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  • » CCU soft opens its Master of Arts in Communication, with full offerings expected in Fall 2019

    “Learn how to do good well.”

    This slogan for the new Master of Arts in Communication conveys succinctly both the goal and the purpose of the program.

    With two concentrations – communication leadership and communication advocacy – the program is designed to address the needs of students, employers and the marketplace.

    “The research that led to this degree was derived from marketplace data of what employers reported were shortcomings they find in their employees,” said Wes Fondren, professor and chair of the Department of Communication, Media and Culture. “Communication skills and leadership skills were No. 1 and No. 3 areas of need, as evidenced by recent national reports.”

    Deborah Breede, program coordinator and professor in the Department of Communication, Media and Culture, echoed this sentiment.

    “Leadership was one of the first concentrations employers said they really needed,” said Breede. “Employers want people with good written and oral communication skills who can come in, talk and lead people. They need employees who have good written and oral communication skills, who can motivate, inspire and work in professional settings.”

    The program is expected to draw students from three area demographic groups: working professionals, recent CCU graduates and retirees.

    “This is an additive degree,” said Fondren. “This degree is designed for working professionals, or people who have a degree and are looking to advance in the marketplace by adding communication to their professional profile.

    "Someone’s in technology, they’re in health, they’re in business, or they’re in some other market, and they want to come back to school. They recognize a communication deficit and a leadership deficit, so they come back and get a degree. Or, they’ve retired to this area, or maybe they’re a citizen who’s always lived here, and they want to be an advocate. And they say, ‘I realize I can do [advocacy efforts] poorly and waste a bunch of money, or I can do this the right way and really effect change.’”

    Recent CCU graduates, likewise, have conveyed an interest in adding a communication component to a degree from another discipline.

    “They feel a master’s degree will make them more marketable,” said Fondren. “They want the focus of bringing leadership to public relations, or leadership to health communication, or advocacy to health communication. The whole additive part of it is appealing; they want to add this element to what they have mastered in their undergraduate program.”

    Since 2013, Breede has taught undergraduate classes in communication advocacy, which involves students working with nongovernmental and/or grassroots advocacy groups to engage in public service at CCU. Breede, also the chair of the National Communication Association's Comm Activism Division, the largest communications activism group in America, views the program as a fresh opportunity for students to share the sensibilities and sensitivities of marginalized or underrepresented communities at the highest level.

    “Advocacy courses allow students to figure out how to go about hearing their own voice, getting others to hear it, and then translating voice to action,” said Breede. “We use communication methods, techniques, theories and skills to empower people to solve their own problems.”

    Graduate students will work with local nonprofit and government organizations and agencies as part of the curriculum.

    Fondren also noted the positive effect that nontraditional students have on undergraduate courses at CCU and expects that retirees in the graduate program will bring a meaningful dimension to the classroom.

    “Every time I’ve had a nontraditional student in my class, the traditional students have marveled at their worldview, at their advice, at how they see the world,” said Fondren. “Getting a blend of that in the classroom is very exciting to us.”

    The Master of Arts in Communication introduced two classes in Fall 2018 and three in Spring 2018. Starting in Fall 2019, it is expected to offer four to five courses each semester and add summer courses within the next few years.
    In addition to a stated need for this program, Breede and Fondren both emphasized the unique nature of the CCU degree.

    “This is an opportunity that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” said Breede. “There are a couple of advocacy programs up north or on the West Coast, but most of them are out of business schools—not out of communication departments. There’s nothing like this in this region,” she said.

    Fondren is grateful to have such an experienced and motivated leader for the program.

    “We are very fortunate to have the chair of our national organization’s activism group heading up this program,” said Fondren. “I am extremely pleased that she’s heading it up; she’s put an enormous amount of energy into it.”
    With the initiation of this program, CCU will have a significant impact on the scope of leadership and advocacy throughout the area.

    For more information on the Master of Arts in Communication, contact Breede at dbreede@coastal.edu.