Graduate student handbook

Updated: July 31, 2023 (For previous versions of the handbook, please email Patrick File.)

Master of Arts: Media Innovation 

I. Program Description

Welcome to the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno!

In our Master of Arts in Media Innovation students are free to choose their own areas of study from a menu of electives constituting three tracks:

  • Strategic Communications
  • News Innovation
  • Media Studies

Our graduates are working in jobs at NPR, the Reno Gazette-Journal, the @Reality Virtual Reality Lab, the State Tourism office, the University of Nevada, environmental conservation groups, PR agencies and many more. Other students have gone on to pursue Ph.D. degrees at top programs, including Arizona State University, Louisiana State University, the University of Colorado, and the University of Oregon. 

The tradition of journalism education at the University of Nevada has a long and distinguished history, beginning with the first journalism course taught in 1922. Eleven students graduated from journalism in 1924; by 1985, this number had grown to 150. Today, more than 400 undergraduate students are enrolled in journalism courses at the school. The first Master of Arts degree was awarded in 1966, and since then, hundreds of students have graduated from our M.A. program.

Student Learning Outcomes

The graduate program in Media Innovation explores a simple but profound set of questions: What role does, and can, journalism play in helping people generate, evaluate, share and act on civic knowledge? Can we use interactive and innovative forms of journalism to connect citizens in a discussion about public issues that enriches everyone’s understanding?

The program is designed for students with skills in writing and critical thinking. We start off with courses in written and multimedia storytelling and the future of media. We engage graduate fellows in re-imagining media by applying theoretical groundings, intellectual rigor and practical insights to experiments in media innovation.

Contact information

Patrick File, Graduate Director

Center for Advanced Media Studies at the Reynolds School

CAMS (the Center for Advanced Media Studies), directed by Associate Professor Laura Crosswell, is the research arm of the Reynolds School. CAMS supports various types of research activities including hosting speakers and events and facilitating research equipment and space.

CAMS also sponsors grants to support graduate student activities. More information about these grants can be found below.

II. Degree Requirements

To earn a master’s degree, you will need to complete the following courses with a grade of C or better and maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (a B average). A total of 30 graduate credits are required to graduate.

Typical program of study

Here is what a typical program of study looks like

Fall 2023

  • 3 credits - JOUR 707: Storytelling I: Writing
  • 3 credits- JOUR 720: The Future of Media
  • 3 credits - JOUR 756: Storytelling II: Multimedia

Spring 2024

  • 3 credits - JOUR 755: Media Engagement and Innovation
  • 6 credits of electives

Summer 2024

  • 3 credits - JOUR 695: Practicum. (Internship)

Fall 2024

  • 3 credits - JOUR 796: Professional Project, or 6 credits - JOUR 797: Thesis.
  • 6 credits of electives


You need to take four electives (12 credits) to complete the program. These can be taken in any semester, including the summer, and should deepen your knowledge in a specific area (Strategic Communications, News Innovation or Media Studies) and should be approved by the graduate director and your committee chair. 

Graduate-level credits and Academic Good Standing

Of the 30 graduate credits required, at least 12 must be in courses numbered 700 or higher for professional project/paper students. For thesis students, at least 9 credits must be in courses numbered 700 or higher. You will need to complete at least 30 credits and maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Students who do not maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA may be placed on probation or dismissed (see below). 


If the student's cumulative grade-point total falls below a 3.0, the student is placed on probation. The student shall then raise their cumulative graduate GPA to 3.0 by the end of the following semester during which the student is enrolled or the student shall be dismissed from graduate standing. If in the following academic semester the student fails to enroll for the minimum number of credits required, or if the student is not granted a leave of absence, the student shall be discontinued. Please note: Thesis, dissertation, undergraduate courses, S/U graded courses, and transfer credits have no impact on a student’s GPA. Students sometimes enroll in these types of credits without realizing they will not raise their GPA. 


A student may be placed on probation and possibly dismissed from a Graduate Program for numerous reasons. Please read through the Graduate School’s full Academic Standing and Dismissal Policy to understand the terms.

All probation and dismissal recommendations shall be submitted to the Graduate School. Only the Graduate School may officially place students on probation or dismiss students. Colleges and Graduate Programs may not place students on probation, nor dismiss students from the Graduate Programs unless authorized to do so by the Graduate School.

Transfer Credits

These are credits transferred from another institution. Credits completed at UNR in another program or as a graduate special do not need to be transferred. Transfer credit can be requested on the Graduate Credit Transfer Evaluation Request form available on Graduate School website and must be signed by the student, major advisor and graduate director. Transfer credits applied to a master’s program must comply with the time limitation on master’s work (6 years). Thus, if a student took a course five years prior to admission, they would have to complete the degree within one year for the course to apply to the degree. Credits from a completed master’s degree will be exempt from the 8-year time limitation for those students pursuing a doctoral degree.

III. Timeline for Completion

The deadlines listed below presume a three-semester program although it is possible to extend an additional semester. All course work must be completed within six years preceding the awarding of the degree. You are responsible for meeting all deadlines and requirements of the Graduate School. These are detailed on the graduate school website. The deadlines below presume a December graduation.

  • Declaration of Advisor/Major Advisor/Committee Chair form
    • The completed form must be submitted to Graduate School by the end of the student’s second semester
  • Program of Study: a list of all the courses you have taken, and plan to take, to complete your degree, signed by all three of your committee members. Due in April.
  • Graduate Application: filed online (graduation fee ~ $145). Graduation applications are due Oct. 1 for December graduation.
  • Notice of Completion: a form signed by all three of your committee members upon successful completion of your professional project (or thesis) and oral defense. Due in December prior to graduation.

All forms are available from the Graduate School on the Graduate School forms webpage.

IV. Committee Selection Guide

Final projects, thesis and portfolio projects will be guided by a three-member graduate committee.

The student will choose a member of the graduate faculty at the Reynolds School to chair the committee. To determine if a faculty member is part of the Reynolds School graduate faculty, please check the Graduate Faculty webpage. Not all faculty are graduate faculty. Faculty members should be chosen for their expertise in the student’s area of interest. If a faculty member agrees to chair the student’s committee, the student and committee chair together will select a second committee member from our graduate faculty and a third graduate faculty committee member from outside the RSJ. The chair is responsible for overseeing the student’s work and determining when the project is ready to be presented to the committee. The other two committee members will offer additional help as needed from their area of expertise.

Committees must be formed by the end of the students’ second semester or by the end of the semester prior to their expected graduation.

Formal approval of all student advisory committees is made by the Graduate Dean.

V. Comprehensive Exams

The Reynolds School does not require comprehensive exams.

VI. Professional Project, Thesis and Portfolio Requirements

All students must complete a culminating project to earn the M.A. degree. Students can choose a professional project (3 credits - JOUR 796), a 6-credit research thesis (JOUR 797) or a 1-credit portfolio option (JOUR 791). A project must be accompanied by a reflective paper. The 6-credit thesis option will in most cases require a prerequisite research methods course. The one-credit portfolio option will require additional course work to reach the 30-credits needed to graduate.


Students will refine their project in consultation with the committee chair. Once a topic is agreed upon, the student prepares a written proposal outlining the goals of the project, the work to be completed and a proposed timeline. Once the proposal is approved by the chair, it will be circulated to the committee for comments. The student should not proceed further until the scope of work has been agreed to by the full committee.


The project or thesis should meet the following criteria:

  • Address a significant professional or scholarly research question.
  • Incorporate elements of innovation and/or interactivity.
  • Reflect professional or scholarly standards in content and execution.
  • Professional projects need to be accompanied by a reflective paper that identifies the key lessons learned in the project and how it addressed these criteria.

The student needs to stay in close contact with the chair of the committee to ensure that the work is proceeding according to schedule and in line with the agreed-upon proposal.

Oral defense

Once the project, thesis or portfolio has been completed to the satisfaction of the committee chair, the student will organize a meeting of the full committee. The project and reflective paper, thesis, or portfolio will be circulated to the committee to allow for review prior to the defense meeting. The student must discuss with all committee members how much time they will need to review the completed project or thesis in advance of the oral defense and plan accordingly. This should be a minimum of one week before the defense and generally longer. The student is responsible for scheduling the defense at a time that all committee members and the RSJ Graduate Program Director are available. Room confirmation for the location of the defense must be made by the student in consultation with the Dean’s office. The defense should last one hour and will include a presentation by the student and a Q&A session with the full committee. Other students and faculty may be invited to the presentation.

At the end of the defense, the student will be informed of one of three outcomes:

  • Pass
  • Not Pass
  • Pass with Revisions

In the case of not passing, the student may work with the chair to revise the project in light of feedback and to schedule a second defense meeting. If revisions are recommended, the student and committee chair can generally address those changes without additional committee involvement.

Defenses should be scheduled enough in advance of the notice of completion deadline to allow for revisions or a second defense meeting as needed.

Graduate School forms and resources related to thesis:

Once all requirements have been met, students need to submit a Final Review Approval and Notice of Completion form in order to graduate.

VII. Graduate assistantship

To be eligible for an assistantship, students must be admitted to a degree-granting program and be in good academic standing. The student must have an overall GPA of at least 3.0 and must be continuously enrolled in at least six graduate-level credits (600-700) throughout the duration of the assistantship. All graduate students holding an assistantship (teaching GTA or GRA) are considered Nevada residents for tuition purposes. Non-resident tuition is only waived for the duration of the assistantship. Tuition remission is only for 9 credit hours in a semester. For any credits taken above that, students will pay tuition at the Nevada resident tuition level. Tuition remission only applies to graduate credits that are part of your degree.

Graduate assistantships are offered for three semesters, assuming satisfactory completion of duties. A fourth semester of support is only available pending funding and staffing needs.

State-funded assistantships (GTA/GRA) may be held for a maximum of three (3) years for master’s degree students.

Graduate Assistantship handbook can be found here. Please consult the Graduate Assistantship handbook for information on resignation and termination of graduate assistantships as well as other specific matters.

Find general information on assistantships.

VIII. Health insurance

All domestic degree seeking graduate students, who are enrolled in six or more credits (regardless of the course level) in a semester, will be automatically enrolled and billed for the University sponsored health insurance for each term they are eligible (fall & spring/summer). If a student has other comparable coverage and would like to waive out of the student health insurance, it is the student’s responsibility to complete the University online waiver form prior to the deadline. If approved, a health insurance waiver is good for the current academic year only. A new waiver must be submitted each academic year. All international graduate students are required to carry student health insurance, and the cost will be automatically added to your student account. Any international graduate students with insurance questions must contact the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) directly.

View information about health insurance on the Grad School's health insurance website

IX. Leave of Absence

Continuous Enrollment: To maintain “good standing” all graduate students are required to enroll in a minimum of three (3) graduate credits each fall and spring semester until they graduate. International students may be required to enroll in nine graduate credits each fall and spring semester depending on the requirements of their visa. All students holding assistantships (whether teaching or research assistantships) are required to enroll in a minimum of six (6) graduate credits each semester they hold the assistantship.

Leave of Absence: Students in good standing may request a leave of absence by completing a Leave of Absence form during which time they are not required to maintain continuous registration. Usually, a leave of absence is approved for one or two semesters. The leave of absence request may be extended by the student filing an additional leave of absence form. Students applying for a leave of absence should not have any “incomplete” grades which could be changed to “F” and have a detrimental impact on their cumulative GPA. Requests for leave of absences must be received by the Graduate School no later than the last day of enrollment for the semester the leave is to begin.

Reinstatement: When a student has been absent for one semester or more without an approved leave of absence, he or she may request reinstatement via the Reinstatement Form. This form allows the program the option to recommend the student be re-admitted to their graduate program based on their previous admission OR require the student to re-apply for admission which would require students to submit a new application for admission and pay the application fee. The Notice of Reinstatement to Gradate Standing must be received by the Graduate School no later than the last day of enrollment for the semester the reinstatement is to begin. 

X. Graduate Student Association

The Graduate Student Association represents all graduate students and promotes the welfare and interests of the graduate students at the University of Nevada, Reno. The GSA works closely with appropriate university administrative offices, including the Graduate School and Student Services. The GSA government functions through the Council of Representatives, Executive Council and established committees.

XI. Graduate School forms

View all forms available at the Graduate School.

XII. Other Reynolds School information

Graduate student research grants

CAMS Graduate Student Research Grants are intended to support Reynolds School graduate student scholarship and promote the mission of the RSJ graduate program as a base for innovation and entrepreneurship. The definition of research, as used here, encompasses both scholarly publication and creative production.


Individual grant applications may be submitted for up to $500. Collaborative applications involving multiple students may be submitted for up to $1,000. A total of $2,000 will be available during the 2023/2024 academic year.


All full-time Reynolds School graduate students are eligible to apply. Collaborative applications among graduate students are encouraged. Graduate students who receive a grant are not eligible to apply for one year following the completion of a previously funded project.

Use of funds

Grants may be used toward expenses related to the specific research project, such as travel, training, books and materials, equipment and software and student workers. Funds may not be used to augment salary. Funds must be expended by June 30 of the academic year granted, unless otherwise authorized by the director of graduate studies.

How to apply

A two-page description of the project and a proposed budget must be submitted to the director of graduate studies. Applications will be reviewed and awarded by the director and a subcommittee of graduate faculty on a rolling basis.

Applications should address:

  • The nature of the project and the specific use of the requested funds
  • The contribution that a grant would make to the success of the project
  • The potential for publication or presentation


A final report summarizing the outcome of the project is due to the director of graduate studies within one month of the completion of the project.

Graduate student workspace

The Graduate Studies Lab, in room 104, will be your work and office space, lab space, and communal space for the time you are in the program.

Computers: During the time classes are in session, you are free to use the computers along the wall as you walk into the graduate space. Outside of class time, students are encouraged to work in the classroom. There should be enough computers for everyone to claim one for their own during their time in the program. Unlike the computers in our undergraduate labs, files are retained on the Graduate Studies Lab computers after a user logs out. You should, however, initiate and maintain a regular file backup regimen, using an external drive and/or a cloud repository (e.g. Dropbox). You are free to decorate your space and stake a claim over a particular desk and computer.

Lockers are also available in the graduate studies area for keeping your things secure during the day.

You will be able to use your Student ID card to get in the front door of the building and in the graduate studies lab after regular building hours. Access can be arranged at the beginning of the fall semester after you fill out the appropriate forms. Barbara Trainor is the go-to staff in the Dean’s office for issues related to keys, room security, paper supplies and related questions.

You are free to use the kitchen area accessed from the Linn Reading Room.

Video cameras, DSLRs and audio recorders are available for checkout in room 214 of the journalism school.

The Knowledge Center library has a fully equipped multimedia center on the first floor (the @One Lab) with video and audio equipment available for check out.

Notes about use

Please use the department equipment wisely and ethically. No copying of university software or use of pirated software is tolerated. Do not run multiple copies on the laser printers; do not use printers as photocopying machines. Copies related directly to your work in the graduate program may be made on the copy machine in the break room on the third floor or in the alcove on the second floor.