2012 - 2013 Master of Strategic Communication Degree (MSC)
Program Chair: Helen Hodgson
Associate Faculty: James Hedges, Helen Hodgson, Christine Seifert, and Rulon Wood
The Master of Strategic Communication (MSC) program is a low-residency, project-based program in which students complete a series of applied communication projects in order to build and demonstrate mastery of the essential knowledge and abilities required to lead in the area of strategic communication. Students attend two-day residencies in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the beginning of each semester and then work directly and individually with faculty members and with each other to build and demonstrate expertise. This highly personalized approach to education is a hallmark of Westminster College and is an important part of building leaders in the communication field.
The program design is specifically built to accommodate the learning styles and life commitments of employed professionals: program learning resources are available to students anytime, anywhere, to ensure that the program fits into the busy lives of today’s communication professionals.
The program has the following characteristics:
Project-Based: students complete a total of five project sequences designed and sequenced specifically to measure student learning. Projects are based on current communication problems and opportunities and may originate in an individual student’s place of employment or entrepreneurial venture.
Individual and Team-Based: students complete most projects individually to demonstrate mastery of associated professional communication competencies. Some projects are team-based to assist students in mastering leadership competencies that include managing projects and leading and working in teams.
Low-Residency: in addition to the two-day on-campus residencies that occur at the beginning of each of the five project sequences, students use a learning management system and resources in an online environment to work independently and as a team to master program competencies.
Faculty Mentored: students work directly with a Westminster College faculty member on an individual basis to acquire project guidance and feedback. Faculty members also evaluate completed student projects to determine whether or not project learning is sufficiently demonstrated.
Students completing all program and college requirements earn a Master of Strategic Communication degree from Westminster College.
The MSC degree is specifically designed to prepare students for leadership positions within the area of strategic communication. Through the use of real-world scenarios and projects, graduates demonstrate a mastery of communication strategies and technologies, project management, and leadership in action.
In order to be accepted into the MSC program, applicants must meet the following admissions criteria:
- An undergraduate degree in any related major from a regionally accredited academic institution with a minimum GPA of 3.0
- A resume demonstrating at least 3 years of professional experience in the communication field
- Two letters of recommendation
- A strong desire to be a leader in strategic communication, as evidenced in the letters of recommendation and a personal statement of interest in the program
- Admissions decisions are made by the MSC program faculty; each applicant is individually considered across multiple dimensions to craft the optimal cohort and diversity of students.
Because of the project-based design of the program, students are required to be highly motivated self-starters; applicants are strongly encouraged to directly address these personal characteristics in their resume and personal statement.
After students complete the MSC program, they have developed and demonstrated their ability to
- Lead projects and teams in a coordinated effort to achieve organizational goals.
- Learn rhetorical principles and strategic practices necessary for creating usable, effective, and ethical communications.
- Serve as leaders in the process of creating and editing specific communications appropriate for particular audiences.
- Plan, research, manage, design, and execute large-scale writing projects for real clients.
- Analyze an organization to ensure that communication effectiveness can be maximized.
- Create integrated marketing communication campaigns using new media strategically as the cornerstone of effective marketing communication.
- Apply their strategic communication expertise to a capstone project.
The Project Sequences
The program consists of five project sequences, constituting a series of applied communication projects, all of which must be completed through Westminster College. Each of the sequences consists of several projects, as well as a final integrative project. The projects build upon each other and are completed in the order specified. A student completes all projects to demonstrate mastery of the program learning goals and competencies. Each project has a set of rubrics, which explain precisely how the project will be evaluated upon its completion. Students can use these rubrics to self-assess the projects before submission. After a project sequence is successfully completed, the student begins the next project sequence at the beginning of the following semester.
Dedicated faculty members are specifically assigned to assist students and evaluate their work as they progress through each project sequence. Students and faculty interact regularly to improve learning outcomes. Students also have access to program assistants who help with registration, billing, financial aid, project submission, technology systems, and any other questions about the program. Students are encouraged to utilize these resources whenever needed throughout the duration of the program.
After students complete a project, work is submitted to the faculty member for evaluation using the established project rubrics. Students are given one of three rankings for each of the competencies related to individual projects in a particular sequence: exceeds project standards, meets project standards, or does not meet project standards. In all cases, students are given substantial feedback on project performance. If students receive an assessment of “does not meet project standards,” they are given clear guidance from the faculty member prior to the work being revised and resubmitted for additional evaluation. Students can submit their work a maximum of three times for evaluation.
Each project sequence includes a required two-day on-campus residency, which consists of workshops and seminars specifically designed to prepare students for the projects in a particular project sequence. Residencies are scheduled at the beginning of each semester. Please consult the program website for specific information on residency schedules.
A variety of ancillary materials are provided to help students master the specific competencies and learning goals related to each project. All of these materials can be accessed from the program website. These materials augment students’ existing knowledge and experiences and can be referenced on an as-needed basis. Given the varying nature of students’ background and experience, all students are strongly encouraged to consult with the faculty as they work on projects to determine which materials may be most useful. All of the materials can be accessed by all students—even if students are completing subsequent projects—to help in recalling specific techniques and knowledge.
See the Admission to the College section for admission requirements.
Project sequences are designed to be completed within one semester, enabling students to complete the requirements of the program within five semesters. A student who, for whatever reason, does not enroll for two consecutive terms must request reinstatement in the program and will be subject to the tuition charges currently in effect. A student must complete a project sequence within a semester. If, at the end of the semester, the project sequence is not completed, the student may not be able to move to the next project sequence and may be required to wait a full semester to continue in the program. In addition, students using federal financial aid may have difficulty with their financial aid eligibility if they require more than a semester to complete a project (see financial aid rules for more information). Staying in constant contact with the program assistant and MSC faculty helps avoid problems.
Using the faculty member’s feedback as a basis to better demonstrate mastery of the learning in each project, students can resubmit work that is given a “does not meet” ranking. Students who, for whatever reason, are unable to demonstrate mastery of the competencies of a particular project after two full attempts will be asked to meet with the faculty mentor. The faculty member will work with each student to develop a realistic plan to overcome barriers to the student’s successful performance. Having committed to the plan, the student will be given one additional attempt at completion. If the student is still unable to successfully complete the project, the student may be suspended from the program.
A student who is suspended from the program may reapply for admission after two terms. A personal interview will be required before readmission is allowed; and, if readmitted, the student will reenter the program at the current year’s tuition rate. The student will work with his or her faculty mentor to develop a specific plan to complete the sequence. As long as the student fulfills the terms stipulated in the performance plan, the student will be allowed to complete remaining program requirements.
The following academic standards support the mission and goals of the MSC program. The goals are presented here to help students understand their responsibilities throughout the program:
Students should always be familiar with project requirements and guidelines to avoid problems. Students should take every opportunity to consult with their faculty mentor to receive clarification when needed.
Collaboration is encouraged to enhance depth of learning; except for team projects, all submitted work must be the original work of individual students.
Students should always be respectful of faculty, staff, and other students in the program.
The program is designed to be intellectually challenging, real-world oriented, and mastery building. Students should push themselves, using every opportunity to participate and learn in order to take full advantage of the Westminster experience.
Plagiarism, a serious offense in academic and professional settings, is a violation of the college’s academic policy. For further information on academic honesty, please click here. Students who violate the academic honesty policy may be suspended from the program.
See the Grading and Academic Standards section for graduate academic probation and suspension policies.
Appeals for Readmission
See the Grading and Academic Standards section for information on appeals for readmission.
Candidates for graduation must consult their program assistant at the beginning of Sequence 3. The program assistant will aid students in completing the application for graduation in the following May or August. To be eligible for graduation, a student must satisfy the following requirement: complete each project sequence successfully with a minimum ranking of “meets project standards.” Students should consult either the faculty member or the program assistant at any point when questions arise about graduation requirements.
Project Sequence 1 (semester 1)
Project Sequence 2 (semester 2)
Project Sequence 3 (semester 3)
Project Sequence 4 (semester 4)
Project Sequence 5 (semester 5)
TOTAL HOURS FOR MSC