By: BEKKA OXLEY
Good news for students interested in furthering their education at IU South Bend: tentatively set for fall 2015, a master of arts in communication studies will be available for grad students.
The new master’s program could be the next step for students coming from a variety of educational backgrounds. For students who have already received their bachelor’s in communication studies, the new master’s will be a continuation of their undergraduate coursework.
“What you learn in BA will be good fodder for that which you expand on and gravitate towards in the master’s,” said Alec Hosterman, senior lecturer and chair of communication studies. He’s also writing the proposal for the new master’s program.
The new degree will have several different concentrations, including health communication, interaction and social processes (or human communication and persuasion), media studies, and strategic communication.
Just like the undergraduate program in communication studies, the various concentrations will serve different purposes and interests for students.
According to Hosterman, the strategic communication concentration will be designed for people who are already working in fields like public relations and advertising. The courses will focus on international communication and include classes on public relations campaigns, group communication and group conflict.
The strategic communication and health communication concentrations will be designed for working professionals and those who need their terminal degree, or the highest degree given in their field of study. The two concentrations would also be a good choice for students who are interested in going on to get their Ph.D.
The interaction and social processes and the media studies concentrations will most likely be for students who are interested in obtaining their Ph.D. The media studies concentration could also be utilized by people in the local media who would like to extend their educations.
Hosterman said that overall, the degree should be a fairly flexible one.
“Students will have to complete a final project,” Hosterman said. “We’ll give them the choice of whether or not they want to do the MA thesis, and for students who want to go on to get their Ph.D, that thesis is a really big thing. Or they can take the capstone class, which will be geared toward people who want to do the MA as their terminal degree.”
Courses will be taught by IUSB faculty members who have their Ph.Ds in the program as well as those who are tenured or tenure track.
Currently, the proposal for the new master’s program is in the process of being written. After it’s completed, it will be analyzed by IUSB’s school committees, then it will go to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, where it is expected to be approved.
“Our goal is to see if we can get it approved by the end of the year and then next year, we’ll do a hire for an additional faculty member, and their specialty would be health communication,” Hosterman said. “If it all gets approved for next year, then we will be in the promoting and recruiting phase.”
By surveying students and talking with alumni, Hosterman said that the department felt the degree was needed. Since there’s not a program like it in the area, the master’s will be a good choice for those interested in furthering their education while staying close to home.
“It’s a really big step for this department because we’ve been focused so much on the undergraduate that expanding it out to the graduate level serves a really big contingency in the community,” Hosterman said. “I think that once the health community organizations in town, like the big hospitals, Press Ganey, etc., get wind of it, they will be enticed by it.”