About Dr. Michael Hazel, Ph.D.: Michael Hazel is the Department Chair for Gonzaga University’s Department of Communication and Leadership Studies, where he also teaches courses as an Associate Professor. As Chair, Dr. Hazel is engaged with many of the administrative aspects of the Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership Studies program, including student recruitment, enrollment, and advising. He also participates in curriculum design and development for the Department, and supports faculty in their teaching of courses and in additions and modifications to their course content.

Dr. Hazel earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication from Gonzaga University in 1990, after which he traveled abroad in Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. He taught English in Japan for two years before attending Washington State University for his Master of Arts in Communication, which he received in 1995. He returned to Japan to teach English at Immaculate Heart College in Southern Japan before returning to Washington State University to earn his interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Communication, Statistics, and Psychology.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have an overview of your professional and academic background in communication, and your current role as Chair of the Department of Communication and Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University?

[Dr. Hazel] I actually attended Gonzaga as an undergraduate back in the eighties, the Stranger Things days. I was a speech communication major as an undergraduate. In my junior year I went to Italy, and it set me on a completely different career trajectory. I was going to be a lawyer and I had a very set plan. And traveling for a year in Europe and going to Italy opened up a whole level of new ideas and possibilities. Gonzaga is also a Jesuit school with a strong tradition of emphasizing the importance of oral and written communication and critical thinking.

After graduating, I backpacked around southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, and then ended up teaching English in Japan for two years. And it was that experience, and not being prepared for how important intercultural communication is in all sorts of contexts, that prompted me to want to study this area in graduate school. Living and working in Japan further fueled my desire to study advanced communication studies, with a particular emphasis on intercultural communication.

After leaving Japan, I ended up going to Washington State University and had a really excellent experience there. I wanted to complete my Ph.D. there, but I ended up marrying a Japanese woman I met in Japan, and her family wanted us to stay close. So I moved back to Japan and ended up getting a great teaching position at Immaculate Heart College in Southern Japan. After a time, I decided I really wanted to raise my kids in the States, and pursue my Ph.D. So I applied to and enrolled in Washington State University’s Ph.D. program, where I completed an interdisciplinary doctoral degree that incorporated statistics, clinical and counseling psychology, and communication.

What I noticed when I was teaching at WSU (and in myself, as I actually have high speech anxiety), were students who were extremely reticent and struggling a lot with anxiety. So my study for my doctorate degree involved taking interventions from counseling and clinical psych and then destigmatizing their challenges. Instead of categorizing or pathologizing these struggles as a phobia, my study advocated for incorporating speech anxiety mitigation methods into the learning environment, and seeing it as a way to enhance performance. Telling students, “Hey, if you have anxiety, these are things that can really be helpful. And this can also help performance.” And so that is where my research started.

And then I had an opportunity to work at Gonzaga and came back. I taught undergrad for four or five years and then moved to the graduate program. Now, as Chair of of the Department of Communication and Leadership Studies, I support students in the graduate programs here, and also engage in curriculum development. Part of my job is very much administrative–I address student issues, and work within a system to try to facilitate process. So when a student wants to substitute one course for another, or wants to return to the program after a hiatus, I am the one processing all that and signing off on it. The other part is supporting faculty and helping us as a team create and realize our vision as a Department. And that can be challenging, especially when you have faculty that have very different views. So it’s sort of a lived experience of trying to apply what we teach internally, in our academic setting, to lead change and to optimize the health of the degree in a pretty competitive environment.

And then there is the fun stuff that I love, which is curricular design and curricular improvement, getting under the hood and working on cool classes, trying what we can do to make the learning experience for the student in the online space better; a space I was very initially skeptical about, but have seen great results from the outcomes from our students. I am engaged in research as well. But honestly, truth be told, that’s kind of taken a backdrop. I just don’t have the time and effort to devote to that now. But I’m looking forward to getting back into that at some point.

I absolutely love my job at Gonzaga. I initially wanted to go into counseling and psychology because I loved psych and I loved performance psychology and facilitating the process of helping people be better. But when I talked to my mentor, he very correctly said, “That area requires a lot of time and effort, and the return on investment isn’t always clear. Whereas in the communication space, you can do research in performance psychology, counseling, and see the dramatic impact of your work with high-functioning people, such as students and working professionals.” Communication is an excellent field because it’s that kind of nexus discipline that allows you a lot of flexibility–you can apply it to so many objectives and contexts.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Gonzaga University’s online Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership Studies program, and how it is structured? What topics are covered in the core curriculum and electives, and what are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?

[Dr. Hazel] Given that we are a values-based institution steeped in a community-focused tradition, we emphasize the importance of being an agent for positive social change using your knowledge and degree for that purpose. We also have a real focus on cultivating an awareness of your identity, values, and ethics. I think that’s a really important underpinning of what we are trying to do. Oftentimes we see students coming into our programs for very instrumental reasons. I am an example of this–I wanted to get an MA because I wanted to teach, and I wanted to get a PhD because I wanted to be a professor. And I got great training and it was helpful. But what we are often seeing is students coming in for one purpose. What we are asking them to engage in is a deeper dive of understanding themselves, others, and how those identities fit into a pretty complex society.

The kinds of questions we ask are often driving them to a sort of deeper examination. And they end up sometimes going, “Wow, I came in for this purpose, but now I feel like I have this additional purpose, or now I’m thinking about changing directions.” And that is reflective of Gonzaga’s commitment to thinking of the student holistically. So there are multiple components to the student’s development besides the intellectual one, and the building of skills. And that’s important. Understanding of theory, the field, and how one makes choices and looks at data or decides on strategy in complex situations is important. But that has to be grounded in a deeper sense of self and understanding of how one fits into the world. And it’s interesting, we attract the kind of students who are interested in doing this self-evaluation. So part of the value of our program is the community of students that support and push each other in their self-development.

That said, for more the brass tacks end of things: the core courses look at communication theory and methods in terms of what is practical and useful in the field. So if I need to gear a message towards a particular audience, I have to have a good sense of what the empirical data shows are effective strategies to that end. And I also have to have an understanding of audience. What are the demographic variables; what are the socioeconomic variables? What is the context in which I am trying to craft a message? How can I use communication for influence or persuasion ethically? Because it’s very easy to manipulate people through communication as well. We want our students to develop a strong ethical foundation, so when they apply their knowledge to effect change or to influence behavior or perceptions, they do so effectively and ethically.

So our theories focus in different areas. Some around face-to-face communication, others in organizational contexts. Certainly global and intercultural. While we don’t require students to have a formal concentration, we do provide four concentration options: Strategic & Organizational, Servant Leadership, Global Leadership, Digital Media Strategies, and College Teaching.

Digital Media Strategies is our most recent addition to our concentration options, and provides students with the necessary skills and knowledge of the digital media space to plan, craft, and disseminate compelling messages using a variety of communication technologies. Students also learn how to gather, interpret, and analyze key data to inform both employees within an organization and stakeholders external to the organization, and to optimize communication strategies.

Courses that are included in the Digital Media Strategies concentration include Digital Storytelling, Digital Media Analysis, and Internet Impact, Policy, and Tactics. These classes discuss how digital communication has advanced in recent decades and changed our strategies for creating and distributing targeted messaging. Through hands-on projects, students also learn key technical skills to become effective and versatile communicators using different digital media. In addition, our courses cover the policies and social dynamics that dictate how people and organizations give and receive digital messaging, and teach students how to use different applications to analyze the efficacy of digital media campaigns.

The Strategic & Organizational concentration is one that I supervise, where students look at understanding communication in an organizational context. Students learn to understand stakeholders, drive strategic planning and change, and analyze how systemic structures influence communication. The classes in the concentration focus on crafting and implementing communications strategies for a variety of situations, creating internal and external-facing communications plans, and facilitating small group communication and collaboration.

Students look in-depth at organizational contexts, how communication dynamics operate, and how to be effective in understanding and navigating those dynamics. So within that area as well we have some very specific kinds of courses in addition to organizational communication, which would be strategic and corporate communication, crisis communication, public communication, in contexts that are both nonprofit and profit-driven. Driving and developing strategic planning, and especially in light of innovation and enacting change that is necessary.

We have a training and consulting piece as well because again, some of our students have a tremendous amount of expertise in a given area, and want to hone their communication skills in order to move into a consulting role. And so we are seeing that happen too. How do you develop training and consulting capacities to be effective in that role?

And then students can then take a number of electives within that concentration. For example, some might want to focus on interpersonal and small group communication because, just like we are doing right now, operating in a dyad, it’s really important as a leader to be able to communicate effectively. Literally how do you run a meeting? How do you think about structuring a job interview? It may seem rather mundane, but these are the kinds of questions we want students to ask, and to know how to answer as a result of our training. Regardless of the industry one enters, knowing how to organize and facilitate a productive meeting is a skill that all leaders should possess. And to be an effective facilitator and communicator in an organizational context, students need interpersonal, media strategy, and organizational communication skills along with the larger theoretical understandings of how humans communicate.

The Global Leadership concentration teaches students how to lead in complex global work environments through effective communication and creating culturally sensitive visions for positive change in organizational, social, and political contexts. Classes in this concentration cover organizational change and transformation, conflict resolution, and contemporary global issues and their possible solutions using leadership and communication. Students are also required to study abroad in Colombia, Belgium, or the Czech Republic to better understand development communication and strategies for addressing global issues. Through these immersion experiences, we want students to learn how organizations function internationally, interculturally, and the role that communication plays in that.

This concentration is also well-suited to our students who are interested in global service of some kind. In particular if you’re working with disadvantaged groups or trying of effect change through leadership, how do you understand the systems and structures and barriers that exist in different places to make that happen? How do you develop intercultural competencies, more deeply understanding how profound culture is in terms of influencing perception and behavior and communication? The Jesuits have always really had a strong international focus or at least offerings for students in this regard. And that’s just one example of what we’re doing.

The Servant Leadership concentration is for students who want to delve even more deeply into how communication connects with empathy, foresight, and ethical persuasion to enact positive change in communities. This concentration incorporates a study abroad experience in Europe as well as multi-day off-site immersions that focus on community empowerment, group decision making, leadership, and social justice.

Servant leadership essentially in my view is a set of dispositions and values that empower someone to become a charismatic leader who can drive change with a serve-first mentality. It requires a deeper cultivation of a sense of self, one’s own strengths and limitations, and developing greater capacities for empathy. So cognitive, affective, and behavioral empathy. That includes asking yourself, “How are people thinking about these things, what are their motivations, what are their struggles? What are they experiencing emotionally and how does that impact how they operate within an organization?”

And so from a servant leadership perspective, you are learning how to better listen; listen to yourself and others, those whom you are leading. How do you make decisions where you can get buy-in, and how can you empower people to be effective in what they are doing to help with that decision? Servant leadership allows students to develop those orientations and understandings, and to develop foresight and strategy.

The College Teaching focus is ideal for students who want to teach post-graduation, in a community college context or elsewhere. And and a number of our students in this concentration have taken on full-time positions in different schools. Some of them are professionals who have been broadcasters and have been out of the field for a while, or they’ve worked in journalism or strategic communication and they have a ton of professional knowledge that they want to share. And the MA gives them the ability to teach at colleges and universities, and share their insights by teaching courses that are relevant to their experiences.

As far as teaching goes, they’ll take courses in foundations of learning theory, the essential principles and methods of how to be a teacher, and how to manage a classroom. They complete an internship and develop a teaching portfolio. So wherever students are remotely, they connect with a mentor at a university or community college, where they shadow that person and learn from that person.

Within this concentration, students also choose areas of content to specialize in. I was just talking to a student yesterday and told him, I like your focus on interpersonal, but truth be told, there’s a real focus on digital right now. Why don’t you take the digital storytelling or some of our digital media courses so that when you’re pitching your competencies to a department, you can say that you can teach a broad range of topics in communication. So we allow students the flexibility to adapt their subject areas to topics they’d be interested in teaching.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please elaborate on the online version of your program, and how it evolved from the campus program? Gonzaga University’s online Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership Studies program requires students to attend one Communication Practicum, which is a three-day immersion. Could you elaborate on the Practicum experience, and what students gain from attending it?

[Dr. Hazel] So initially we started out as a campus program. That was the founder John Caputo’s original plan. He said we’ll have this nice, small Master’s program– about 40, 50 students. It will be awesome. And then the Dean wanted to take it online. And it went just gangbusters. Quite the scenario of, “Be careful what you wish for.” One of the issues was the fact that 80 percent of our students were online and working professionals, and they’re all over the place. How could we start moving more of our courses online so that both our campus and online students can get the depth and breadth they desire and deserve?

So what we ended up doing is pivoting away from a central campus component to having a lot of our courses online, supplemented with flexible immersions and hybrid options that are geared towards the working professional. All students are required to participate in a course called Content Creation and Strategy, which is offered five times a year on the Gonzaga campus. This class is mainly online, with a three-day residency that students attend about two weeks into the course. Some students initially balk at the residency requirement. But when they come and they get a sense of who we are as a bricks and mortar school, what Gonzaga is all about, they realize how much it contributes to the richness of their overall graduate experience. During the online portion of the class, students learn foundational and advanced concepts in content creation and strategy, as well as the principles for leading communication in small group, digital and public speaking settings. When they get to campus, we as the faculty for the program teach them how to engage in different types of writing, from website content to professional journalism, with a focus on preparing them to start their digital portfolio. Their campus visit also gives them an opportunity to make important face-to-face connections with instructors and peers.

While students only have to travel to campus once for the three-day residency described above, we also offer optional immersions throughout the year that are located either on campus or at offsite locations, such as Mt. Adams or Valyermo, CA, and the study-abroad courses. These immersions allow students to collaborate with instructors and their classmates to develop action plans and interventions for different kinds of organizational, interpersonal, and leadership situations. On top of the Content Creation and Strategy course, some of our concentrations, such as the Global Leadership concentration, also require students to study abroad for a term.

The foundation of our program is teaching students to write, speak, and communicate well using the latest media and communication technologies. And through these immersion and practicum experiences, we focus on developing oral face-to-face communication skills, writing in different contexts, and then learning multimedia tools as well as part of the experience. Our immersion experiences are an opportunity for students to apply all of these skills, as well as an opportunity for us to say to our students, “This is Gonzaga. Here are all the resources. Here are we as your faculty. We are not just an interface on Blackboard, but we are very connected to what we do. We are connected to you.” We want to give them a sense of their belonging in the community, and to have a strong sense of the support that is available to them.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students can choose between completing a master’s thesis or a capstone project. Could you please elaborate on both of these options, and what they entail?

[Dr. Hazel] For their final graduation requirement, students complete two capstone courses, during which they work on their thesis or capstone project. For the thesis, students have a lot of flexibility to choose a topic that they are interested in. I’ve got one student right now doing a thesis on generational communication. Students who choose the thesis option will work with an instructor in the capstone class, and also reach out to a mentor from amongst our faculty. And so what the process looks like for completion of their thesis, as is typical of any kind of academic work, is that students will read the relevant literature, and what the research shows. This creates a knowledge base but also provides context for the questions students might want to ask. Students then pose a research question or formulate an hypothesis, and subsequently determine the qualitative and/or quantitave methods necessary to answer that question.

We recommend the thesis option for students who want to go on to pursue a PhD or doctoral-level study. While the number varies from year to year, approximately 2-3 of our graduates go on to a doctoral program annually, and we are very successful at placing students into PhD programs. So even with our professional focus, we have the academic chops and are “plugged in” ourselves as scholars, and are therefore well equipped to get students in, and to prepare students for the next level if that’s the route they want to take.

On the capstone project side, some of those elements that are present in the thesis are also present in the project. We are asking students to take what they’ve learned in the program or are researching on their own and apply it to some kind of investigative work that is relevant to their career post-graduation. So as with thesis students, students who choose the project are expected to use their readings and research to create a context for a particular purpose. They must formulate a question and/or objective about which they are very passionate or feel will help facilitate their career. I can give you a few examples that come to mind.

I’ll provide a few examples of projects students have completed in the past to illustrate the range that is possible, and how students can really tailor their initial inquiry and final product to their personal interests. The first example was a project completed by a student who also works at Gonzaga, and was a local TV personality. She was very interested in feminist discourse and critical theory and feminist study. So for her capstone, she brought in a lot of the current trends in feminist theory and feminist critique, and incorporated them into a narrative analysis of a one-act play. Her artifact was actually acting out the different roles of this one-act play, filming it, and then offering a narrative critique of that play. I also had another student recently who had a website and his own podcast. His partner was dying of AIDS, and our student had both a busy professional career while also being very involved in caregiving. And for the purpose of his website, he tried to create these communities in order to bring the issue of caregiving to the fore. As a society, we have a lot of policies that provide for childbirth, maternity and paternity leave, disability, etc. But a lot of people who are working in organizations and leading full lives also have full-time caregiving responsibilities. What were the struggles these people were facing? What types of issues were they facing in the organizations in which they worked? For his project, our student embedded a broad-based survey looking at people in all kinds of different organizations using network sampling. Surveying hundreds of people and asking about their experiences with caregiving and then compiling that into cogent themes and presenting that as part of his website to raise awareness about the story.

I had a student a couple of years ago, who worked for a major corporation in a high-level management position in the Phoenix area. Astoundingly, the company had no crisis communication plan. So for her project, she took the latest literature, case studies in crisis communication, and used that to compile a repository of knowledge. And then for her actual project, she developed a crisis communication plan for her office. Delivered it to leadership and they loved it.

So those are a few examples that I hope illustrate how students have a lot of leeway in their topic of study, how they go about investigating it, and the artifact that they produce. They can produce a website, a set of blogs, a documentary film, as long as they connect it compellingly to their studies in communication.

With the capstone, we also want it to be very relevant to their future work. So for students with a teaching concentration, for example, they might develop a new syllabus and teaching guides and all of the resources that they would need. So we try to ensure that students keep their projects relevant to their area of study.

We want our students to view their capstone as a milestone in their academic and professional development, and this desire is reflected in our devoting two courses to it. Most of our classes are 8 weeks long, but with the capstone we stretched it out to 16 and we scaffold it pretty clearly with deliverables, culminating in the paper for the thesis students, and an online portfolio for our project students.

In the course they’re taking as a precursor to their actual capstone work, they are developing skills in creating and disseminating scholarly research, compiling work from their prior classes. Learning that scholarly voice to a certain degree. They are also being exposed to different methods that they can employ, and they are working with a professor to really hone their research ideas. What we often see with students is they have these great ideas, but are trying to answer a whole forest. It’s a case of, “Wow–those are all great ideas…but that’s three dissertations. So how can we trim this down into something that’s manageable for the time frame and the scope of what you are able to do?”

And so we provide sort of the resources and tools for the students to practice. And then they learn by doing, by actually deploying. The classes are small in the capstone–I am teaching one right now, and I have 14 students in it. And the other section also has 14. We keep small class sizes, and are in pretty close contact with the students often. We set up the course to be robust with the resources students need to complete the elements of their capstone, and to use us as a feedback mechanism to keep them on track and moving forward.

And, I mean, the students I like working with the most are gritty–they persevere and they really want to get better. And they’re seeking out your feedback and they’re looking to improve. That to me is really rewarding to see how far a student can come in 16 weeks if they are willing to put in the work to get better. And that’s an opportunity that we provide for them.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Gonzaga University’s Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership Studies program, and how can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems? Additionally, what career development resources and academic services are available to students of this program?

[Dr. Hazel] At Gonzaga, we are first and foremost a teaching institution. Although the faculty here conduct research, we didn’t position our careers to be at a research 1 institution where getting published is the primary focus. Obviously you’ve got to stay fresh and relevant, and you have to stay sharp by engaging in research, but our primary focus is on teaching. And that’s reflected in who we hire to teach for us, their commitment to teaching, and their availability to mentor.

And I think all of our faculty and especially our adjunct faculty are very committed to that mission. It’s the idea that the student and his or her experience in the program is central. If you think about Nike–one of our board members is from Nike, and was a classmate of mine. And I think one of the things that made that company so successful was the fact that it obsesses about the athlete. The main focus of the company’s existence is the athlete. And the athlete drives every strategic decision that it makes in terms of product development and even in terms of the company’s structure.

So if you take that philosophy and you say, “Okay, we are here for the student.” The student is the primary focus and goal that needs to be central in our strategic decision making, that is a founding principle that drives the decisions that we make. And then so just as a natural concomitant of that are things like, well, of course you’ve got to mentor students, of course if they seek a high-touch online and campus learning environment, you to be available to them. Of course we should have a pretty significant student services office that is there nearly 24/7 to help students with procedural questions, sometimes with a change of our progression plan. So the fact that the university and our school is putting a lot of resources behind that speaks to what it values. So that’s I think a pretty important role. Because we also have professional faculty, it allows for students to work or pair with people that are out there in the field.

We are really trying to expand our alumni relationships and networking relationships. I’m actually getting certified right now to work with career services, to find better ways to integrate networking opportunities into the student experience. So if they are considering a career pivot, which some of our students are, or they want to be connected as they think through the next job opportunity, there are great resources that students get just by being a Gonzaga student that we want to make available to them. And there is work to that end.

Our core tenure faculty or tenure-track faculty all have PhDs, but we also have instructors who are working in industry. And in our curriculum, we do our best to amalgamate the academic and the professional. For example, I use a textbook for my organizational communications course, but I also try to use cutting-edge journal articles, articles that I have written, submitted, and presented at conferences. You keep that process so that you can incorporate your own insights from the field into the classroom in order to stay cutting-edge and relevant.

The field of communication changes so rapidly, especially with digital media and even communication strategies in the non-profit, for-profit, and political spheres–everything is changing so rapidly that in order for us to stay current, we have to stay affiliated with people who are working in the field. And to achieve this, we have people with instructional design expertise work with faculty, and work with professionals to design courses and adapt those courses according to evolutions in the space.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application for Gonzaga University’s Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership Studies program?

[Dr. Hazel] Our oldest student is 73 years old and our youngest I think is 21 right now, so it really runs the gamut. We are seeing a lot of students in their late twenties and early thirties that realize the value of an MA as they want to move up in their career or transition. So I think if you’re just getting out of undergrad, really speaking to your academic experience would be important. And also look at our program and what it offers, so you can answer the question why Gonzaga? Why do you want to be part of this program? What are the specific things you’re looking to do while you’re here? And if you don’t have the answer to that, that’s okay too. But just getting a clear sense of what our program offers and what your sense is of what you would want to learn from us, as well as what you hope to contribute.

And if you’re older and have been in the work force for longer, I would recommend speaking to your professional experience. Sometimes we get students who did not perform all that well in their undergraduate career, but they have been out working for 10 or 15 years, and have made significant professional accomplishments. We encourage these seasoned professionals to apply, because their career will speak volumes about their ability to both gain a lot from and contribute a lot to our program’s instructors and student community. If you’re closer to undergrad, a letter of recommendation from a teacher is ideal, but if not, a work supervisor would be fine. If you are further from undergraduate, somebody you have worked with who can provide a professional reference would work well.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Gonzaga University’s Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership Studies program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?

I think our value proposition is that we push our students to learn and to grow–not just in terms of concrete skills in the communication space, but also developing their sense of professional and personal identity, and clarifying the impact they wish to make in the world. We meet our students where they are, and do our best to push them intellectually and personally, to help them grow into what they want to become. We really focus on the student experience and giving students the support they need, from initial inquiries about the curriculum to professional connections and support throughout their work on their thesis or capstone project. In 2010 we won an award from the National Communication Association for the most innovative MA communication program, so our work to stay cutting edge and adaptable to students’ needs has not gone unnoticed.

The biggest compliment I get when I talk to students is, “What I learned in your class yesterday, I am using in my company today.” We really try our best to be relevant to what our students are experiencing in their lives. Flexibility and customizability are two of our major value propositions. While we have core requirements and four major concentrations, we also build in these elective opportunities so students have this broad array of courses that they can choose from, to customize their own needs. And our affiliation with another leadership MA program really expands the options for our students to engage in interdisciplinary courses and corporate, organizational, global, and interpersonal leadership concepts.

We combine all of this innovation, industry relevance, and student-centered philosophy with our strong sense of tradition. Gonzaga is a very reputable school, with Jesuit values as its foundation. And we try to take the best of these traditions along with a commitment to academic excellence and a dedication to the student experience and applying it to an online context.

In the very challenging space that is higher education, how do we leverage a real value proposition? I believe answering that question requires first asking, “What is your underlying value and purpose?” And when that is identified as making the student the first and foremost priority, it makes decision making a lot easier. And it’s easier to get people on board. Because you just frame it as well, wait a second, this is about the student, right? This isn’t about faculty members’ egos. It’s humbling at times too. But it seems to be an effective approach.

Thank you, Dr. Hazel, for your excellent insight into Gonzaga University’s Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership program!