Dina Martinez joined SOC's Public Communication Division in 2011 as professor and Director for the Professional Public Communication Graduate Program. A graduate of the program she now directs, she has 15 years of experience in the private sector developing, leading and implementing strategic communication initiatives numerous corporate and non-profit clients. For the last six years, she has led Viona Group, a boutique consulting firm. We asked Martinez about how the newly revamped MA program targets the needs of mid-career professionals.
Q: The weekend public communication program has been turning out successful grads for several years. What made you think it was time for a change?
A: In order to keep up with the ever-changing world of communications we needed to update the program to stay competitive and to insure that we are providing students with the best graduate experience possible. We also need to be sure that the program is graduating students with the skills employers need and want.
Q: How is the revamped program different?
A: The new program is more focused on the needs of our working students. In addition to holding classes on weekends to allow full-time professionals to continue in their careers, we have restructured the curriculum to give students the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the industry today and tomorrow. We've included courses to develop management and leadership skills, business skills, as well as hands-on classes that will sharpen students' writing and strategic thinking skills, and introduce them to the latest trends in communication.
Q: Who was involved and what did you focus on in reviewing and retooling the program?
A: Before making any changes, it was critical to get feedback from our students, alumni, faculty and potential employers. We needed to know what was working, as well as identify areas of improvement. It was a very collaborative process and many individuals contributed to the new program.
Q: Who is the program designed for?
A: The program is specifically designed for the working professional. Our students generally have 5+ years of professional work experience (3 years of related professional experience is required) and are often mid-level managers who are looking to take their career to the next level or career changers, who want to transition into a new career. They are smart, savvy and hard-working and are looking for more from their graduate experience than just a diploma. They are looking to network and expand their knowledge through face-to-face classroom interactions.
Q: What are the greatest strengths of the program?
A: There are a lot of great things about the program but in my mind, the three greatest strengths are:
- Faculty - SOC truly has the most incredible group of experienced and dedicated faculty members that are committed to not only sharing their knowledge and expertise, but to helping students achieve their goals. Our faculty are not only respected academics, but many are also seasoned professionals with real-world experience that they bring into the classroom.
- Cohort format - unlike other programs, students go through the program as a cohort which creates a collaborative environment for students to learn not only from the instructors, but also from one another. The cohort also affords students a one-of-a-kind networking experience for students because the get to know like-minded professionals throughout the course of their degree program.
- Weekend classes - Although the thought of going to class all day on a Saturday can seem intimidating, many of our students have told us that this was the only way they were able to complete their graduate degree while working. Gone are the days of the 9-5 job and many professionals find it difficult to attend class in the evenings due to the demands of their career. The Saturday schedule lets students focus and dive into the courses, and to get the most out of the experience. Plus, they can apply what they learn each weekend to their job on Monday morning.
Q: Which courses you are excited about?
A: To be honest, I think they are ALL great but, if I could go back and take a few classes myself they would definitely include Social Media Strategy and Tactics, Crisis Communication and the newly created business skills class.