Answering The Call: New Master’s In Strategic Communication
By Sheryl E. Taylor
The adage “most things don’t happen overnight” is applicable to the creation, which began at least four years ago, of a new Master of Arts degree in Strategic Communication (MASC) in the College of Humanities & Social Sciences.
And for our students, the wait is finally over beginning this fall.
The new 30-credit hour fully online program will equip students with the cutting-edge strategic communication skills, research knowledge, technology competencies, and theories needed to create effective community engagement and messaging with culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse public audiences and stakeholders. While building on students’ strengths, the fully online program will prepare them to be advocates in their communities by focusing on major communication areas: strategic public engagement, stakeholder management, conflict resolution, and crisis communication.
“This degree helps our students realize the skills they already have and build upon them to intentionally make a difference in their organizations and communities they serve,” said Dr. Darius M. Benton, MASC Program Director. “The program also will provide our outstanding faculty the opportunity to further utilize their expertise in new and exciting ways.”
Additionally, the MASC has a special emphasis on community engagement to promote community advancement through collaboration and relationship-building by developing students’ abilities to engage diverse communities in organizational, public, corporate, and interpersonal contexts.
“This program is targeted to communication studies’ graduates as well as professionals in varied industries. I don’t see limitations to its relevance and importance,” noted Benton. “Strategic communication is a unique blend between organizational communication, public relations, and media communications. The community engagement component will enable graduates of the program to grow as advocates to produce effective communication campaigns for spaces, persons, and organizations that are meaningful to them and the communities they serve.”
UHD’s proposal to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board emphasized that “in recent years, community engagement has become more integral to strategic communication as a way of building credibility with the public, creating more authentic experiences, and facilitating inclusive decision-making with various constituents.” Enrollment is now open for Fall 2022 (pending SACSCOC approval).
“The community engagement component aligns with UHD’s mission to engage with the community to address the needs of our region,” said Andrew Osborn, Assistant Director of Graduate Studies. “I’m always really excited to offer any type of program that grows UHD’s master programs, which offer more opportunity for the Houston community as well as our undergraduate students who are currently in our program. We are providing a lot of access and another direct path for our students to accelerate in their future careers.”
Once again, UHD is answering the call to fulfill the need for such a program. In Texas alone, the employment outlook is very strong for strategic communication-related careers. For social and community service managers, the projected growth is 26 percent for 2018-2028, and in the U.S. it’s 17 percent for 2019-2029.
“This degree allows our students to specialize and take their skills to another level,” Benton, the Assistant Professor of Communications Studies emphasized. “Communication is interdisciplinary, and we tend to pair our degrees with something else.” He added, “I often tell my undergraduate students that you must pair your communication skills with your passion to make it a career.”
According to Benton, this new program will be a welcomed addition to the University’s dedication to creating new opportunities for student success. “It shows that UHD isn’t afraid to be cutting-edge and try new things. We want to attract community leaders and change agents who want to and will make a difference in society. At UHD, we are willing to have the difficult conversations. It’s what sets us apart from other institutions.
“We realize that there’s a significant need to offer a unique niche with our community engagement component of this program,” added Benton. “UHD is determined to remain relevant to the communities we serve while also building students and scholars beyond their matriculation at UHD.”
The MASC program is now accepting applications. For more information about the program, visit the MASC website.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.