School of Communication ranked a top master’s degree-granting program based on faculty research

CONTACT: Molly Goaley

Communication graduate student

A recent journal article names the School of Communication as a top graduate degree-granting program.

A study published in a leading communication journal names Western Michigan University’s School of Communication as a top master’s degree-granting program based on faculty research productivity.

WMU is ranked No. 14—the highest in the state of Michigan—out of 128 master’s degree-granting programs nationwide, according to an article published in the Journal of the Association for Communication Administration. Additionally, two WMU faculty members, Dr. Julie Apker and Dr. Mark Orbe, are individually ranked as top-cited scholars for demonstrating major contributions to research in communication.

“The program and faculty rankings highlighted in this article illustrate what we’ve long known at WMU,” says Dr. Leigh Ford, School of Communication director. “That our faculty are highly engaged in the University’s research mission, that they share that passion for discovery with students, and that their contributions add to the value of scholarship within the communication field.”

The study, “Evaluation Communication of Master’s Program on the Basis of Google Citations,” was conducted by researchers at Missouri State and Purdue universities and the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. In addition to ranking master’s programs, it assesses faculty research quality by examining citation metrics from Google Scholar, an extension of the search engine that indexes academic literature. Individual faculty were given a unique score based on the number of times their work was cited by other academics in communication. The data measures research impact by demonstrating how useful those scholars found the cited scholars’ work to be in their own research.

In addition, the study considers the unique nature of the roles and responsibilities of master’s level faculty. It specifically measures research productivity from faculty of master’s-only programs—an area that has largely been underrepresented in formal evaluations which typically favor doctoral programs. Rather than making comparisons of faculty achievement to doctoral programs, the paper generates a more relevant comparison for master’s level programs, as well as the research agenda and outcomes of faculty.

The institutions chosen for analysis were taken from the National Communication Association list of programs offering master’s degrees in communication. The full report is available through JACA's online archives.


Apker is professor of communication and director of the communication graduate program. She joined the WMU faculty in 2001 and her teaching and research focus is in organizational and health communication.

Apker is author of the textbook, “Communication in Health Organizations,” and her research appears in peer-reviewed publications including Annals of Emergency Medicine, Academic Emergency Medicine, Health Communication, Journal of Applied Communication Research and Qualitative Health Research. She also serves on the editorial board of Health Communication.

Over the course of her career, Apker has presented her work at multiple academic conferences in medicine, nursing and communication. She consults with health organizations in the areas of physician leadership, caregiver-patient communication and health team interpersonal communication dynamics.


Orbe, professor of communication, joined the WMU faculty in 1997. His research and teaching focus is on the relationship between culture and communication in intrapersonal, interpersonal, intergroup and mass media contexts.

Orbe has presented his work at regional, national and international conferences, and has published more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed publications. He has also published several books on subjects including identity research, intercultural and interracial communication, co-cultural theory and others.