Rollins Announces New Master’s in Strategic Communication

July 15, 2022

By Laura J. Cole ’04 ’08MLS

Students working together in a communications course.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Drawing on Rollins’ strengths in community engagement and leadership, this new graduate program is committed to giving students the practical skills they need to be effective storytellers, thought leaders, and strategists.

Rollins is launching a new graduate degree program developed to help students gain the practical skills needed to research, execute, and measure the effectiveness of communication initiatives for a range of industries.

Offered through the Hamilton Holt School, the new program provides students real-world practice working with nonprofits to conduct research and plan, implement, and evaluate strategic communication campaigns for an ever-expanding and evolving range of platforms and media.

The program, which will launch fall 2023, requires students to complete nine required courses—including global strategic communication management, digital and social media marketing, and web analytics and social media metrics—plus one internship or organizational leadership course. The latter is focused on teaching students how to be agile leaders amid constant change while being committed to creating supportive and inclusive environments for their teams.

“Ten years after launching the communication studies undergraduate program, this graduate program offers another avenue of growth and extends the mission of Rollins to serve the community and help our graduates either advance their careers or make a career shift,” says communication professor Hesham Mesbah. “I am excited to take the teaching of communication at Rollins from the level of professionalizing our students to enhancing professionalism in the field.”

Unlike other programs in the area, Rollins’ Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, when approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, will be the only accredited graduate program of its kind specifically developed to improve skills ranging from information literacy and creative thinking to inquiry, analysis, and teamwork.

Dr. David Painter in the classroom with students
Photo by Scott Cook.

“What really distinguishes the strategic communication program at Rollins is that it leverages our existing strengths in liberal arts education, leadership, and community engagement, which translates into our students working with real-world clients to build campaigns and portfolio-quality work that they can use in their jobs searches,” says communication professor David Painter, who will serve as director of the program.

Through their coursework, students will complete service-learning work by partnering with local nonprofits—including New Hope for Kids, Kids Beating Cancer, BASE Camp Children’s Cancer Foundation, and Winter Park Chamber of Commerce—to research and develop solutions for communication and marketing campaigns. Through the internship program, students are encouraged to explore a range of industries at companies including Disney, Universal, Hilton, Marriott, Orlando Magic, Orange County Public Schools, Linda Costa Communications, and Uproar PR.

Students will also have the ability to network with more than 400 communication professionals through local chapters of the Public Relations Student Society of America, Public Relations Society of America, and the Florida Public Relations Association.

“Our society is desperate for accurate information,” says Painter. “Whether that information is about housing and the economy or health care and politics, I think we’re at a unique point in time when the need for effective strategic communicators is as great as it’s ever been.”

As the number of ways people can consume information has expanded, along with the number of messages the public engages with on a daily basis, so has the need for skilled communicators who can leverage paid, earned, shared, and owned media to make sure their organizations’ messages break through the noise. According to a market analysis by Hanover Research, “employment projections for communication and public relations careers are expected to grow by 27 percent in Florida and 22 percent in the Southeast.”

Likewise, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity projects a 20 percent increase in advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales jobs in Orange County by 2029, equating to roughly more than 4,300 jobs.

Students discuss topics in class with professor Ann Stone
Photo by Scott Cook.

As part of the accelerated graduate degree program, the master’s in strategic communication is also available to current Rollins undergraduate students in related majors. Students will have the option to apply to and begin earning graduate credits their senior year and finish both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in only five years.

“We’re really excited about this program,” says Painter. “Learning how to communicate effectively will not only help you advance your career because you’ve developed the knowledge, skills, and abilities to communicate effectively with specific target audiences, but it’ll also help you communicate with your friends, with your relatives, with your family. The most meaningful moments in our life occur through connections with other people.”

Rollins College students learning how to advance their careers through strategic communication.

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