Despite fluctuations in enrollment, the Professional Master of Arts in Strategic Communication program is gaining traction through the Twin Cities business community.
Now in its sixth year, the program seems to have gained a "critical mass" of graduates in the Twin Cities business community, which raised the program's visibility, says Gordon Leighton, program coordinator and lecturer.
"There are about 80 alumni of the program," Leighton says. A number of agencies such as Campbell Mithun, Carmichael Lynch Spong, Colle + McVoy and Fallon all employ multiple graduates, as do Amerprise Financial Inc., Cargill Inc., Iconoculture and Target Corp.
The program also is drawing public relations and marketing professionals from non-profit organizations, Leighton says, noting a number of school district communications managers have graduated from the program, too.
"All of their organizations have communications needs. We teach them to be better communicators," Leighton says.
At 14 students, the 2010-2011 cohort is the smallest enrolled since the program's inception, Leighton says. In 2009, the school admitted 28, its biggest cohort; 20 enrolled.
"We have the lowest attrition rate of any graduate program on campus," Leighton says, a fact he attributes to the personalized attention potential applicants receive before they even apply. That meeting can help make sure the program is a good fit with prospective students' work and home lives; most work full time.
Mid-semester surveys suggest students are happy with the quality of the program.
"We hear they apply the next day what they've learned in class," Leighton says. Guest speaker visits such as the one made by Celeste Bottorff, Coca Cola North America's vice president for Living Well, add to learning opportunities.
The company -- which has the No. 1 brand in the world -- must address all sorts of communications issues, from regulatory to business development strategy.
"She really gave the students a live demonstration of strategic communication," Leighton says.
-- Amy Olson
The School of Journalism and Mass Communication will accept applications for its 2011-2012 cohort of Professional Master of Arts in Strategic Communication through June 15 for admission in September. Log onto sjmc.umn.edu, click on graduate studies and scroll down to Professional M.A. in Strategic Communication to learn more.