This Area of Concentration considers how to develop and evaluate effective public information campaigns, how to manage the demands placed on communication specialists during a crisis, and how to incorporate behavior-change messages into a variety of channels and genres, such as entertainment.

Explore what has been done, what works, and why. Courses include social marketing, health psychology, emergency and risk communication, and developing and evaluating communication campaigns. Health communication professionals must develop, deliver, and evaluate modern health communication programs.

Area of Concentration Courses

A minimum of three courses are required to earn this Area of Concentration within the MA in Communication degree.

This course explores the complexities and strategies of internal and external communications in public, private, and non-profit organizations. As a leadership tool, communications serves a political, informational, symbolic and influential function. Topics covered include a competency-based approach of organizational communication, the interplay between internal and external communications, communicating effectiveness through problem-solving, decision-making, managing conflict and mitigating crises, organizational change management, addressing workforce diversity issues and others. Students gain exposure to various dimensions of organizational communication from different industry leaders and field experts and gain first-hand experience in critiquing, crafting and developing communication strategies, tactics and tools, as communication professionals and leaders in the workplace.

Communication professionals use qualitative methods to craft messages that resonate with audiences. This hands-on class exposes students to qualitative research methods that can be used on the job to guide communication efforts more strategically. Students learn how to design and conduct studies to gain insight into audience perceptions on a variety of issues. Specific techniques covered include in-depth interviews, focus groups, qualitative content analyses, and case studies. Through applied activities, students learn how to collect, analyze, and present qualitative research data. Students should take this course prior to the semester in which they begin their research for Thesis. Prerequisite: 480.600 Research and Writing Methods.

Have you ever doubted whether you are doing the right thing as a communication researcher or practitioner? Regardless of whether you realize it, you base your professional decisions and subsequent actions on morals, referring to them in different ways. For example, you may turn to your inner compass, organization’s values, or professional codes of conduct. This course will not give you quick and easy solutions; however, it will help you learn how to use an ethics framework with confidence as you move forward in your career. In particular, you will learn how to consider the one or more moral problems related to a situation, facts, options for moving forward, and values to consider throughout the process. Readings will draw from fictional and non-fictional literature, news and popular media, and industry and academic research. Not only the instructor but also other communication professionals will deliver lectures. Throughout the semester, you will work as an individual and in groups to use your critical thinking to complete various activities, including reflection, discussion, presentation, and writing based on current, real-world case studies. Your experience will culminate with a final project.

This course will teach you how to critically evaluate media, create effective visual communication by identifying key elements of a visual message, and apply relevant theory as it relates to visual message design. This course provides an overview of the approaches and strategies communication practitioners use to incorporate media literacy in their practices. This course will address the following questions: What is media literacy and how does it relate to visual communication? How can visual media be used effectively to promote strategic messages or positive change? How can we critically evaluate the quality of visual messages and create effective and ethical visual communication?

This survey course will provide a broad overview of topics relevant to health communication research, theory, practice, and promotion. Students will learn about the history and evolution of health communication, examine multiple levels of communication (including intrapersonal, interpersonal, group, and societal), various channels of communication, and the importance of ethics in communicating about health. Class members will examine links between health, communication, culture, health literacy, and health disparities. Students will also evaluate and develop health communication interventions. The primary focus will be on investigating the role of health communication in improving health care delivery and better patient outcomes.

This course offers a skills-oriented approach to addressing literacy, language and culture within a health care context. Understanding the relationship between literacy, language and culture will benefit those in heath communication, as well as professionals in areas such as public and media relations, digital communication, political communication, and corporate and non-profit communication. Students will explore how low literacy and poor health literacy affect quality and outcomes at the individual and systems level and consider the integration of health literacy, cultural competency and language assistance strategies to reduce disparities in health and well being. Overall, this 13-week course aims to improve the cultural and health literacy competency of professionals and the systems in which they work.

Writer and historian James Humes said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” It is that simple comment that forms the foundation of this course. Here students explore the role of communication with stakeholders including subordinates, superiors, internal and external customers, suppliers and the community. Students examine effective communication in hiring and promoting, in conflict, in community interaction and in the internal communication of an organization. The class is built around three precepts or questions: With whom does one communicate, what does one communicate and how does one communicate effectively?

Communication professionals must often grapple with issues of whether and how their fields are regulated. These concerns are magnified for organizations working in global contexts, forcing practitioners to consider issues of censorship and regulation within multiple jurisdictions. Knowing these rights and boundaries allows professional communicators to protect their work as well as to serve their audiences most effectively. Using the United States as a starting point, this course will explore legal trends and issues that affect communicators and their audiences while also comparing to international regulations.  

This course provides students with a fundamental understanding of crisis management, risk communication, media relations, and public-opinion research techniques in multiple contexts. It introduces students to crisis management principles, strategies, tactics and communication methods. Course participants work as a team to develop a crisis management plan for analysis and discussion. Successful students are able to transfer to the workplace the knowledge and skills developed in this course. Students learn to predict, manage, and control real-world controversies that they may confront as they pursue their careers. Moreover, students are able to manage effectively, participate in, and control volatile situations involving the news media.

Media outreach is a critical piece of any strategic communication effort. This course prepares students to build, implement, and measure earned media programs that achieve policy, business and philanthropic objectives. Class lectures, guest speakers, readings and assignments give students an understanding of the priorities and expectations of various types of contemporary media, and how to successfully engage them through research-based strategies and tactics designed to reach key audiences.

In this age of social media, opinions are everywhere, swirling around us like swarms of gnats. That means the art of outstanding opinion writing—producing persuasive, reasoned, sometimes emotional pieces that resonate deep and wide—remains more important than ever. In this course, we’ll delve into various forms of opinion writing: op-eds, personal essays, columns, reviews and criticism, blogs, humor and satire, and even social media posts. We’ll also examine how to avoid plagiarism, libel, and ethical breaches, how to construct a powerful argument, how to sidestep logical mistakes, and how to make your writing memorable. And we’ll discuss how to pitch editors to ensure your opinions find an audience. Above all, we’ll become more adept at shaping and conveying our opinions, helping us cut through the chatter and lend our true voices to the conversation.

This course demonstrates the important role market research—and the use of existing data to better understand audience and environment—plays in the overall campaign process. This course will focus on the integral steps that facilitate target audience definition and how to extract a keen understanding of this audience and its interactions within its environment to develop effective campaign strategy. The course’s structure and various assignments will often mimic a client/consultant relationship to ensure a real-world experience. To that end, the instructors will play the role of “client” in many instances, asking students to articulate how an assignment or deliverable contributes to the overall goals of the campaign.

Washington D.C. is home to thousands of organizations attempting to influence public policy. Associations, foundations, think tanks and private lobbying firms are all competing for the attention of policymakers and the public. These groups invariably need competent communicators who can help them cut through jargon, crystallize their messages and strategically communicate with the key audiences imperative to advancing their policy goals. This course introduces students to the deliberate process organizations undertake to speak out on issues and exert influence over the policies that have the potential to impact them and the way they do business. The class will cover how organizations conduct advocacy efforts and how communication is used as a tool to advance policy change. Students will gain a practical understanding of how policy groups and communications professionals operate in the field.

This course provides an overview of health psychology: the scientific study of behaviors and cognitive processes related to health states. It addresses the mind/body connection, the influence of social and physical environments on our health, cognitive processing of health information, health belief models, and the link between personality traits and health. Understanding the interactions between these biological, psychological, and social influences on individuals’ health states is a key element in developing effective health communication and intervention programs. Students approach all course topics from both theory-driven and applied perspectives.

This course explores the various ways communication professionals can use entertainment to educate people and encourage them to adopt and enjoy improved life styles. Throughout history, stories, drama, poetry, music, dance, and other entertainment formats have been used to enlighten and educate both adults and children. In today’s society, the channels of communication are ever increasing. This course investigates ways in which education can be subtly but effectively worked into both new and time-honored genres of entertainment to foster positive behavior change.

Students should be aware of state-specific information for online programs. For more information, please contact an admissions representative.

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