In the five years the MSU Strategic Communication Online M.A. has been around, students and alumni have received raises, promotions and new jobs. They’ve acquired new skills, additional confidence and a community of peers with whom to connect.
What started as 19 students, has now grown into 100 current students and 143 alumni.
When MSU StratCom was launched in January 2017, it filled a need, said Prabu David, dean of the College of Communication Arts & Sciences. The creation of the program was his idea.
A lot of listening and research with alumni and industry leaders took place to determine what was needed and how to create it.
“At the time, our college didn’t have an online program geared toward working professionals,” he said. “We wanted to change that by creating a program that allows working professionals to learn, grow and network.”
In 2019, four courses were added to the curriculum, and certificates (digital media, media analytics and organizational communication for leadership) were put into place to give people a choice of how they wanted to gain additional skills.
This kind of flexibility has been a hallmark of the program. Students are not only able to select the content they want to study (and how they want to study it – the M.A. or a certificate), but also the timeline in which they receive the degree – one, two or three years.
“What I loved about the [MSU StratCom] program is that I was able to take the classes I needed, at any time, with accountability and support from advisors and professors,” said ShaDonna Rolling, one of the members of the inaugural cohort and director of annual giving for WFYI in Indianapolis. “We followed weekly deadlines that kept us on schedule, and provided the flexibility needed to be present at work and in our personal lives.”
Another important differentiator for the program has been its sense of community, David said.
“Even though we are online program, our faculty and students have forged strong relationships and friendships, which has been critical to our success,” David said.
Jason Archer, director of the program, echoes the importance of connection among MSU StratCom students, staff and faculty. Often, Archer refers to students and alumni of the program as “co-authors.” In other words, feedback from experiences had has been instrumental in the program’s evolution.
“We wanted to create an evolving culture where we can truly be a community of learners,” he said. “This means creating space to share not just ideas and struggles with academics, but real life as well.
“We want to provide space for everyone to know and be known as much as they need.”
As David looks ahead to the future of the program, he says there are three key areas that should stay at the forefront of MSU StratCom’s mission.
“I hope MSU StratCom continues to place importance on student access, experience and success. Those are critical aspects to keep in place as the program grows and changes to meet student needs,” said Prabu David.
MSU StratCom will be recognizing its five-year anniversary through the end of 2021.