About Garrett Broad, Ph.D.: Garrett Broad is the Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University. As Director, he oversees curriculum development for the Department’s Master of Arts in Public Media program. In addition, he serves as students’ initial advisor in the program, and manages external partnerships that the program has with non-profit organizations and public media organizations within the New York City and surrounding areas.
As an Assistant Professor, Dr. Broad also teaches classes in public media theory and practice, strategic communication, persuasive messaging, and communication for environmental sustainability. His research focuses on media and communication of social movements, particularly around issues of the environment, animal rights, and the food system. In his environmental communication class, Dr. Broad discusses how media and communication shapes the way people think about environment and environmental sustainability challenges, as well as how individuals and communities can use media and communication as a force for positive environmental change and long-term ecological sustainability.
Dr. Broad’s research has been published in Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, the Journal of Applied Communication Research, and Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies. His book, More Than Just Food: Food Justice and Community Change was published in 2016 by the University of California Press.
Dr. Broad earned his Bachelor of Arts from Rutgers University, and his Master of Arts and Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please elaborate on your responsibilities as Director of the Master of Arts in Public Media program at Fordham University?
[Dr. Broad] I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies here at Fordham. We are the largest major here on campus, at the undergraduate level, and have course offerings across a wide swath of areas within the broader field of communication and media studies. We have undergraduate majors in communication and culture, a journalism major, a digital technology and emerging media major, and a film and television major which also has a production component to it.
In 2016, we launched a new master’s program, our MA in Public Media. We’re in our third year. As Director of Graduate Studies for the Department, I am in charge of administration, as well as intellectual leadership. We are still a pretty new program, which means that our areas of expertise are continuing to expand and evolve, as are the conceptual and practical tools that we offer students. Our program is fairly small, with about 20 students in a given cohort per year, and I as Director try to get to know each and every student in the program very well. This focus on each individual aligns with the Jesuit mission here at Fordham. We talk a lot about cura personalis, which is a Latin term for “take care of the whole person.” So with this mission in mind, I really do get to know each of our graduate students and figure out what their desired intellectual or professional trajectory is, and how we can help them get where they want to be.
That also means, in addition to our curriculum, which I’ll talk more about as this conversation continues, I bring in experts and professionals to run career and research-oriented workshops and events. Our department seeks to be really responsive to what is new and interesting happening in the world of media and communication and what our students are looking for.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Fordham University’s Master of Arts in Public Media program, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?
[Dr. Broad] When we were working to design the MA in Public Media, our aim was to build an MA program that was intellectually rigorous but also practically beneficial to our students. We wanted a combination of theory and practice that prepared our students to work in a rapidly evolving and challenging world of media and communication. And so the development of the program and of the curriculum is based around those goals—this hybrid of theory and practice, as well as a strong commitment to social change, civic engagement, and social justice.
We are a Jesuit institution, which means we are connected to a broader Jesuit network and are informed by Jesuit values, which are guided by an awareness of and a commitment to address social injustice. That said, we are definitely a secular program, in that our faculty and curriculum focus on relevant concepts, skills, and issues in the field of public media. We focus on how we can train our students to be productive, active agents for social justice in the world–that’s key to what we do when we talk about theory and practice as well. We believe in the power and the importance of intellectual exploration and scholarly theory, but we also believe that you need to engage with the world, and so the whole curriculum is built around this notion—the idea that theory and practice of communication should inform and encourage social action and civic engagement.
We have two tracks in the program: one is in Multiplatform Journalism, and the other is in Strategic Communication. There are some differences between the tracks, but there is overlap as well, and increasingly we have looked to empower students to have more of a say in the courses they select—for instance, if they want to straddle the line between multiplatform journalism and strategic communication. Both tracks have the goal of helping students develop into effective and ethical communication professionals. In this age of journalism, strategic communication, and public relations, there is overlap between these professions, and a lot of folks who work as journalists find themselves working as advocacy professionals. Similarly, public relations professionals and strategic communication professionals often find themselves collaborating with journalists, and sometimes even find themselves working as authors and journalists. And so the idea of this program was to put those two areas together and figure out how the career path of the journalist and the strategic communicator intersect. Our goal is to empower students with a wide range of skills applicable to both industries.
In terms of how this plays out at the curriculum level, this program is accelerated and designed to be a one-year program. We hit the ground running that first semester. The curriculum is divided into several components: fundamentals, core classes, week-long intensives that focus on skill-building, track-specific courses, two electives or internships, and a special master’s project.
Prior to the beginning of each semester in the year-long program, students take a five-day multimedia intensive, during which they learn key multimedia and storytelling skills. The August intensive, Multimedia Tools, teaches students how to complete basic multimedia production work, and how to tell stories across audio, video, and web-based platforms. The second intensive, which students complete in January, is Fundamentals of Web Design, during which students learn the principles of creating functional websites using web authoring tools, HTML, graphics, and multimedia elements.
Students take two core classes; the first is common to both tracks, Public Media Theory and Practice, which I currently teach. This class runs the gamut in terms of the different kinds of communication theories, big-picture debates, and contemporary issues in the study and practice of media and communication for social change. We spend a lot of time talking about the role of media in society, the role of journalism in society, the role of advocacy and strategic communication in society and social progress. This course is designed to give students experience in the debates about what the ethics of media and communication in the 21st century are, and what we can learn from history.
Using the foundation established in Public Media Theory and Practice, students then take their choice of either Public Journalism or Strategic Communication. The Public Journalism class covers the theories, history, and central conventions of journalism in the public interest, and covers the different forms that public service and non-profit journalism take, in both print and online forms. The Strategic Communication course discusses communication both within an organization and between an organization and its various stakeholders, and gets into the nuts and bolts of how influence happens. How do we develop strategic communication and media plans to make change happen? This class is based on a lot of real-world scenarios around advocacy and communication.
After those core classes, students have a great deal of flexibility in terms of the other courses they choose. For example, for their fundamentals requirement, students must take one class in theoretical and ethical contexts, and another in technology and civic engagement, but within those two parameters students can choose between courses in areas such as media ethics, social media, digital media and social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, race and gender in media, and the environment in media, just to name a few. Next, students take two classes specific to their concentration. Journalism track students can take classes in video narrative, cross-platform journalism, audio reporting and production, and data journalism, while individuals in the Strategic Communication track can take electives in civic media, cross-platform production, and public relations for the public interest. Given the size of our program, we don’t offer each of these courses every year, so students are encouraged to take classes from the other track in the program, as well as a wide variety of other classes from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Students’ two required electives gives them additional opportunities to take classes from the other track in the program, as well as a wide variety of other classes from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Students also have the option of taking classes from other schools such as the Gabelli School of Business, The Law School and the Graduate School of Social Service.
Our instructors for these courses are divided between our full-time academic faculty with PhDs, and actual professionals in industry who teach our more practical, hands-on courses. We also have a variety of partnerships with organizations and institutions in public media and corporate media who work in advocacy. For example, we have a course that is taught by a digital transitions editor at the New York Times, who had experience working for the Obama for America campaign.
We have another class that is taught through a collaboration between WFUV Radio, which is the public radio based here out of Fordham, and WNYC Radio, which is a major New York City based public radio station. We seek every opportunity to bring real-world authorities in the industry, as well as real scenarios and challenges, into our classrooms. Our hybrid of theory and practice gives students the critical and practical skills to be effective and ethical storytellers for social change and social justice in the 21st century.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students of Fordham University’s Master of Arts in Public Media program must complete a Special Master’s Project. Could you elaborate on this requirement, and what it entails?
[Dr. Broad] The Special Project is very flexible, allowing students to create something that matches their experience, interests, and goals. We’ve had students who have done a very formal and structured strategic communication plan, and others who have done more creative work. For example, I had a student last semester whom we were able to partner with a city government here in New York. Her project concerned the city’s schools, which had put together a Meatless Monday campaign to try to promote healthy eating and sustainability. They were finding that this campaign in the schools wasn’t working very well. The students were seeing a decline in participation. Our student was on the strategic communication side, and so she conducted a lot of research, several participant observations, a bunch of interviews with food service providers, school officials, teachers, and students at various grade levels. And then she used all the data she gathered to reboot their campaign for them. She also wrote a final strategic communication report for the staff in the city government and developed a lot of multimedia content—posters, graphics, etc., that they could use to promote their initiative to parents and students.
And within a few months, she was hired full-time in a different part of city government in the Department of Public Health. So this was a direct example of one of our students who was thinking about the issues relevant to her desired area of work, and developed this capstone project around it, which led her to an employed position. Hers was an example of exactly how this program was designed to work.
We’ve also had students do documentaries and long-form podcast series. It really is all about the students developing projects that are aligned with the mission of our program, which is media and communication and storytelling for social change, and which puts their skills to use. There are a certain number of hours that they’re required to work, and they work with a carefully selected faculty mentor that we try to match during the fall semester with them so that they can really build their project into something complete and meaningful that they’re proud of by the end of the summer.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Fordham University’s Master of Arts in Public Media program? Independent of faculty instruction and support, what career development resources and academic services are available to students, and how can they make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems?
[Dr. Broad] From the first semester, I serve as everybody’s advisor to start. And so for much of the fall semester, I make sure I meet with everybody in those first couple weeks of school to help them chart out what they want their trajectory to be. As we get into October, I start to ask them to formulate some basic ideas, what kinds of things they might be interested in investigating both in their classes and in their final research project. And through our discussions, I find opportunities to introduce them to different faculty through courses, events, office hours, and other avenues.
As I know the faculty pretty well, I am able to set up meetings between students and faculty I think would be able to support their interests. These meetings progress through October, November, and then by December, we try to have a formal mentor assigned to each student so that mentor and student can begin working together on the student’s final project through the whole of the spring semester and then all the way into the summer. Through the years our program has progressed to start matching students up with their mentors earlier in the fall semester so they can hit the ground running in the spring.
We offer several ways for students to get some financial support during their time in the program, the first being an hourly position with the McGannon Center for Communication Research on campus. We also have a discretionary budget within the department, which allows students to receive support to attend conferences to present a paper. Most of our students are professionally oriented, so the conferences that we send students to are not limited to the academic realm. I had a few students last year, for example, who found out about a women’s rights conference in Detroit that intersected with their interests in communication for social change, and they approached me, saying, “We think this conference would be great for our networking and professional development, as this event has trainings and workshops, as well as people who are working on initiatives that we care about.” And we were able to absolutely give them some support. We offer a baseline of $500 for conference travel, though their budget can be higher than that, depending on the case the student makes for what his or her needs are.
There are also additional funding opportunities that come from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, which students can also apply for, and which can fund their attendance at conferences, as well as their own independent research. And those grants can get as high as $1,000. What I emphasize with all of my students is, whatever you want to do, come talk to me, let’s talk because we’ve got a budget, we live in New York City, and we can make things happen. Don’t be shy, and advocate for yourself. If there’s a course you want to take, if there’s a workshop or conference you want to attend, our program is small enough that we can really cater to the needs and interests of our students in that individualized way.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in Fordham University’s Master of Arts in Public Media program, what advice do you have for submitting a competitive application?
[Dr. Broad] The biggest thing we look for is someone who gets our mission statement, and what we are trying to do as a program. So if you are interested in the role that media plays in social change, that’s the biggest thing we look for. Beyond that, of course we want you to be a strong writer, and if you have media production skills, that is a bonus, but not required. What we are looking for first and foremost is a passion for an understanding of the role that media and communication play in social change, as well as a desire to develop practical skills to be an effective change-maker who uses media and communication to promote social justice.
I will say that the applications that do not do as well are those that come from individuals who have not done sufficient research into our program. They might say generally, “I want to get into PR,” or “I’ve always wanted to be a journalist.” And while we support both PR and journalism, and while those fields are central to our program’s curriculum, the question these applicants need to answer is, “Do you want to do public relations or journalism work that advocates for social causes and making the world a better place?”
Given the flexibility we have with taking other courses outside of our department as well as within our department, not every class in the program has to be about social justice and social change, but it’s a big part of what we do, and so the best candidates are ones who get that and who have an equal commitment to using media for social change.
We also look for a history of strong academic and/or professional performance—so good grades, and a strong track record in their career. In general, we have a cutoff of 3.0 for undergraduate GPA, and we prefer higher than that; that said, we are willing under special circumstances to consider applicants whose GPA is a little lower than this baseline. The personal statement is probably the most powerful component of the application. It shows us that you get what we’re doing and that you can see yourself being a part of what we are trying to achieve as a program, and as a university.
The GRE is not required for general admission into the program, but it is required by the graduate school for consideration for merit-based aid, so we do strongly urge students to take the GRE, if they want to be considered for any merit-based aid.
In addition to undergraduate transcripts and the personal statement, we also ask for a writing sample from journalism students, and welcome students to submit any additional components of their portfolio that show off multimedia that they’ve done in the past. This element of the application is optional for the strategic communication students.
We do ask for letters of recommendation, which can be from academic or professional references. Certainly if you have a faculty member from a previous university who can speak to your intellectual chops and your work ethic, that is an excellent option. If it’s someone you’ve worked with in a professional context, such as a supervisor, that also works very well. I advise asking someone who can attest to your commitment, your competence, and your writing abilities.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Fordham University’s Master of Arts in Public Media program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Broad] One of the main attractions for students and something that we really endeavor to take advantage of is the fact that we are in New York City. There are so many resources available to students and so many places with state-of-the-art multimedia centers. While we provide top-notch multimedia tools on campus, nothing can replace having an international media hub such as New York City at your fingertips. We are in the media capital of the world, and you can step out of our campus and, on any given day, be at ten different events listening to the top professionals in media, journalism, and communication. And as a program, we are incredibly proactive in bringing these industry experts in for events and conferences. Some of them are also teaching courses for us, which is an incredible opportunity for students.
Our program is titled an MA in Public Media but by that we mean media in the public interest. Therefore part of what we do is partner with specific public media outlets like WFUV, WNYC, and Bronx Net. As I mentioned before, we have a course that is co-taught between WFUV and WNYC, which are two of the most well-known public radio stations in the region. We’ve had other courses taught by people who work at the New York Times, and people who work for CBS. We also have an instructor who was a longtime producer for 60 Minutes who now runs a nonprofit media organization. We have another course taught by someone who works for DoSomething.org, which is a kind of digital social action organization. We have connections to Bronx Net as well. A lot of our connections are in the public interest media field.
The other thing that I think is a real asset for our program is the small cohort model we have, averaging about 18-20 students per year. Our faculty really get to know you by name, and as graduate director, I get to know each student individually. We have this very flexible curriculum for you that you can craft according to your interests and goals, and which includes both a strong curriculum and practical internship opportunities. To me, the only way that you can make an MA program like this work is by helping each individual student achieve what they’re trying to achieve, and that comes from individual mentorship.
The other thing that is important to mention is we have really high-quality faculty. I’ve talked a lot already about our professional-oriented faculty, and they’re spectacular, but we also have excellent faculty who come from the more academic orientation, who are excited, energetic, and passionate about developing scholar activism. I’m speaking for myself as well as many of my colleagues in our department. A lot of our research projects are not just about creating academic work, but also about creating a sense of public engagement. This is also the case with a number of our senior faculty who have been doing this for a long time. Our faculty see the value of theory and academic scholarship, but also really like to do community-engaged scholarship.
Finally, I would say that in the program, we try to be super accessible to prospective students, and try to give you that sense right from the start that you’re part of a family here. We truly want to help you get to where you want to be. And New York City offers a spectacular opportunity to make that happen.
Thank you, Dr. Broad, for your excellent insight into Fordham University’s Master of Arts in Public Media program!