About Kristi S. Gilmore, Ph.D., APR: Kristi S. Gilmore is an Assistant Professor of Practice in Public Relations and the Director of the Online Master’s program at Texas Tech University’s College of Media & Communication. Dr. Gilmore has more than 20 years of experience in the field of public relations, working in the areas of corporate communication, crisis management, nonprofit communications, strategic public relations, marketing, and program development. She assumed responsibility for the Online Master’s program, as it combines her professional experience with her academic background to provide communication professionals with access to an advanced degree that will help them achieve their professional goals and objectives. As Director, she manages curriculum development, advises students, and oversees the administration of the program’s learning management systems. Dr. Gilmore received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Birmingham-Southern College, her master’s in communications from the University of West Florida, and her doctorate in mass communications from Syracuse University.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Texas Tech University’s online Master’s Program in Strategic Communication and Innovation, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?
[Dr. Gilmore] Texas Tech University’s online Master’s Program in Strategic Communication and Innovation is a 30-hour, fully-online program designed for communication professionals. It was created to be as flexible as possible by allowing students to take as many or as few classes as they want each semester based on busy work/family/life schedules. Most students complete the program in 18-24 months, although the program could be completed faster if the students’ schedule allows.
Communication professionals in the program are focused on career advancement in a number of fields including corporate communications, organizational management, consulting, entrepreneurship, nonprofit management/communications, public affairs, international communication, marketing and education.
Of the ten courses, seven are required and focus on strategic communication, communication theory and research, and the skills necessary to communicate in an ever-changing, global society. The courses are designed to encourage students to focus on areas of interest through project-based learning where they can apply the material to their respective fields and/or organizations. The required courses include:
- MCOM 5366 Seminar in Mass Communication Theory
- MCOM 5364 Research Methods
- MCOM 5310 Strategic Communication Planning and Writing
- MCOM 5312 Media Management, Entrepreneuership & Consulting
- MCOM 5314 Strategic Communication in a Global Environment
- MCOM 5316 Communication in Organizations
- MCOM 6050 Master’s Report Final Project (Applied Research Project)
The students can select three electives from the following list, which allows them to focus on media production, social media skills, data analysis or other classes that best fit their career needs and interests. The elective choices include the following:
- MCOM 5318 Advanced Social Media
- MCOM 5321 Production of Digital Media Content
- MCOM 5322 Multimedia Story Telling
- MCOM 5324 Audience/Data Analyais & Reporting
- MCOM 5334 Interpersonal Communication
- MCOM 5332 Special Topics (Relevant Topics of the Day)
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe how students of Texas Tech University’s Master’s Program in Strategic Communication and Innovation engage with course faculty and peers using online technologies?
[Dr. Gilmore] While the goal of the program is to make each class as engaging as possible, all of our courses are offered asynchronously to make them accessible and available in the most flexible manner possible for our working professionals. Our instructors encourage students’ engagement with course concepts, as well as with their peers and faculty mentors, by providing interactive materials, putting themselves in the virtual classroom as much as possible, interacting with students individually and as a group on a regular basis, and encouraging student discussions and team projects.
For each of our instructors who conduct online classes, we train them in our online learning engagement tools. Instructors have a great deal of autonomy in how they use our online technologies to connect with students in their classes. Some of our faculty also schedule face-to-face video chats or other synchronous online sessions to support students in their learning. For example, I do individual Skype calls with each of my students every semester.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students must complete an applied research project. Could you elaborate on this requirement, and what it entails?
[Dr. Gilmore] The applied research project is an individual project determined by the student, based on their interests and career needs. Many students choose to do a research project to help an organization for which they either work or volunteer. This could be a survey of people in a volunteer organization to determine how to increase participation, an experiment to determine what social media posts get the most engagement from a company’s customer base, a series of focus groups to determine what employees want from an organization’s leadership, etc. Each student’s project is done under the supervision and guidance of a professor, who assesses the project via a final paper/presentation. While I serve as the one-on-one project advisor for most students in the program, we have other professors who volunteer to supervise these projects, and as we grow, I anticipate more faculty members will join in supporting students.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Texas Tech University’s Master’s Program in Strategic Communication and Innovation? Independent of faculty instruction and support, what career development resources and academic services are available to online students, and how can they make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems while in the program?
[Dr. Gilmore] The program director acts as advisor to all students, working with them to create individualized degree plans that fit the students schedule and professional goals. In addition, all online students at Texas Tech have access to 24/7 Worldwide eLearning Support, which provides them with around-the-clock assistance with technical issues, admissions, financial aid, student accounts and registration. Online students also have full access to the Texas Tech Library’s resources, as well as the Graduate Writing Center. Our students tend to be very motivated, as the majority of them are working professionals; therefore we find that a lot of our students are highly self-sufficient and yet also proactive in reaching out if/when they need support.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in Texas Tech University’s Master’s Program in Strategic Communication and Innovation, what advice do you have for submitting a competitive application?
[Dr. Gilmore] The selection committee is looking for student who will benefit from the program. Prospective students should use the application process to showcase their professional experience, their ability to successfully complete academic work (via grades, transcripts, etc.), and their reason for wanting to get a master’s degree.
Students are also required to submit a writing sample, and I encourage them to submit a piece that they feel is indicative of their priorities and the work they will do in the program. In general, we want professional writing samples that showcase their ability to communicate effectively to the audience for which the piece is intended. We receive everything from plans to scripts to press releases.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Texas Tech University’s online Master’s Program in Strategic Communication and Innovation unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Gilmore] Texas Tech University’s online Master’s Program in Strategic Communication and Innovation is uniquely positioned to help communication professionals because of its focus, content and flexibility. It was built under the direction of professionals to meet the needs of professionals. Its strengths lie in its strategic focus, the highly relevant and cutting-edge content we deliver to our students, and the flexibility of our courses:
- Focus – The program focuses on strategic communication in response to research done on the changing role of communications in an ever-changing, global society. The demands on these professionals are more complex than ever and this curriculum is designed to address those challenges.
- Content – The professors that teach in this program are full-time employees of Texas Tech so they can focus on our program and our students. In addition, they have professional backgrounds – they know what communication professionals need and what materials/resources to bring to the table to best help students achieve their goals.
- Flexibility – The program consists of only ten classes and is fully online, asynchronous and allows for individualized degree plans with no residency requirement.
Thank you, Dr. Gilmore, for your insight into Texas Tech University’s online Master’s Program in Strategic Communication and Innovation program!