About Hanson Hosein: Hanson Hosein is the Director of the Communication Leadership graduate program at the University of Washington. As Director, he manages student recruitment, supports faculty members in their development of course curricula, and oversees the extracurricular aspects of the program, including the internship program and master’s classes events. Mr. Hosein regularly hosts keynote events and meetings with major technology companies in the greater Seattle area to gain insights that translate into improvements in and additions to the Master of Communication Leadership program.

In addition to his work at the University of Washington, Mr. Hosein is also the President of HRH Media Group, LLC, a firm that specializes in communication strategy development and media production for companies such as Microsoft, Intel, Facebook, and Tableau, among other organizations. He also serves as an influential member on a number of non-profit boards, including the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the NPR station KUOW Public Radio.

Mr. Hosein earned his Master of Science in Journalism from Columbia University with a specialization in Broadcast Journalism in 1994, and received his two graduate degrees in law from the University of Paris and McGill University in 1993.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of the University of Washington’s Communication Leadership graduate program and its Master of Communication in Digital Media (MCDM) and Master of Communication in Communication Networks (MCCN)? How are the curricula for the MCDM and the MCCN programs structured, and what are the key learning outcomes students can expect from each of these programs?

[Hanson Hosein] The University of Washington’s Master of Communication Leadership program teaches students powerful communications strategies to effect social, organizational, economic, behavioral, or interpersonal change. We offer two degrees: a Master of Communication in Digital Media (MCDM) and a Master of Communication in Communities and Networks (MCCN). Both of these degrees have two common core classes:

Communication Through Digital Media and Networks: This course takes an in-depth look at how organizations across the non-profit, for-profit, and governmental sectors develop their mission statement and story for presentation to stakeholders both internally and externally. Students look at case studies of different organizations’ communication before diving right into hands-on projects for real-world clients. Students are assigned groups to work on their respective projects. The aim of this course is to give students both the critical thinking and strategic planning skills to lead organizations. After working with their client on a real-world assignment, students also write their own reflective case-study about the organization with which they worked, and the challenges they faced during the group project.

Leadership Through Story and Communities: This class teaches students the foundations of personal leadership, using principles of narrative and community building. The importance of using creativity and compelling storytelling to mobilize communities is discussed. Students study different social, political, and corporate leaders, and how they employed compelling narratives and rhetorical strategies to convey their messages, connect with stakeholders, and motivate people to act. The course culminates in a final paper in which students examine a communication issue that is of interest to them.

Regardless of whether they are in the MCCN or the MCDM program, students get a strong foundation in organizational storytelling, digital media strategies, communication methods, and leadership through the creation of compelling and ethical narratives. Underlying both of those degrees is this notion of using stories to effect positive social, organizational, economic, and/or interpersonal change.

In addition to the two core courses above, students have to take a Law and Ethics course, and a Research Methods course.

Law and Ethics Core Requirement: Students can choose to take one of a number of courses to fulfill the Law and Ethics core requirement for the program, including Ethics for Communicating across Local and Global Networks, Crisis Communication Strategies in a Digital World, Digital Media Law and Policy, and Ethics of Digital Media.

Research Methods: Similarly with the Research Methods, students have a number of choices to fulfill this requirement, and can take classes such as Advanced Content Creation, Curation, and Optimization; Multi-Platform Content Strategy; and Communicating Ideas: Strategies and Theories of Communities and Networks.

After fulfilling the four core requirements, students have a great deal of flexibility to choose a course of study that matches their interests. While students choose to enroll in either the MCCN or MCDM when they first apply, they have the option to choose up to 10 credits outside of their chosen emphasis, which means that MCCN students can take up to 10 of their 25 elective credits from the MCDM track, and vice versa. Additionally, students can take up to 5 credits from outside of the Communication Leadership program, with approval from their advisor.

Due to the flexibility of the degree and the overlap in required and elective courses in both the MCDM and MCCN tracks, students from both tracks learn how to create and build stories both within and outside of the scope of technology. Compelling storytelling does not have to involve media production; it requires us to identify the value proposition that we want to offer our stakeholders, empathize with people’s experiences, and create messages that speak to their needs.

And so whether you are an MCCN student who wants to learn how to inspire people to come together to build a community that effects change, or a MCDM student who wants to employ media production and distribution as a way to motivate people to act, the core mission remains the same. The distinction is a fine line, but an important one. When applying, students are expected to identify which track they would like to enter; students who want to engage more with the media production end of things select the MCDM track, while students whose career goals concern more face-to-face and interpersonal communication will generally choose the MCCN track.

For the MCDM track, students learn about media content strategy, user experience, multimedia storytelling, such as audio storytelling or podcasting, advanced marketing and branding strategies, and how to use the latest digital platforms and tools (such as media analytics, search engine analytics, etc.) to develop and execute on these strategies. Examples of courses we are offering for this track include Design + Content: An Introduction to UX and Content Strategy, Strategic Communication for Responsible Leaders, Multimedia Storytelling: Digital Distribution and the Story, Aligning UX Design with User Psychology, and Measuring Marketing Effectiveness: Analytics and Insights for Brands.

On the MCCN side we have courses in crisis communication, advocacy, distributed and diverse teams, communication for social impact, leadership approaches to diversity initiatives, visual communication, community and media, storytelling, and audience engagement. Examples of classes we are currently offering for the MCCN track include Marketing Policy and Engaging with Diverse Societies: Public Health, Culture, and Video-Based Communication, Innovation Communities: How Business Can Harness the DIY Dynamic, Leadership and Teams, Building Successful Online Communities, and Community and Media: Storytelling and Audience Engagement. So as you can see, media development and technologies are still major elements of the MCCN classes, but they are used to teach students the principles of community engagement and leadership for social change.

We also have numerous “track neutral” courses that both MCCN and MCDM students can take as electives, including Connecting Through Words: The Art & Science of Text-Based Marketing, Distributed and Diverse Teams: Leading and Communicating with Impact, and Thinking Story- Fundamentals of Storytelling for Organizations, Business, and Movements.

Our Master of Communication Leadership program began in 2002, and though we update the course content almost constantly to account for changes in the space, it has always been focused on media, technology, and production and how they relate to communication strategies. Over time, however, we also saw how the way humans communicate has evolved as a result of technology, and independent of it. Especially with the advent of social media and the communities it has created both online and offline, we felt it was worth creating a degree that focused more on how these communities develop, are maintained and strengthened, and the communication dynamics that result.