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Mass Comm Accepting Students For New Master's Program

Feb. 11, 2014
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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In the ever-changing media world, Sam Houston State University is offering students and working professionals, alike, the opportunity to gain advanced knowledge and experience in working with digital media.

Approved by Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in December, the SHSU Mass Communication Department’s new Master of Arts in digital media program currently is accepting applications for its first cohort starting in the fall 2014 semester.

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The program was designed to reinforce both the practical and theoretical components of working in all areas of the media, focusing on two emphases: a digital media production track and a digital media studies track.

The digital media production track will be offered for students who want to shoot and create digital media products and manage projects in the media world, while the digital media studies track was developed for students who want to understand the digital media environment from social, cultural and political perspectives and think critically about the content that gets created, as well as for those who want to teach at the college level, according to program coordinator Robin Johnson, assistant professor of mass communication.

Students in both tracks will take 36 credit hours of classes and complete a thesis or final project.

“The great thing about this program is that it looks at the future of mass communication; it allows us to be part of this new global universe as an active participant, rather than teaching from the past,” said Jean Bodon, chair of the mass communication department. “We have great faculty members who do amazing research in video games, mass media law, social media and a new form of teaching film, with digital equipment, so I think we will be able to educate students who have a new outlook on the power of the mass media system.”

Either track will allow the department to attract professionals from a broad range of backgrounds, from the print, public relations, or multimedia backgrounds to broadcast producers and filmmakers.

“I think this degree is for people who are ready to make the transition from being a ‘bit-part player’ to a manager,” Johnson said. “From the digital media production perspective, having this degree will allow you to manage projects better and more effectively; for journalism and public relations people, it will allow you to move up into those positions at a higher level where you’re supervising people and projects; and from the digital media studies perspective, you can’t teach college with a bachelor’s degree and you can’t move on to get your PhD from some places until you have your master’s degree, so it’s sort of a stepping stone in that regard.”

Johnson said he sees a demand for the program from both current students and working professionals because of the rapidly changing nature of the mass media field.

“We’re very much in a changing world where the media—which used to be separate, for a reason, from broadcast to print to online to film—is all sort of converging into digital media, and as a professional you can’t just rely on one thing anymore; it’s impractical,” Johnson said. “You might be able to find a job if you’re really great at one thing, but it’s always best to have a large set of tools to work with. I think in the end we’re all storytellers, no matter what, and the more ways you can tell a story or think that a certain story needs to be told this way and using these media, the better off you’ll be.

“This degree is very fresh, it’s very much future thinking; it’s still sort of rooted in the practicalities of now, but it’s not a stodgy degree that limits your job potential. It’s a degree I think a lot of people will want because it’s very practical,” he said. “People are engaging with media more. Because they have a mobile device doesn’t mean that they’re not consuming media; they’re consuming more, actually. Statistics bear that out, that media is becoming more and more a part of our lives every day, and I think that’s why this degree is going to be of interest.”

Three courses will be offered in the first semester of the program at the SHSU—The Woodlands Center campus. Later courses will be offered at both the main and TWC campuses in a hybrid, online/in-class format.

“In terms of our region, I think we offer a pretty distinct program that solely looks at digital media, which I think is the future of all media,” Johnson said. “We have some very terrific faculty who are going to be great for students—our productions students will learn scriptwriting from John McLaughlin, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Black Swan; other students will be taught by Kelli Arena, who is a veteran of CNN and has had years of experience covering topics like crime, the courts, the law and international justice.”

Johnson said by offering the initial three classes at The Woodlands Center, the program hopes to take advantage of the large market for working professionals who cannot drive all the way to Huntsville for classes.

For more information on the program visit shsu.edu/programs/master-of-arts-in-digital-media.



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