Undergraduate Studies

Goals of the School

The School of Visual Communication (VisCom) offers a program of study leading to the Master of Arts degree with a specialization in visual communication. Major fields of study include: Photojournalism (including documentary photography); Commercial Photography (including illustrative photography); Information Design, Interactive; Information Design, Publication; and Visual Media and Newsroom Management.

Program information

The M.A. requires at least 30 credits of graduate coursework, plus a masters project (5 to 15 credit hours). Course requirements for all VisCom graduate students include: VICO 5014 (Information Design Basics), 5022 (Graduate Seminar), 5400 (Illustration I: Digital Imaging), a master’s project, and 20 to 24 credit hours in a major field of study. Photojournalism students are also required to take VICO 5435 (Picture Editing). In addition, students in the Photojournalism, Picture Editing and Information Design fields of study are required to take JOUR 5100 (Newspaper and Communication Law) and JOUR 5200  (Ethics, Mass Media and Society). Additionally, students without an undergraduate degree in communication must take a communication theory class that is approved by an academic advisor. These courses may be waived if you present evidence that you have completed equivalent coursework or have significant professional experience. Credit for these theory-based courses does not apply toward the degree requirements. Internships are both required and encouraged for all graduate students, unless significant professional experience within your selected area has been gained prior to entering the program. This internship or practical education is not taken for credit towards your degree.

A required progress review is held toward the end of the first semester, or completion of 15 credits, to assess the student’s suitability for continued study.

The Sequences

Information Design: Interactive

The Information Design (Interactive) sequence combines the professional practice of interactive design, user experience, and web development. Students do their storytelling through interactive websites, mobile platforms, and other methods including motion graphics (animation), video, and informational graphics. Graduates of this program work as interactive designers, website developers, motion graphics designers and mobile app designers.

Information Design: Publication

The Information Design (Publication) sequence tells stories through design, typography and infographics with the goal of creating dynamic and engaging publications that are online, in tablet form or in print. Graduates of this sequence work as magazine, newspaper and tablet designers, information and infographic designers, corporate public relations communications designers, and art, creative and communications directors.

Commercial Photography

The Commercial Photography sequence focuses on advertising photography, product and still-life photography, fashion and portrait photography, architectural and interior design photography, and the business aspects of operating a photographic studio. Commercial photography graduates go on to become studio owners, magazine photo editors, digital retouchers and photographers within the advertising industry.


Students who are interested in using photography as a communication tool to show others interesting people and situations without staging or controlling the subjects are suited for the Photojournalism sequence. Graduates in this major work in the news and communication field, and take on roles at magazines and newspapers. They also work as picture editors, event photographers and multimedia editors.

VIsual Media and Newsroom Management

The Visual Media and Newsroom Management sequence is geared toward students who want to develop management skills within visual communication industries, such as newspapers, magazines, news wire services and photo collectives. Graduates of this program find leadership positions as picture editors, managing editors and directors of photography.


To apply, you must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 grade point average (GPA) on a 4.0 scale. Other factors, including professional experience or an outstanding portfolio, may qualify you for probationary admission if your undergraduate GPA was below the minimum requirement. You will need to submit completed application forms, send in an application fee, and arrange for two official transcripts from each post-secondary institution attended to be sent to the Graduate College. To apply online, go to the Graduate Services site.

All students whose native language is not English and do not have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education in the United States are required to demonstrate English language competency by achieving an adequate score on the IELTS: International English Language Testing System or TOEFL: The Test of English as a Foreign Language. Current minimum score requirements is a TOEFL of 600.

In addition to the material submitted to the Graduate College, you must also submit to the School of Visual Communication the following material: a resume, a non-returnable portfolio, and a 500-word statement of intent outlining why you want to attend graduate school. Send this additional required material to the Graduate Director, School of Visual Communication, Ohio University, 301 Seigfred Hall, Athens, OH, 45701-2979.

Successful applicants for the Photojournalism, Commercial Photography, Picture Editing, Information Design (Publication) and Information Design (Interactive) areas will generally have three or more years of professional experience and a focused statement of intent. Applicant selections for the Photojournalism sequence are heavily weighted toward mid-career professionals. Applicants for the Visual Media and Newsroom Management sequence will often have even more time in the profession.


Interactive Multimedia applicants should submit a portfolio of their work on appropriate media or provide Web addresses of work to be considered. All other applicants must submit a non-returnable digital portfolio on DVD, or include a URL that links to an online portfolio. All images must be in JPEG or PDF format at a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels at 72 ppi (pixels per inch). All images must be contained in a single folder (directory). No self-running presentations, or prints will be considered.


The application deadline for international students is receipt of all materials by December 15. The deadline for domestic applicants is receipt of all materials by February 1. Only applicants who have submitted all materials in the requested format will receive consideration. A campus visit prior to the application deadline is strongly recommended. Applicants are usually notified by March 15.


Photojournalism students are required to have at least one professional-level DSLR camera (digital), two lenses and a dedicated flash. One lens should have a 35mm or shorter focal length (or digital equivalent) with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or larger. The second lens should be in the 135mm to 200mm (or digital equivalent) f/2.8 range. Zoom lenses are also acceptable if they meet the maximum aperture requirement of f/2.8 or larger. In addition, students must have a dedicated electronic flash outfit and a suitable professional tripod is also required.

Commercial Photography students should have a professional-level medium-format camera with interchangeable film backs, or digital back, one wide-angle lens, one telephoto lens and a flash meter or a DSLR of at least 12 mega-pixels. A full-frame, 35mm size sensor is highly recommended if you choose the DSLR option. In addition to the medium-format camera or 12 mega-pixel DSLR, students will also need one wide-angle lens, one telephoto lens, and an electronic flash meter. A suitable professional tripod is also required.

Financial Aid

The School awards a limited number of graduate assistantships, teaching assistantships, and helps place some students in campus work-study positions related to their field of study. These assistantships and work-study opportunities provide tuition support and modest stipends in exchange for student work in support of the school or university mission. Selection is competitive and based upon openings and funding. You must maintain a 3.0 GPA and meet required levels of course registration to retain support. In addition, students are eligible for traditional financial aid through the University Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships. To be considered, mark the appropriate item on the application for graduate admission.

For further information, email Graduate Director Gary Kirksey at kirksey@ohio.edu.

Knight Fellowship in Newsroom Graphics Management

The Knight Fellowship is an extraordinary opportunity for a mid-career professional to earn a Master’s degree from the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University. Residing in Athens, Ohio, and attending Ohio University for one academic year, the selected Fellow will receive the following: full-tuition support as well as a generous stipend  (approximately $25,000) provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Fellow will also work with VisCom faculty members in their academic coursework, which includes working on a Master’s project of their choice. Additionally, the Fellow will engage with award-winning VisCom students through teaching and mentorship.

The successful applicant must have a Bachelor’s degree and professional experience. Please contact Assistant Professor Rebecca Sell with any questions (sell@ohio.edu).

NOTE: NEW DEADLINE!!! The  deadline to apply is now Dec. 4, 2014.

To apply, please do the following:

1. Complete the online application through the Graduate College at Ohio University.

2. Submit the following to the School of Visual Communication, via Rebecca Sell at sell@ohio.edu:

• A cover letter which answers the following questions (each answer 500 words or less): What do you hope to gain from graduate school? How do you hope to engage with students?

• Submit a resume and a link to a portfolio.

Past recipients and their pre-fellowship employment

Jeannie Adams-Smith, The Chicago Tribune; Stan Alost, The St. Petersburg Times; David Ahntholz, The Springfield Register; Cynthia Christie, Contra Costa Times; Pat Davison, The Rocky Mountain News; Jim Gensheimer, The San Jose Mercury News; Kathleen Hennessy, Picture Editor, Clinton White House; Lynn Johnson, Freelancer, National Geographic; John Kaplan, Freelancer; Janet Knott, The Boston Globe; Mark Mirko, The Hartford Courant; Annie O’Neill, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Peggy Peattie, The State (newspaper) in South Carolina; Bruce Strong, The Orange County Register; Tim Goheen, Knight Ridder Tribune Graphics; Bob Sacha, Freelancer, National Geographic; Jennifer Poggi, Picture Editor, U.S. News and World Report; Charlie Zimkus, Staff Artist, Columbus Disptach; Sue Morrow, Presentation Director/News & Sports, The Sacramento Bee; Karen Kasmauski, Freelancer, National Geographic; Matt Moyer, Freelancer, National Geographic.