Embarking on a communications graduate program can be both exciting and stressful; fear of the unknown can create anxiety, which is both normal and understandable. In this blog, I hope to provide an accurate, “insider’s” look at Purdue’s graduate Strategic Communications program so that you know what to expect, and how to achieve the greatest level of success.
1.) First, I can assure you that you’ll find the program to be engaging, stimulating, informative, and skills-based. What’s unique about Purdue’s Strategic Communications program is its focus on the development of relevant, practical skills that can be applied immediately in your career. Most students share their classroom learning and experiences with their work colleagues and leaders, thereby enabling them to make important contributions while earning their degree.
2.) Second, many of the course assignments provide students the opportunity to develop high-level presentations that they can add to their professional portfolios – something to consider if you’re thinking of pursuing a promotion or a new position.
3.) The graduate Strategic Communications program offers flexibility, relevant content, and access to faculty and student peers who comprise “the best of the best.” You will find your class colleagues to be interesting, polished, and congenial individuals with whom you will learn, grow, and develop important and long-lasting relationships. They bring a broad range of knowledge and experiences that contribute significantly to each week’s discussions, and to the learning process overall.
4.) Many courses incorporate group assignments that are designed to mimic real-world scenarios. Team skills are one of the most important attributes employers seek today, so I encourage you to approach these projects as if you were part of an actual PR team for an agency or other organization.
5.) Every week, you will examine a particular aspect of the course topic through readings and discussions. Each weekly module incorporates a variety of learning material that can include case studies, articles, multimedia presentations, and textbook chapters.
6.) Many professors also post video lectures in their courses; these are created to provide more personal interaction and additional perspectives from the professor’s own professional experiences.
7.) You will be expected to upload a substantive main post, along with thoughtful responses to your classmates’ posts, to each week’s discussion forum. Your discussion posts should demonstrate your understanding of the module content, your critical thinking, and your ability to synthesize the course material and outside resources.
8.) As in most university courses, papers are also an integral part of required student deliverables. Written assignments can range from topic proposals and case analyses to strategic plans, strategic communication campaigns, and a variety of other applied communications documents. You will learn how to balance practical concepts with theoretical principles, research, and relevant data. You will also hone your writing, another critical skill that employers are seeking in top-level candidates.
I believe what you will enjoy most about your courses are the relationships you will form with your peers and professors. The weekly discussion forums, group projects, and offline engagement will enable you to develop your interpersonal communication, problem-solving, and leadership skills which are all essential for career success.
The online experience at Purdue will open your mind, expand your thinking, contribute to your fund of knowledge, and prepare you for an accomplished career as a communications scholar-practitioner.
Debra Davenport Ph.D. is a member of the online faculty of Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.
*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.