Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership Program Features

Integration of Theory and Practical Application – This program provides a strong foundation in communication theory and its application to professional real-world practice to give practitioners the knowledge and skills needed to fulfill communication management and/or leadership functions and roles in their organizations.

Thesis, Project, or Comprehensive Exam Options - Each student will select their option based upon their professional and educational goals, and with the recommendation of their advisor. The traditional thesis option will allow the student to work with a faculty member to generate original research.  The applied project involves the student applying his/her knowledge and skills to a problem in the workplace.  Finally, the Comprehensive Exam option is a three hour exam that the student prepares for at the end of their coursework.

Flexibility – With flexible evening scheduling that involves only eight class meetings per course, this program is designed to meet the needs of both the working professional and the recent college graduate.  The core classes occur in a face-to-face environment with some online options for electives.

Focus on Best Practices – This program provides a comprehensive understanding of the best practices of strategic communication, including issues management, crisis management, strategic development, implementation and evaluation of communication programs, and socially responsible communication in public and private environments.

Individualized Learning Experiences – The program provides tailored learning experiences both in- and out-of-class in specialized communication areas, such as business, non-profit, marketing, and social media, through tailored elective courses and personalized projects.  Students are encouraged to apply their coursework to their real-life working and career situations.

Focus on Leadership – The 12-credit leadership core is designed to develop the skills necessary to effectively manage and influence people. These skills include communication skills, decision making skills, interpersonal skills, ethical and contingent leadership skills, persuasive skills, and a comprehensive understanding of interpersonal and intergroup processes.

Early Access Option – Maryville undergraduate students who have completed a minimum of 100 credit hours, with at least 20 credit hours from Maryville, and who have a cumulative GPA of 3.6 and/or have demonstrated significant academic ability in the major through the last two years of academic work may apply to take courses toward the Early Access Option. Students should consult with their academic adviser and the Graduate Director for more information. Early access students may earn up to 12 credit hours of coursework in the graduate Leadership or Strategic Communication core in consultation with the Graduate Director.

Major Competencies (and related courses):

Communication Competencies: Strategic Communication and Leadership (SCL) graduates will develop skills in the following:

  • Communication Principles—Students will understand key strategic communication and public relations theories and principles and their applications in profit and not-for-profit settings. (Primary courses: Foundations of Strategic Communication; Strategic Communication Best Practices; Public Relations Research and Strategy)
  • Crisis Communication and Management—Students will be able to develop a plan for managing and mitigating crises within an organization. (Primary courses: Strategic Communication Issues and Crisis Management)
  • Oral Communication—Students will develop advanced skills to speak clearly, effectively, and persuasively to individuals and audiences in a variety of settings. (Primary course: Foundations of Strategic Communication; emphasized across the curriculum)
  • Organizational Communication—Students will develop the ability to identify and research main stakeholders and audience groups to determine the most effective workplace communication strategies and build strong working relationships with them. (Primary courses: Organizational Communication; Foundations of Strategic Communication; Strategic Communication Best Practices; )
  • Strategic Media Relations—Students will develop the ability to select and use communication tools and channels strategically to communicate effectively and manage media relations in a rapidly changing media environment. (Primary courses: Foundations of Strategic Communication; Strategic Communication Best Practices; Strategic Communication Channels and Messages; Emerging Media Strategy and Social Media)
  • Strategic Campaign Management—Students will develop the ability to plan, implement, and evaluate communication programs that serve the objectives of an organization. (Primary courses: Foundations of Strategic Communication; Strategic Communication Best Practices)
  • Written Communication—Students will be able to write clear, effective, and persuasive communications in a variety of digital, business, and media formats. (Primary course: Foundations of Strategic Communication; emphasized across the curriculum)

Strategic Leadership Competencies: SCL graduates will develop the following skills:

  • Contingent Leadership—Students will learn to identify and practice various leadership styles and understand their appropriate applications in various contexts. (Primary course: Foundations of Leadership)
  • Conflict Resolution/Negotiation—Students will learn to handle complaints, settle disputes, resolve grievances, and bring others together to reconcile differences. (Primary courses: Foundations of Leadership; Global and Intercultural Communication; Professional and Organizational Ethics)
  • Diversity—Students will learn the challenges, advantages, and best practices for leading in an ever-changing and increasingly diverse environment. (Primary course: Global and Intercultural Communication)
  • Ethical Leadership—Students will understand and apply ethical principles to develop a coherent ethical philosophy for socially responsible communication and leadership. (Primary course: Professional and Organizational Ethics)
  • Teamwork and Group Dynamics—Students will learn principles of group and team dynamics and be able to apply them to enhance motivation, performance, and morale. (Primary course: Foundations of Leadership)
  • Time Management—Students will learn principles of effectively managing their own and others’ time (Primary course: Foundations of Leadership)

Research and Evidence-Based Decision Making Competencies: SCL graduates will develop the following skills:

  • Applied Research—Students will learn applied research tools to gather and evaluate information from relevant sources, including surveys and library, government, archival, and Internet sources; they will also develop the ability to observe, listen to, and question other people. (Primary course: Evidence-based Decision Making; Across the curriculum)
  • Creativity and Innovation—Students will gain skills that help them and others develop, design, and create new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, and products (Primary course: Strategic Communication Campaigns)
  • Problem Sensitivity/Monitoring—Students will gain analytical skills to monitor and assess the performance of themselves, others, and the organization to identify when something is wrong or likely to go wrong and to make improvements and take corrective actions. (Primary courses: Foundations of Leadership, Strategic Communication and Crisis Management)
  • Problem Solving and Critical Thinking—Students will develop enhanced problem solving and critical thinking skills to improve communication and decision making. (Primary course: Evidence-based Decision Making)
  • Public Opinion and Perception Research—Students will learn best practices for researching, monitoring, and evaluating public opinions and perceptions. (Primary course: Evidence-Based Decision Making; Strategic Communication Campaigns)

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