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  • Brittany Shaughnessy

Board of Trustees approves MA in communication

On Aug. 4, Coastal issued a press release stating that the Board of Trustees approved a Master’s program for the Communication department.

Although this does not guarantee that the program will come to life, the Communication, Media and Culture department faculty are hopeful.

Dr. Wes Fondren, the department chair, spoke of the new program.

“We did an alumni survey, and found that 28 percent of our graduates go to, or have been to, graduate school,” said Fondren. “Knowing that at least 1 out of 4 of our graduates are going to graduate school, we had a lot of our alumni asking if we were ever going to have a Master’s program.”

In addition to alumni demand, Fondren stated that there have been three major studies in the last two years on what employers are looking for in their potential employees.

“LinkedIn did this major study of 250 companies around the country and asked them ‘What is it that you’re looking for in your employees that they don’t have?’” said Fondren. “Number one was communication skills.”

With a new program, comes the need for new faculty members. Fondren added that in the proposal to the Board of Trustees, there was a request for new faculty members. However, these new members will not be hired to teach in the graduate program, necessarily.

“We are going to be hiring some new faculty to be teaching in the undergraduate program, so that our current PhD faculty will be able to teach graduate classes in addition to undergrad,” said Fondren.

A PhD is typically required to teach in a graduate program, but only a Master's is necessary to teach in most undergradaute level classes.

Dr. Deborah Breede, associate professor in the Department of Communication, Media and Culture, additionally spoke about the program.

“It is a Master in the Arts of Communication, and is a two-year program,” said Breede. “The official launch date is August 2019, but we are doing what we call a ‘soft launch’ in fall 2018.”

Breede explained that a “soft launch” is when the department is going to begin offering graduate classes to current seniors in the program, giving them a head start on the program, or an edge if seeking a masters from a different school.

“Senior privilege” will also be offered, where students can obtain graduate credit from these courses.

The specific classes that will be offered in the "soft launch" are still under construction.

Having already obtained initial approval from the Board of Trustees, approval must still be obtained by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Both Fondren and Breede are hopeful that approval from these will come within the next year.

The Department of Communication, Media and Culture was one of the fastest growing departments in the University for a long time, and had previously focused on staffing current classes before they could even consider a master’s program.

“We have tentatively decided on a two-track Master’s program,” said Breede. “Students will have the opportunity to take the foundations in communication, general Master’s courses.”

Like the communication Bachelor of Arts program, students will also have the opportunity to choose a concentration.

“One will be the concentration that we are calling ‘advocacy’ right now, and one will be a concentration that will be in leadership,” said Breede. “We’ll have a variety of courses that will work in the advocacy part: doing health campaigns, or general activism or advocacy campaigns. The leadership program will have conflict resolution and tools for leaders. It will be adaptable to a variety of fields and disciplines.”

As the Department of Communication, Media and Culture continues to grow, the faculty are gradually building up excitement for their new graduate program.

Within the decade, Coastal may become one of the biggest colleges in South Carolina offering the most diverse set of graduate programs. Currently, Coastal offers 17 graduate programs including the Masters of Business Administration (MBA), Master of the Arts of Teaching (MAT), Master in the Arts in Writing (MA), among many others.

The Communication Master’s program is just another example of “Coastal Rising.”

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