Communication Studies

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For more information on how a Washburn University Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership degree can make a difference in your life and career, contact Mary Pilgram, Program Director and Associate Professor, or 785-670-2229

Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership

At Washburn University, our goal is to help you become your best self. The Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership helps you become a collaborative and innovative leader who demonstrates effective communication skills, self-awareness and strategic thinking. The program is built on the knowledge that excellent communication is the foundation of extraordinary leadership. The courses will provide you the knowledge, skills, and experiences for continuous self and system improvement.

Earning a Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership is your next step in furthering your career and differentiating yourself from your peers. You’ll understand not only how to adapt to a changing global work force but also how to leverage these changes into innovative ideas and solutions. 

The 30 graduate credit hour, interdisciplinary program is designed for working professionals. The eight-week courses are delivered entirely online using a highly interactive and intuitive learning management and video conference system. As an online student, you truly get the best of both worlds - a dynamic online learning experience grounded in the more than 150 year history and tradition of excellence at Washburn University. 

For information on how to apply for Federal Student Aid, click here:

Our program is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Washburn University is able to offer distance learning programs in a number of states through our membership in SARA -- the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements.  SARA is a voluntary agreement among its member states and U.S. territories that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance-education courses and programs. Under the current agreement, Washburn is authorized to offer programs in all states except California, Florida and Massachusetts which are not members of SARA.

All Degrees are Welcome

The Washburn University Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership program welcomes all undergraduate degrees. We only ask that you maintained a 3.0 or higher in the last 60 hours of your undergraduate work.


Click here to see the complete, detailed course catalog.

CN 601 Introduction to Graduate Study in Communications Studies - Introduction to key concepts in communication, such as group dynamics, persuasion, conflict, interpersonal perception, listening, and nonverbal communication.

CN 680 Seminar in Strategic Management Communications – Gain an understanding of the link between business, organizational communication and corporate communication.

CN 642 Team Communication in Organizations – An in-depth examination of group dynamics and communication, focusing on communication, decision making, relationships, conflict, leadership, and group development.

CN 630 Communication in Conflict and Negotiation – Combines theory and application to prepare you to understand, negotiate and resolve disputes among parties with differing objectives and desires within relationships, groups, organizations and communities. 

CN 650 Persuasion - Theoretical and practical elements of persuasion theory will be featured in order to highlight techniques of gaining compliance in multiple contexts.

CN 695 Special Topics – Special topics in communication.

CN 698 Capstone - The capstone experience is the culminating experience of the master’s degree program and is taken in the final semester.

LE 601 Self and Systems Leadership - Explore the ways people interact with systems to provide effective leadership, and the various elements that affect these interactions. 

LE 620 Leadership and Resource Stewardship - An overview of the essential skills that effective leaders need to develop and manage organizational resources including finances, personnel, and informatics that are critical for effective planning, policies, programs, products or services. 

LE 630 Organizational Improvement and Innovation - This course will focus on the role of leaders in the realization of organizational mission and vision through assessment, utilizing a continuous improvement framework, and innovation.

LE 640 Public Policy and Global Leadership - Diversity in the organization is the new norm, and leaders must develop a high level of cultural intelligence in order to balance local and global priorities. 

LE 695 Special Topics - Special topics in leadership.

LE 698 Capstone - The capstone experience is the culminating experience of the master’s degree program and is taken in the final semester.

Instructor Biographies

Michael Gleason

Michael GleasonMichael Gleason began as the Director of the Leadership Institute in 2013. In this role, he oversees the curricular and co-curricular elements of the Institute and teaches courses within the Leadership Studies Minor/Certificate Programs.  He also works with the Fink and Farley Visiting Professorships. Prior to coming to Washburn, Dr. Gleason worked at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa where his primary role was facilitating mentoring and experiential education programs, as well as advising students and providing professional development opportunities for faculty and staff.  In addition to these responsibilities, he served as the Director of the High School Leadership Institute, was a Leadership Fellow, taught numerous courses in the Institute for Leadership Education, and served on the Leadership Working Group. He also worked for Camp Adventure™ Child and Youth Services, an international leadership development program for college students.  In this role, he coordinated the recruitment and training of students attending colleges and universities across the United States. At Washburn University, Dr. Gleason serves on the Honors Advisory Board, the Career Services Advisory Board, the Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning Advisory Group, and the High Impact Community Engagement Practices Committee. He has been a part of Leadership Washburn since  2013. He completed his Lean Six Sigma: Yellow Belt in July of 2014. Within the Topeka Community, he facilitates a session for the United Way non-profit board training.  Dr. Gleason earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Higher Education from Iowa State University. He has a Master of Arts in Education in Post-Secondary Education Student Affairs and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, both from the University of Northern Iowa.  His research interests throughout his graduate coursework related to mentoring and leadership development.

JuliAnn Mazachek

JuliAnn MazachekJuliAnn Mazachek is the Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and the President and CEO of the Washburn Foundation.  In her capacity as the Interim Vice President, Dr. Mazachek is responsible for all aspects of leading the Academic Units, departments and programs as they provide quality technical, undergraduate, masters and doctorate programs (campus and online courses) to the variety of students who attend Washburn University.   As President and CEO of the Washburn Foundation, Dr. Mazachek is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the fundraising and stewardship programs as well as the investment and management of $180 million in assets.  Dr. Mazachek is involved with many community activities and boards as she serves as a Director for Heritage Bank, and is on the Board of Directors of St. Francis Health Center, the Kansas Hospital Association, Junior Achievement, and the Executive Board of the Boy Scouts-Jayhawk Area Council.  She is a member of the Association of Governing boards, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals.  Dr. Mazachek holds a Ph.D. in Accounting from the University of Kansas, a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Kansas and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Kevin O'Leary

Kevin O'LearyKevin O’Leary is a Senior Lecturer in the Communication Studies Department.  Dr. O’Leary is the Director of the Washburn debate team, which has won national championships in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, and 2017.  His scholarly interests include hip-hop and rock music, conflict and negotiation, and the philosophy of language and communication.  He holds a B.S. in Communication Studies from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he competed on the debate team, an M.A. in Communication Studies from St. Louis University, and a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  Dr. O’Leary was recognized as Coach of the Year in 2008.


Mary Pilgram

Mary PilgramMary Pilgram is an Associate Professor in the Communication Studies Department specializing in organizational communication. Dr. Pilgram has been a participant and facilitator of the Leadership Washburn program. Prior to university teaching, Dr. Pilgram spent over twenty years in the public and private sectors as a training and development and assessment professional in the areas of leadership and management development. This experience includes more than twenty years of progressive leadership positions. She is the former Co-Chair of the Training and Development Division of the National Communication Association. Leadership positions at Washburn include Leadership Institute Board Member, Faculty Senator, Assessment Liaison, and Internship Coordinator for the Communication Studies Department. Dr. Pilgram was awarded a Lean Six Sigma: Green Belt by Washburn University. She is a graduate of Leadership Overland Park and holds a B.A. in Communication from William Jewell College and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Communication Studies from the University of Kansas.

Leslie Reynard

LeslieReynard Leslie Reynard is a Professor of Communication Studies, with primary teaching and research interests in rhetoric and persuasion, systems theories applied to communication, and strategic management communication.  Dr. Reynard has chaired Washburn’s Faculty Library Committee and the Faculty Information Technology Advisory Committee and has served on numerous other University committees including Faculty Senate, College Faculty Council, Master of Liberal Studies Board, and Program Review. She has been a facilitator and presenter at Washburn’s Debate Watch during the past two Presidential election cycles. She has been an elected member of the National Faculty Board of Lambda Pi Eta (undergraduate honor society) for the past ten years. Dr. Reynard has served on the planning committee and as a presenter at the Summer Institute of Distance Learning and Instructional Technology for the past five years; she is a certified Quality Matters course reviewer. She won a National Communication Association grant to develop and share expertise in capstone course design and capstone assessment. She is a reviewer for a number of NCA divisions, including Political Communication, Mass Media, and Peace and Conflict. She was presented the NCA’s Franklin S. Haiman Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Freedom of Expression in 2012. Dr. Reynard has participated in national AAC&U workshops related to assessment, instructional design, and capstones. Following a career as a strategic communication consultant and five years as Director of Communication at The University of Kansas School of Business, Dr. Reynard completed her doctorate in political rhetoric at The University of Kansas while serving as an Instructor at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. Her doctoral focus is on strategies of 20th Century presidential rhetoric during the intervals between election night and inauguration day. She has been the assessment director for her departments both at SIUE and at Washburn. Dr. Reynard’s Master of Arts in English is in creative writing; her Bachelor of Science in Journalism is in strategic communication. She completed a year of doctoral studies in Journalism at the University of Indiana as well as course work in American Studies at The University of Kansas. 

Tracy Routsong

Tracy RoutsongTracy Routsong is an Associate Professor in Communication Studies and Chair of the Institutional Review Board. Dr. Routsong has been a participant and contributor to the Leadership Washburn since the inaugural class in 2011. She has served on a variety of University committees including Faculty Senate, College Faculty Council, University Honors Board, Health Benefits Committee, and others and was chair of the Department of Communication until spring of 2013 when she took a visiting professorship at Winona State University. She was recently named as a CTEL Teaching Fellow for the 2015 – 2016 school year. Dr. Routsong began her professional leadership role as the Assistant Director of Forensics, and then Director of Forensics at Winona State University in 2000 where she also was the Test-Out Director for the department. Her Master of Arts in Organizational Communication specialized in crisis communication specifically examining the rhetoric of leaders dealing with organizational crises. She received her Ph.D. in Interpersonal Communication specializing in health and family. Dr. Routsong was awarded a Lean Six Sigma: Green Belt by Washburn University.

Jim Schnoebelen

Jim SchnoebelenJames (Jim) Schnoebelen is an Associate Professor in Communication Studies. He has been a participant and facilitator for the Leadership Washburn program. He is currently Secretary of Faculty Senate, the Humanities Division representative on the College Committee on Promotion and Tenure (CCPT), the Faculty Senate representative on the Graduate Council, and a member Women’s and Gender Studies Advisory (WAGS) Committee. He also serves Washburn as a pre-law advisor and former coordinator of Washburn’s Pre-Law Camp and “Great Plains” Regional Mock Trial Tournament. He was Assistant Director of Forensics at Washburn from 2001 to 2008, and went on serve as Director of the Undergraduate Mock Trial team from 2008 to 2016. His scholarship focuses on the U.S. presidency, particularly the ways in which political communication represents and reinforces the gendered nature of human communication and our notions of executive leadership. He has degrees in Speech Communication (B.S. in 1999 and M.A. in 2001) from Central Missouri State University and Communication Studies (Ph.D. in 2010, emphases in Political Communication and Rhetoric) from the University of Kansas.