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. Our students have continued to be leaders in the profession in a variety of communication outlets, working as photo editors, creative directors, designers, interactive designers, multimedia producers and photojournalists, including seven Pulitzer Prizes (some more than once). The heart of VisCom is centered around storytelling in various mediums, and students will push their skills in this area to the next level through advanced coursework, interacting with our professional faculty and collaborating with award-winning peers and students.

The four fields of study include: Photojournalism (including documentary photography); Commercial Photography (including illustrative photography); Informational Graphics and Interactive Design, and Visual Communication Management (all are included in the degree listed as a Master’s of Photography (MA6926) in the online application system).

Program information

The M.A. requires at least 30 credits of graduate coursework, plus a Master’s project (5 hours, including an hour for defense). 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), and JOUR 5100 (Communication Law) and JOUR 5200 (Ethics, Mass Media and Society) depending on experience in the field. Typically at least half of the courses taken while attending the graduate program are electives, and a faculty adviser works with each student to explore interests. 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.

View the 2019-20 Master’s project deadlines

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 Graphics and Interactive Design

The Information Graphics and Interactive Design sequence combines the professional practice of data visualization and designing information graphics as well as user experience and front-end web design. Students do their storytelling through design and typography, graphics, websites, mobile platforms, and other methods of choice such as motion graphics and video. Graduates of this program work as designers, information graphic designers, interactive and user experience designers, website developers, and art, creative and communications directors. This sequence takes three semesters to complete, and many students opt to continue a fourth to expand coursework and/or work on their Master project.

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. This sequence takes three semesters to complete, and many students opt to continue a fourth to expand coursework and/or work on their Master project.


Students who are interested in using photography as a communication tool to show others people and situations without staging or controlling the subjects are suited for the Photojournalism sequence. A renowned program, the courses focuses on documentary photojournalism and provides students the opportunity to go in-depth in their approach including editorial, essay, picture story and magazine. Graduates in this major work in the news and communication field, and take on roles at magazines and newspapers as well as having successful freelance careers. They also work as picture editors, event photographers and multimedia editors. This sequence takes three semesters to complete, and many students opt to continue a fourth to expand coursework and/or work on their Master project.

VIsual Communication Management

The Visual Communication Management sequence is an intense two-semester program geared toward students with 5+ years of experience in the visual communication profession, including those who want to develop skills within visual communication industries. A broad program, this sequence gives the opportunities for students to choose more than half of their coursework to fit their goals, including audio/video storytelling, management, design, interactive, photography and picture editing, applying these skills to creative production work, collaboration and discussion. Graduates of this program find leadership positions as picture editors, editors, directors of photography and leaders in interaction and design, as well as other areas of visual communication.

View the curriculum for the VisCom Master of Arts program.

View the catalog descriptions of all VICO graduate courses.




  • The application deadline for the Knight Fellowship is February 1 (see below).
  • For international students, the deadline is February 1.
  • The deadline for domestic applicants is February 1.

Only applicants who have submitted all materials will receive consideration. A campus visit prior to the application deadline is strongly recommended. Applicants are notified by March 15.


**NOTE: When filling out the online application, please select Master’s of Photography (MA6926). All four of our programs of study fall under this degree title.

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 an official transcript from each post-secondary institution attended to be sent to the Graduate College. To apply online, go to the Graduate Services site.

In addition, you must also submit, preferably via the online application, the following material: a resume, a link to an online portfolio or link to downloadable portfolio file/s, a 500-word statement of intent outlining why you want to attend graduate school, and three letters of reference. VisCom does not require applicants to take the GRE. Contact Graduate Director Rebecca Sell (sell@ohio.edu) for additional information, questions or alternative portfolio submission options.

All students whose native language is not English 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. To learn more, please see the English Proficiency Requirements provided by Ohio University’s Graduate College.

Successful applicants into Information Graphics and Interactive Design, Photojournalism, Commercial Photography will generally have two or more years of professional experience and a focused statement of intent. Applicants for the Visual Communication Management sequence will often have even more time in the profession.


A portfolio is to be submitted via online website (it can be included on the resume in the online application) or link to downloadable folder/files. Please contact Graduate Director Rebecca Sell (sell@ohio.edu) if an alternative method is necessary.


Photojournalism students are required to have at least one professional-level DSLR camera (digital), three lenses, dedicated flash and a professional tripod. One lens should have a 28mm 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 range (or digital equivalent) with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or larger. The third lens should be in the 50-85mm range, with a maximum aperture of f/2 or larger. Zoom lenses are also acceptable if they meet the maximum aperture requirement of f/2.8 or larger.

Commercial Photography students are also required to have professional quality equipment. Students will be required to have full-time access to a dSLR of at least 12 megapixels. A full-frame 35mm size sensor is highly recommended. A medium-format digital camera is also acceptable. In addition to a normal lens, students should have a wide-angle lens of at least 28mm (or 17-18mm on an APS-c size camera) and a medium focal-length telephoto lens (in the range of 85-135mm on a full-frame camera, or APS-c equivalent of about 70-105mm). Wide-angle zoom lenses, and medium-length zoom lenses that cover these focal-length ranges are also acceptable. Students are also required to have access to a hand-held digital flash meter, and a suitable tripod.


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 and expertise. These assistantships and work-study opportunities provide tuition support, including tuition coverage of 18 hours of coursework each supported semester as well as non-resident fees, and modest stipends in exchange for student work in support of the school or university mission. There are also stipend graduate assistant and fellowship positions that offer additional stipend.

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 Rebecca Sell (sell@ohio.edu).


Knight Fellowship in Visual Communication 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 (Fall and Spring semesters), 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 and Ohio University 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 substantial professional experience. Please contact Graduate Director Rebecca Sell with any questions (sell@ohio.edu). Getting in touch prior to application is encouraged.

NOTE: The deadline for the 2020-2021 Fellowship is February 1, 2020, or until filled. Inquiries are welcome and encouraged.

To apply, please do the following. Please make sure to clearly state that you are applying for the Knight Fellowship in your cover letter/statement of purpose:

1. Complete the online application through the Graduate College at Ohio University. **NOTE: When filling out the online application, please select Master’s of Photography (MA6926) as the program of study. Visual Communication Management falls under this degree title.

2. Submit the following to the School of Visual Communication, via Rebecca Sell at sell@ohio.edu, or in the online application document (links to portfolios may be included on your resume):

• 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 and take part in the university community?

• Submit a resume and a link to a portfolio.

• The same materials as the MA (application, transcripts and letters of recommendation, and TOEFL score if applicable) are also required.

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; Lila Garnett, Consultant, National Audubon Society; Jan Sonnenmair, Freelancer; Adonis Durado, Designer, Muscat Media Group (publisher of Times of Oman and Al Shabiba); Tom Burton, Editor, NPPA Magazine; Molly Roberts (current), Senior Photography Editor, National Geographic Magazine

Enlight Fellowship

The School of Visual Communication offers a fellowship for graduate students from China (including the PRC, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, Tibet Autonomous Region, and Taiwan). The generous fellowship is provided by The Enlight Foundation, a California nonprofit directed by Ohio University alumna Xin Liu and her husband Yong Ping Duan. The Enlight Fellowship includes a $12,000 stipend plus a full tuition waiver for Fall and Spring semesters for the duration of study; summer tuition waivers may also be available. Enlight Fellows may also apply for up to $3,000 additional support for research and instructional expenses after enrolling. Fellows have no work responsibilities within the School associated with the Enlight Fellowship, but may also receive up to $2,100 in additional support for assuming minor duties in the School.

Please contact Graduate Director Rebecca Sell with any questions (sell@ohio.edu). Getting in touch prior to application is encouraged.

NOTE: The deadline for the Enlight Fellowship to begin studies Fall 2020 is Feb. 1, 2020.