About. Kami J. Silk, Ph.D.: Kami J. Silk is the Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Communication and Chairperson of the Department of Communication at the University of Delaware. As the Chair of the Department, Dr. Silk leads the development of undergraduate and graduate programs, mentors faculty members and students, develops partnerships, fundraises, and implements a strategic vision for the program, which includes the Strategic Communication MA Program.
Dr. Silk also maintains a strong externally funded program of research in health communication. She is a researcher with the NIH funded Breast Cancer and Environment Research Program where she engages in audience analysis and message design research as well as intervention design. Dr. Silk has helped to design campus campaigns aimed at changing social norms around mental health support, and encouraging students to seek help for suicide prevention and to reduce problematic drinking, and she consults with the National Social Norms Center. She also has worked directly with young teen mothers to help them improve their infant feeding skills, which serves as an obesity reduction strategy for children.
Previously the Senior Associate Dean of Research in the College of Communication at Michigan State University, Dr. Silk also was the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, a Graduate Director, a Lilly Teaching Fellow, and a Big Ten Alliance Leadership Fellow. Prior to her academic career, Dr. Silk worked in the private healthcare industry and for an international nonprofit organization. Dr. Silk earned a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Georgia, and her M.A. in Communication as well as her B.A. in English and Mass Communication from Bloomsburg University. Dr. Silk teaches organizational communication, health communication, persuasion, and research focused courses.
About Tara L. Smith, APR: Tara Smith is an instructor of public relations at the University of Delaware and founder of Tara Lynn Communications. She has more than 10 years of experience in public relations and corporate communications, working for a range of organizations, from non-profits and small agencies to global corporations and media conglomerates. In the fall of 2016, she launched her independent public relations consultancy, which specializes in media relations, employee engagement, thought leadership, and event promotion. Previously, Ms. Smith lived in New York City, and worked at the headquarters of NBCUniversal News Group, Time Warner Inc., and Ketchum Public Relations.
Since 2006, Ms. Smith has been active in the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). She served nationally on the Educational Affairs Committee, was an officer of the Board of Directors for PRSA New York, and a judge of the chapter’s Big Apple Awards. In 2017, Tara earned her Accreditation in Public Relations.
Throughout her career, Ms. Smith’s work gained recognition from the CLIOs, SABREs, and the PRSA Silver Anvil Award. In college, she was also selected as PR Week Magazine’s Student of the Year. Ms. Smith earned her M.S. in public relations and corporate communication from New York University with distinction, and a B.A. in public relations from The Pennsylvania State University.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of the University of Delaware’s Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication program, and how it is structured? What topics are covered in the core curriculum, and how can students tailor their program of study in their electives? May we have more information about the concentrations in Public Relations and Digital and Social Media?
[Dr. Silk and Ms. Smith] The University of Delaware’s Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication gives students the necessary theoretical, methodological, and practical tools to thrive in the field of strategic communication. It also allows students to build a program that best fits their own professional goals.
The core courses of the curriculum provide a foundation in strategic communication and a deep understanding of theories and principles that underpin much of the work of strategic communication professionals. The core curriculum teaches students necessary research methodologies that professionals use to determine the effectiveness of communication messages and campaigns they create and implement, and how to do so in the most ethical way.
Students have the option of choosing a concentration in either Public Relations or Digital and Social Media. Those who choose the Public Relations concentration will get a nuanced view of the Public Relations industry and gain knowledge as well as hands-on experience necessary to build and enhance their skill sets. Specifically, students will create persuasive messages and a public relations campaign, develop the ability to write content, increase their evaluation skills, and build their strategic communication capabilities to effectively work with clients who need to improve their public reputations or need to work through an organizational crisis.
Those students who choose the Digital and Social Media concentration will gain a deeper understanding of the importance of digital and social media to today’s strategic communication professionals. Students will develop the skills necessary to successfully craft communication messages targeted at the most desired audiences they can find across digital and social media platforms. Students will learn how to effectively write multi-platform messages, and will analyze data generated by digital and social media users so that professionals can more effectively create content to maximize its effectiveness.
Students also have the option of creating their own concentration, utilizing courses from both the Public Relations and the Digital and Social Media concentrations. This approach allows students with specific career goals in mind to choose courses that best fit their professional needs.
Finally, all students are required to complete a Capstone project upon completion of all other coursework. The Capstone requirement allows students to apply the knowledge and skills they’ve gained through their coursework to strategic communication projects of students’ own design and under the supervision of a faculty member.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Can we have more information on the online technologies the University of Delaware’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication uses to facilitate student interactions with peers and instructors? Does this program use primarily asynchronous instruction, synchronous instruction, or a combination of both?
[Dr. Silk and Ms. Smith] UD’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication primarily uses asynchronous instruction to give students the flexibility to juggle work, school, families, or other personal demands within a schedule that suits their needs. Each seven-week course in our program features engaging content such as videos, group discussions, and interactive assignments, and some courses offer remote conference opportunities to speak with guest speakers via Zoom. In fact, Zoom Pro video conferencing is available free of charge to all faculty, staff, and students with a @udel.edu email address.
Canvas is the learning management system students will use for all coursework. For anyone who isn’t familiar with it, Canvas is extremely user-friendly and makes course management a seamless process for both the student and instructor. Assignments and due dates are located on your homepage and course content is easy to navigate even if you’ve never used a learning management system before. You will be able to interact with fellow students and your instructor through Canvas, but you can also elect to receive notifications such as an alert when you’ve received feedback on an assignment, or when someone has replied to your comment in a group discussion. You can also upload audio or video assignments directly through Canvas without the use of third-party platforms.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students of the University of Delaware’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication must complete a Strategic Communication Capstone. Could you please elaborate on this requirement, and what it entails?
[Dr. Silk and Ms. Smith] The goal of the capstone project is to provide a culminating experience that allows students to demonstrate mastery of knowledge gained throughout the program. The majority of our students are working professionals who have a wide range of exciting ideas that can fit the capstone requirement. Thus, the capstone requirement is designed to be flexible so that it meets the academic and professional needs of students. Here is how it works.
Students have the responsibility of identifying and proposing their capstone projects. They will work directly with a faculty member who will approve the project and serve as a resource to the student as they conceptualize, develop, and implement the project. Projects might include an extension of a course assignment, a newly focused portfolio of work, a campaign proposal, a market research project, intervention development, training modules, corporate communication materials, or other widely defined strategic communication projects. Once a project is approved, the student will work independently to complete it under the supervision of an assigned faculty member. The supervising faculty member will evaluate the project and the student will showcase their work with a final presentation of the work via portfolio, Zoom presentation, and/or online poster session.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in the University of Delaware’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication? How can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems?
[Dr. Silk and Ms. Smith] Faculty in the University of Delaware’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication are committed to providing a 360-degree learning experience that transcends the online learning environment. We understand the importance of real-time feedback on both coursework and your professional development. That’s one of the reasons we offer virtual office hours, so that you can speak directly with your instructor if you have questions or concerns. We also encourage you to use these opportunities to network and build bonds with faculty and classmates, who can expand on what you learn about the day-to-day work of a strategic communication practitioner.
Beyond the courses you take, the University of Delaware is a student-focused institution that is focused on helping you thrive in your career. For example, the university’s career center offers a variety of free resources available to graduate students that do not require being on campus such as an online system where you can submit your resume for critique and feedback, a virtual platform to prepare for your next job interview, access to job listings, and much more.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes the University of Delaware’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students? How does the program prepare students particularly well for a variety of careers in public relations, digital and social media management, and other fields?
[Dr. Silk and Ms. Smith] What makes the University of Delaware’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication unique is the expertise and skills our faculty bring to the table. You will learn from professors who conduct award-winning research on timely topics ranging from media policy to health communication, as well as instructors who have worked as practitioners in various industries for Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, and global communication agencies. The program’s curriculum also reflects the breadth of our faculty’s research interests and professional backgrounds. After completing your core and degree option courses, we offer a diverse array of electives, including the option to select your preference of electives to create a customized degree. Finally, faculty in our program serve as student advisers so you get practical advice to support your career.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in the University of Delaware’s online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?
[Dr. Silk and Ms. Smith] Don’t overlook the importance of your personal statement. Grades and resumes only paint part of the picture. Take the time to evaluate why you want to obtain this degree, and how the program can help elevate your career. You may want to share your personal statement with writers of your recommendation letters to give them more context about your background and plans to pursue this degree. Overall, your application should help convey why you are a good fit for this particular program.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Students of master’s in communication programs often must balance work, internships, coursework, and rigorous research projects. What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully navigating their online graduate school experience, and making the most of the opportunities presented to them?
[Dr. Silk and Ms. Smith] Time management is everything! In order to be successful, it’s important to carve out the necessary time each week to complete assigned readings, submit coursework, and complete projects. In our program, students can expect to spend approximately 19 hours per week on a given course, though this can vary by the week, and by the course. Part of that time can also be used to engage with your course instructors and connect with peers. Tap into the faculty in this program and your cohort of students to further your understanding of strategic communication outside of your courses, and to build professional connections that can last throughout your career.
Thank you, Dr. Silk and Ms. Smith, for your excellent insight into the University of Delaware’s Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication program!