MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin will offer a Master of Arts in strategic communication beginning in the fall 2015 semester. The program, approved Thursday by the UT Board of Trustees during its winter meeting at the UT Health Science Center in Memphis, is subject to final approval in April by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
The executive-style degree is intended to prepare professionals to plan, create and manage communication to achieve organizational goals. The program will be presented primarily online, with periodic on-campus weekends required.
“Extensive research indicated the need and desire for a master’s degree that was professionally focused – as opposed to theoretical preparation for a doctoral program – on developing strategic communication management skills,” said Dr. Tracy Rutledge, assistant professor of communications and graduate program coordinator. “Our graduate program is unique in this region because of the integrated curriculum. Strategic communication is a very broad area that pulls together communications disciplines that are typically separated. … This integration reflects a strong demand in the workplace for professionals who understand how to plan and manage many types of communication initiatives.”
Strategic communication integrates skills and concepts from organizational and management communication; marketing communication and sales; public relations; technical communication; and mass communication, and is applicable across a wide variety of career fields. It requires a strong knowledge of traditional, social and mobile media; the ability to produce effective oral, written and visual messages; and strategic management communication and leadership skills.
The degree program is appropriate for students and professionals from a variety of academic backgrounds, including but not limited to public relations, marketing, mass communication, advertising, business administration, agricultural business and political science.
The coursework is designed to allow working professionals the flexibility to accommodate busy schedules through online assignments, as well as develop networking relationships with faculty mentors and peers through on-campus weekends. The program was developed based on industry research conducted by the Commission on Public Relations Education and the educational standards of the Association of the Education of Journalism and Mass Communication.
All program participants will complete a minimum of 33 credit hours with no final course letter grade lower than a “B.” Students will complete 15 hours of core courses, including three professional seminars, each requiring an on-campus weekend at the beginning and end of the semester. These seminars focus on research and writing skills, academic advising, and the development, defense and completion of a capstone project. Other core courses include applied research methods for professionals and media and communication theory for professionals.
Students will also complete three credit hours in either organizational communication or leadership theory and practice, depending on their career goals. Elective courses will finish the last 18 hours of credit and will be offered in online, face-to-face or hybrid options as appropriate for the course material. Electives are offered in public relations and marketing communication; mass communication, media management and media production; technical communication; and issues in strategic communication. Students will work with an academic advisor to choose the elective courses which best benefit their individual career paths.
“One of my frustrations as I considered graduate schools was that so few were practical and in tune with current media and market needs. (This program) achieves both in a way that our graduating seniors, alumni and other working professionals have already told us they find very attractive,” said Dr. Robert Nanney, professor and chair, UT Martin Department of Communications. “I'm so proud of the hard work of Dr. Rutledge and the rest of our faculty and staff in the creation of this new master's degree. …It represents more than two years of vision, planning and execution that will make available very practical and vital skill sets for working professionals in communications and other fields, as well as those about to enter the workforce.”
Interested participants must meet the university-wide requirements for graduate admission, as well as the specific requirements for the strategic communication program, noted in the UT Martin graduate catalog. Students may request to transfer up to six semester credit hours from other appropriate graduate programs at accredited universities, subject to approval by the UT Martin Department of Communications graduate faculty.
All applicants should submit application packets to the UT Martin Office of Graduate Studies at 227 Administration Building, Martin, Tenn., 38238. Packets should include a graduate school application, official transcripts from all attended institutions, official GRE test scores, a graduate assistant application, current resume, three current letters of recommendation from professional sources, and a 500-word statement of professional goals and how the strategic communication program would contribute to the achievement of those goals.
For more information, contact Rutledge at 731-881-7554 or by email at email@example.com.
PHOTO CAPTION: Dr. Tracy Rutledge, UT Martin assistant professor of communications and graduate program coordinator, led development of the university’s new Master of Arts in strategic communication. The new degree program, approved Thursday by the UT Board of Trustees, will begin in the fall 2015 semester, subject to final approval in April by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.