write comprehensive exam questions, the student should contact the Department Secretary (402/554-2600) about possible dates to take the comprehensive exams.  The student must file Graduate Student Comprehensive Examination School of Communication Assessment Form with the Department secretary and provide copies to faculty who have agreed to write questions.

6. While all graduate faculty members are both qualified and capable of writing comprehensive exam questions, any graduate faculty member can decline the student’s request to write a comprehensive exam question.

7. Each graduate faculty member of the comprehensive examination committee will write and evaluate only one exam area.  Comprehensive exam questions will represent the three general areas (communication theory, communication research process, and communication specialization).

8. Each graduate faculty member on the comprehensive exam committee will meet with the graduate student to discuss how best to prepare for the comprehensive exam and what materials (if any) can be used when answering the comprehensive exam question.   Faculty may communicate with the student about these issues via telephone or e-mail if a face-to-face meeting is not practical or possible.   It is up to the graduate faculty member to decide if the comprehensive exam question will be provided at the time of the exam or given to the student in advance of the exam.

9. Two hours are designated for each exam area.  The entire series of answers must be completed within three consecutive days.  Faculty will have 2-4 weeks to respond with an added allowance in the summer.

10. Faculty members will typically advise the student to study for the comprehensive exam 4-8 weeks before the scheduled exam date.  Additional readings may be required.

11. Each comprehensive exam answer will be evaluated by the graduate faculty member who wrote the question.  If an answer is deemed unsatisfactory, the faculty member will decide if a rewrite is warranted.  If a rewrite is granted, the faculty member will contact the graduate student and advise him/her of the procedure to be followed.  

12. If an answer is deemed to be unsatisfactory and/or a rewrite has been denied, the student can submit a written appeal of the judgment to the Graduate Program Chair within 30 days of the receipt of the judgment.

13. Upon receipt of the appeal (e.g. plagiarism and quality of writing), the GPC will convene an ad hoc committee consisting of five members (two graduate faculty, a faculty in the specialized area, the faculty who wrote the question, and the GPC).  The GPC will review and forward the appeal along with the original comprehensive exam question and student response to the members of the ad hoc committee.

14. If the comprehensive exam is taken during the summer, the student has 120 days from the date of the original exam to appeal the decision.

15. No exam area may be taken more than twice.

16. Failure to pass comprehensive exams results in expulsion from the graduate program.


More information about the comprehensive examination process can be found in the graduate handbook.

Graduate Chair Contact Information
Dr. Adam Tyma
6001 Dodge St. ASH 140
Omaha, NE

Graduate Teaching Assistantships

If you are interested in a graduate assistantships, please complete and submit the application by February 1. Assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis.