Master of Strategic Communication (MSC) Program Requirements



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Faculty 

  • Lance Newman, Dean
  • Ashley Seitz Kramer, Assistant Dean
  • Christine Seifert, Program Director 

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Admission to the Master of Strategic Communication Program

Westminster’s Master of Strategic Communication (MSC) program is designed to help you to become an expert communicator and leader in a superior learning environment, with features you won’t find anywhere else. The program has the following characteristics:

  • Project-Based, Client-Driven: Students complete a total of five project sequences designed and sequenced specifically to measure student learning. Projects are based on current communication problems and opportunities and may originate with a small business or nonprofit client, an individual student’s place of employment, or an entrepreneurial venture.
  • Individual and Team-Based: Students complete some projects individually to demonstrate mastery of associated professional communication competencies. Other projects are team-based to assist students in mastering leadership competencies that include managing projects and leading and working in teams.
  • Competency-Based: Students submit work with the understanding that they can revise and re-submit a specified number of times in order to ensure that they are meeting professional-level standards. Students are encouraged through this model to improve their work through a structured process.
  • Online: Students use a learning management system and resources in an online environment to work independently and as a team to master program competencies. All projects are submitted online, through interactions with faculty and peers through videoconferencing, or asynchronously through email or online discussion boards.
  • Faculty Coaching: Students work directly with a Westminster College faculty member on an individual basis to acquire project guidance and feedback. Faculty members also evaluate completed student projects to determine whether or not project learning is sufficiently demonstrated.
  • Self-Directed Learning: While coaches and mentors guide students through the learning process, students are ultimately responsible for high quality and timely submissions. Some deadlines are enforced, but students have flexibility in terms of submissions.

Program Requirements

The MSC degree is specifically designed to prepare students for leadership positions within the area of strategic communication. Through the use of real-world scenarios and projects, graduates demonstrate a mastery of communication strategies and technologies, project management, and leadership in action. In order to be accepted into the MSC program, applicants must meet the following admissions criteria:

  • An undergraduate degree in any related major from a regionally accredited academic institution with a minimum GPA of 3.0;
  • A resume demonstrating professional experience in the communication field; candidates with other strong professional experience may be considered;
  • Two letters of recommendation; and
  • A statement of interest identifying a clear desire to be a leader in strategic communication and showing strong evidence of ability to engage in self-directed learning.

Admissions decisions are made by the MSC program faculty; each applicant is individually considered across multiple dimensions to craft the optimal cohort and diversity of students.

Because of the project-based design and online format of the program, students are required to be highly motivated self-starters; applicants are strongly encouraged to directly address these personal characteristics in their resume and personal statement.

Program Goals

After students complete the MSC program, they have developed and demonstrated their ability to:

  • Lead projects and teams in a coordinated effort to achieve organizational goals.
  • Learn rhetorical principles and strategic practices necessary for creating usable, effective, and ethical communications, whether they be written, visual, oral, or otherwise.
  • Serve as leaders in the process of creating and editing specific communications appropriate for particular audiences.
  • Plan, research, manage, design, and execute large-scale writing projects for real clients.
  • Analyze an organization to ensure that communication effectiveness can be maximized.
  • Create integrated marketing communication campaigns using new media strategically as the cornerstone of effective marketing communication.
  • Apply visual communication know-how, using industry-standard software and design programs to create communication pieces, including collateral and style guides.
  • Apply their strategic communication expertise to a capstone project.

Degree Requirements

The Project Sequences

The program consists of five project sequences, constituting a series of applied communication projects, all of which must be completed through Westminster College. Each of the sequences consists of several projects, as well as a final capstone project. The projects build upon each other and are completed in the order specified. A student completes all projects to demonstrate mastery of the program learning goals and competencies. Each project has a set of rubrics, which explain precisely how the project will be evaluated upon its completion. Students can use these rubrics to self-assess the projects before submission. After a project sequence is successfully completed, the student begins the next project sequence at the beginning of the following semester.

Faculty and Staff Interaction with Students

Dedicated faculty members are specifically assigned to assist students and evaluate their work as they progress through each project sequence. Students and faculty interact regularly to improve learning outcomes. Students also have access to program assistants who help with registration, billing, financial aid, project submission, technology systems, and any other questions about the program. Students are encouraged to utilize these resources whenever needed throughout the duration of the program.

Residencies

Mandatory Attendance

Students are required to attend a virtual residency session at the beginning of each semester. Each session is approximately two or three hours, usually on a Friday.

Dates and Timing

Residency is held prior to when each sequence begins. The date is generally the first Friday of the semester based on the college academic calendar. In some cases, due to scheduling conflicts, residency may be held on the Friday prior to the beginning of the semester. Students will be made aware of residency dates via email in a reasonable amount of time prior to the residency. 

Additional Resources

A variety of ancillary materials are provided to help students master the specific competencies and learning goals related to each project. All of these materials can be accessed from the program website. These materials augment students’ existing knowledge and experiences and can be referenced on an as-needed basis. Given the varying nature of students’ background and experience, all students are strongly encouraged to consult with the faculty as they work on projects to determine which materials may be most useful. All of the materials can be accessed by all students—even if students are completing subsequent projects—to help in recalling specific techniques and knowledge.

Academic Progress

Project sequences are designed to be completed within one semester, enabling students to complete the requirements of the program within five semesters. A student who, for whatever reason, does not enroll for more than two consecutive terms must request reinstatement in the program and will be subject to the tuition charges currently in effect.

A student must complete a project sequence within a semester to avoid additional tuition fees and delayed graduation. If, at the end of a semester, a project sequence is not completed, the student will not be able to move to the next project sequence until it is offered again. Note that sequences are not offered every semester, so students may be required to wait a semester in order to re-enroll. Except under rare circumstances where a student is given an Incomplete grade, the student will be charged full tuition for re-enrolling in a project sequence. In addition, students using federal financial aid may have difficulty with their financial aid eligibility if they require more than a semester to complete a project (see financial aid rules for more information). Staying in constant contact with the program coordinator and MSC faculty helps avoid problems.

Academic Suspension

Students may only re-enroll in each sequence one time. If a student cannot complete a sequence the second time, the student will be suspended from the program. A student who is suspended from the program may reapply for admission after two terms; however, the student’s application will be evaluated according to the same criteria faculty use for regular admissions processes. A personal interview will be required before readmission is allowed; and, if readmitted, the student will reenter the program at the current year’s tuition rate. The student will work with their faculty coach to develop a specific plan to complete the sequence. As long as the student fulfills the terms stipulated in the performance plan, the student will be allowed to complete remaining program requirements.

Academic Standards

The following academic standards support the mission and goals of the MSC program. The goals are presented here to help students understand their responsibilities throughout the program:

  • Students should always be familiar with project requirements and guidelines to avoid problems. Students should take every opportunity to consult with their faculty coach to receive clarification when needed.
  • Collaboration is encouraged to enhance depth of learning; except for team projects, all submitted work must be the original work of individual students. Students should always be respectful of faculty, staff, and other students in the program.
  • The program is designed to be intellectually challenging, real-world oriented, and mastery building. Students should push themselves, using every opportunity to participate and learn in order to take full advantage of the Westminster experience.
  • A grade of C is the lowest passing grade for all courses. Students who receive a grade lower than a C within any project sequence will need to retake that portion of the sequence the next time it is offered (and pay tuition).
  • Plagiarism is a serious offense in academic and business settings and a violation of the college’s academic policy.  A student who violates the academic honesty policy may be suspended from the program.

Graduation Requirements

Candidates for graduation must consult their program coordinator at the beginning of Sequence 3. The program coordinator will aid students in completing the application for graduation in the following May or August. To be eligible for graduation, a student must have received a grade of C or higher in each project. Students should consult either the faculty member or the program coordinator at any point when questions arise about graduation requirements.

Total Hours for the Program: 40

Requirement Description Credit Hours Prerequisites
MSC 611 Rhetoric & Strategic Public Relations (Semester 1) 8  
MSC 611.R Residency  0  
MSC 611.1 Rhetorical Theory 3  
MSC 611.2 Public Relations Strategy 3  
MSC 611.T PR Team Project 2  
MSC 621 Visual Communication & Brand Strategy (Semester 2) 8  
MSC 621.R Residency 0 MSC 611
MSC 621.1 Visual Communication & Brand Strategy 3 MSC 611
MSC 621.2 Visual Identify & Brand Strategy 3 MSC 611
MSC 621.T Brand Strategy Team Project 2 MSC 611
MSC 631 Organizational Communication & Culture (semester 3) 8  
MSC 631.R Residency  0 MSC 621
MSC 631.1 Org Comm Theory & Research  3 MSC 621
MSC 631.2  Org Comm Strategy 3 MSC 621
MSC 631.T Org Comm Team Project 2 MSC 621
MSC 641 Integrated Marketing Communication (semester 4) 8  
MSC 641.R Residency  0 MSC 631
MSC 641.1  Integrated Marketing Theory & Research 3 MSC 631
MSC 641.2  Marketing Communication Strategy & Campaign Management  3 MSC 631
MSC 641.T IMC Team Project 2 MSC 631
MSC 651 Strategic Communication Capstone (semester 5) 8  
MSC 651.R Residency 0 MSC 641
MSC 651.1 Capstone Research 3 MSC 641
MSC 651.2 Capstone Production 3 MSC 641
MSC 651.T Capstone Team Project  2 MSC 641
Total Hours for the MSC 40