About David Williams, DBA.: David Williams is the Dean of the School of Professional and Graduate Studies at Union College. As Dean, he has played an instrumental role in the development of Union College’s online Master’s programs in Business Administration, Healthcare Administration, Information Systems Management, and Athletic Administration. In addition, he helped to spearhead the creation of the Master of Science in Digital Marketing and Communications Management (MKTC) program at Union College, which is the first stand-alone digital marketing master’s degree to be offered in Kentucky.
Dr. Williams received his Bachelor of Arts from Emory & Henry College, his MBA from Vanderbilt University and his Doctorate of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Union College’s Master of Science in Digital Marketing & Communications program, and how it is structured? What topics are covered in the core curriculum and discipline-specific courses?
[Dr. Williams] Union College is a school that is 140 years old this year. It’s a very old liberal arts school that was designed to serve the community of the Appalachia Mountains, which is an economically depressed area that has always had a great need for accessible and impactful educational opportunities. We have served the Appalachia Mountains since 1879, and when we got into online about a decade ago, we took what was our mission, which was to offer very affordable and accessible education, and translated it into an online medium. I found that we really have a distinct position of being able to offer affordable tuition for excellent degree programs.
The Master of Science in Digital Marketing & Communications program is our latest online degree program, and we’re proud to be the first college in Kentucky to offer a program of this kind. The MKTC program is a ten-course program, with each course being eight weeks long. There are four courses in management, and six specific courses in marketing communications. This program was designed after a series of seven programs that were all built around the same core management courses before going into six discipline-specific courses. Those core courses are really kind of our Union College promise, there is a course in Managerial and Leadership Analysis, a course in Organizational Behavior and Teamwork, a course in Business Ethics and Social Responsibility, and a course in Strategic Decisions.
The Managerial and Leadership Analysis course builds students’ essential skills in organizational growth, team leadership, and business development through effective management. In Organizational Behavior and Teamwork, students learn how to coordinate interdepartmental collaborations and facilitate effective lines of communication between individuals and teams. In Business Ethics & Social Responsibility, students analyze current public policy that is relevant to business ethics and codes of conduct, and also learn the frameworks around ethical decision-making in corporate contexts. Strategic Decisions provides an overview of how organizations can design, implement, evaluate, an improve strategies that grow and sustain their business. Due to my time in industry I’ve learned that every student should ideally have a background in leadership, to understand how organizations work, to have an ethical foundation in making business decisions, and an understanding of how strategy is implemented.
Then from there, our six courses are based on the American Marketing Association’s (AMA) Digital Marketing Certification program, and that was really the foundation of our learning outcomes. The goal of the concentration coursework is to empower students to apply the managerial skills and strategic concepts they learn in their core courses to digital marketing and communications contexts. The classes that students take are Brand Management, Integrated Marketing and Communications, Internet Consumer Behavior, E-Commerce, Social Media Marketing, and Market Research.
Brand Management provides students with advanced training in brand development strategy, brand storytelling, and leading marketing strategy throughout the life-cycle of a product or service. Integrated Marketing and Communications covers all the elements of an integrated marketing communications plan, from advertising and direct marketing to public relations, online marketing strategies and analytics, and social media. Internet Consumer Behavior delves specifically into what motivates consumers to engage with organizations through web marketing, and how marketing managers can leverage digital marketing data to create compelling calls-to-action. E-Commerce covers the infrastructure of electronic commerce from a marketing perspective, while Social Media Marketing goes in-depth into social media’s role in marketing and public relations. Finally, Market Research covers the specifics of marketing data analytics and market research, and how to sift through data for relevant insights.
As mentioned previously, these classes are geared towards preparing students for the AMA Digital Marketing Certification Program, and as such we have the following Student Learning Outcomes that we aim to cultivate through our curriculum:
- Develop in depth knowledge of digital marketing and communications management.
- Apply the principles of communication to digital marketing management.
- Evaluate the principles of marketing and communications and their applicability to digital marketing communications management.
- Apply principles of strategic management and research to digital marketing and communications management.
- Apply and evaluate the principles of ethics and social responsibility to digital marketing and communications.
All of our programs are designed for working adults. Everyone in our classes is coming from a different professional perspective, and our students represent a wide range of industries. What I find is that there are commonalities between industries in terms of leadership, and the principles and theories of effective communication and management practices. When you apply these concepts to a specific industry, which we do by providing case studies in our classes and which students do organically by applying their studies directly to their jobs, that is when students’ learning outcomes are really solidified. There are research projects within each of the courses, and when students have the flexibility to tie these projects directly to their industry/line of work, it not only enhances their learning experience but also boosts their performance at work.
In management, marketing, and communications theory, I’m a big believer in the idea that a theory’s value is realized when it’s applied. There are many other academic disciplines where the theory is what it’s all about, but in business it’s about applying that theory. If you read about a theory and can apply it directly for your experience, and make a better decision in business from that, that’s when theory has value.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What online technologies does Union College’s Master of Science in Digital Marketing and Communications use to facilitate students’ engagement with faculty, peers, and course content?
[Dr. Williams] We use the Moodle learning management system, and it is something we have used for a number of years. The program is asynchronous because it’s designed for people who are in jobs where they don’t have time to dedicate to a specific three-hour block every week, but can dedicate that same amount of time throughout the week, according to their schedules.
The typical class size is 14 and we limit class size to 25, as we are a small school we like to prioritize small student-to-faculty ratios so that students get individualized answers to their questions and more personalized support. There are discussion questions posted every week about the topics. Students conduct the research, and then have interactions with everyone within their class through these discussion forums. There are also case studies and research projects on a weekly basis within each class.
We are a small and traditional school with about a thousand students. Between our education master’s program, psychology master’s programs, and administration and business programs, we have about 300 graduate students, so you can expect to see many of the same students in your classes, and you build relationships and build a network through these classes.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Union College’s Master of Science in Digital Marketing & Communications program? How can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems?
[Dr. Williams] Our faculty offer online office hours, and also offer email and phone numbers that students can use to contact them if they have questions. We also have dedicated advising staff. In fact, the first person you talk to when you’re applying to Union College will end up being your advisor throughout the program. Your advisors help you put together a road map for all your classes, and how you will progress from joining our program through graduation. They also help you with financial aid and anything else that you need at Union College.
One of the things that distinguishes us the most here at Union College is that we are a small school, and this level of personalization that students get is one of the benefits of attending a small school. So you’ve got a chance to develop a relationship with those professors. You will not be a number, and your educational experience will be much more personalized.
We also have a whole online tutoring system that is available 24/7 that students from all our programs take advantage of. There is also a department on campus that helps students with their resumes and their interview skills, support that can be accessed online or via phone.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For students who are interested in Union College’s Master of Science in Digital Marketing & Communications program, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?
[Dr. Williams] While this is a new program, the specifics around application/admission requirements are that we expect our typical students to have two or more years of experience in the business world. We also look for a clearly stated objective for why they want to enroll in our program, and what they hope to contribute to the program. Most of our students are going back to school because they are looking for something to set them apart and help them grow their career to the next level.
In terms of letters of recommendation, we are happy to see letters from people within education and within industry. Both of them carry great weight with us. For the statement of goals and objectives, we’re looking for students who have some experience within digital marketing or who want to move into the digital marketing world, and they have plans for their growth in their careers in these areas.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Union College’s Master of Science in Digital Marketing & Communications program unique and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students? What are some standout aspects of this program that you would like students to know about?
[Dr. Williams] When we designed our MBA, we looked at these four core courses and saw them as a match for a series of master’s degrees. And we offer what is called a Union College Dual Master’s Program, where you can pursue your Master’s of Digital Marketing and Communications Management and your MBA at the same time. And you’ll have four overlapping courses that are included in both programs. So whereas in many MBAs you would take your MBA plus four courses to specialize, you can push your MBA and take six courses and end up with a second master’s degree in digital marketing, information systems, or healthcare administration. That is a major point of differentiation for us at Union College.
If you’re looking to differentiate yourself specifically in marketing, because really all marketing is digital marketing now, our program is an excellent option. We went with a digital marketing degree versus a more traditional marketing program because the marketing landscape has permanently shifted and we feel graduate degree programs need to provide for this. The feedback that I have gotten from teaching the E-Commerce and the Social Media Marketing courses have been extremely positive, as they meet students’ current needs in these areas and keep them updated as to the relevant developments in marketing technology.
Another distinction for us is the fact that we are $340.00 a credit hour, so that means that each class is $1,020.00. That is an excellent value, especially for the faculty attention that you get per student. And that all goes back to where I started because our mission at Union College has always been to serve economically depressed areas. When we decided to get into online education, that mission translated into very reasonable online classes that really set us apart from schools that are in much more urban locations.
Thank you, Dr. Williams, for your excellent insight into Union College’s Master of Science in Digital Marketing & Communications program!