Designed exclusively for working professionals in advertising, public relations or corporate or nonprofit communications, the Professional M.A. in Strategic Communication focuses on the study of communications strategy, planning and evaluation, as well as persuasion and advertising theory. Our curriculum recognizes that the communication industry is rapidly changing and is in need of strategic thinkers who can achieve business outcomes. You’ll learn how to create and implement effective communication strategies while becoming a communicator who provides strategic insight to executives.
Today’s communicators need strategic and practical skills to navigate the constantly changing media landscape. Sharpen your skills while embedding theory into your everyday work and transforming your career.
Our program is designed for communications and marketing professionals who are working full-time. Our faculty and your fellow students understand the need for work/life balance. This degree is designed to be completed in two calendar years. Period. No waiting for class availability or impossible schedules. You will complete your coursework and capstone project in a workable schedule that still leaves time for the rest of your life.
The Cohort Advantage: Learn From and With Your Peers
Learn from the Best: Blend of Real-World Leaders and Scholars
Numbers Don’t Lie: The Bottom Line
We’re the only strategic communication masters degree in the Twin Cities that is part of a nationally ranked school of journalism that values the fundamental disciplines of research and discovery, critical thinking, writing, editing and storytelling within the broader challenges of today’s media landscape.
Professionals in strategic communication currently employed in an advertising, public relations or marketing firm, or in a communication function within a corporation, nonprofit, or government entity, may apply. Other applicants will be considered also, whose experience or qualifications indicates the likelihood of their success.
Applicants must have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited U.S. institution or its foreign equivalent and at least two years of professional experience in any of the following areas:
To apply, follow the steps below. All materials must be uploaded to the online application, Apply Yourself. There is a rolling admission process, meaning that candidates are admitted as their applications are received until the 20-member cohort is full.
Applications must be received before June 15 for September admission. Incomplete applications will not be processed.
Please do not submit paper applications to the School of Journalism, as they are unnecessary and not recommended. However, if you have professional writing samples that cannot be uploaded to Apply Yourself, please contact the Graduate Student Services office at email@example.com for alternative options.
International students are welcome to apply for this program. But please note that no assistantships are given. Relocation to and employment in the Twin Cities is necessary while enrolled. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
The Professional M.A. in Strategic Communication requires 33 graduate credits to be completed within 24 calendar months. All students take the same 18 course credits in communication and complete a six-credit individual project. In addition, nine credits of supporting study at the graduate level, at least six outside of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, must be completed.
Students must maintain a GPA of at least 3.0, and achieve a grade of B or higher on their six-credit project. Student progress is evaluated by the program director, director of graduate studies, and program faculty. Students must progress each semester to continue in the program.
There is no final thesis or final M.A. oral examination required.
A brief overview of courses is listed below. All students are required to complete the following courses in sequence:
An exploration of the analytical skills, techniques and methodologies used to identify information and social trends that affect communication strategy. The course will examine, evaluate and apply the techniques communication professionals can use to stay ahead of the marketplace when making decisions concerning communication strategy. Particular attention will be devoted to identifying trends in popular culture that lead to leverageable insights for message development.
Communication Strategy Research in Rapidly Changing and Complex Media Environments
Concepts, analytical techniques and methods to analyze audiences, target markets and social trends affecting communication strategy in context of complex and rapidly changing media environments.
Factors Impacting Communication Strategy
Identification and analysis of issues that affect the development of communication strategy, couple with background on how corporations develop strategic plans. Factors will be examined with a view to understanding their implications for the development of effective strategic planning. Attention will be given to both the analytic and predictive skills required in this area.
Generation and Selection of Communication Strategies
Concepts and methods for the development and selection of effective communication strategies to create and sustain information relationships between consumers and brands and/or organizations. A wide range of brand related concepts will be examined with a view to understanding their implications for the generation and selection of effective communication strategies.
Integration of Communication Strategy Across Media
An exploration of how communication strategies are integrated across media. The course will include the identification of all relevant stakeholders, points of media contact, audience segmentation, and the roles that each communication discipline can play in campaign development. It will also explore the relationships among media that underlie a successful communications campaign.
Measuring the Effectiveness of Communication Campaigns
An examination of the concepts and methods available to evaluate the effectiveness of strategic communication campaigns and their components. The course will review best practices in both qualitative and quantitative techniques in popular use. The course will examine laboratory, web site, and market approaches and the legal and ethical issues attendant to advertising and public relations evaluation research.
Cases in Strategic Communication An in-depth analysis of case studies focusing on the development and implementation of communication strategies. Cases will cover a broad range of situations including cases on products, corporate communication and non-profit organizations. Cases will focus on such issues as brand introduction, brand reinforcement, revitalizations, crisis communication, issues management, and legal and ethical considerations. The cases will examine campaign impact on all relevant stakeholders.
Research and Development of an Integrated Strategic Communication Campaign
This is a capstone independent study project demonstrating mastery of the entire curriculum in the MA in Strategic Communication. This project is completed by registering for JOUR 8206 in the Summer Session. Faculty provide ongoing instructional support for effective completion of the individual capstone case study projects.
Supporting Courses (Electives)
Students take nine credits of graduate-level credits, generally courses designated as 5-level courses and above. At least six of the nine credits must be from departments outside the SJMC. Examples of these courses are COMM 5441, Communication in Human Organizations and COMM 5451, Intercultural Communication Processes. Other courses may be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies if the student can demonstrate how the course is applicable to them and the program.
Please keep in mind that the cost of tuition is set by the University of Minnesota and fluctuates. These numbers are approximate.
Books and cost of living not included in total cost.
Every semester, scholarships are offered exclusively to students enrolled in the Strategic Communication M.A. program. Scholarship applications are due during the first semester of enrollment.
Approximately $30,000 is given to students in support every year from the following merit-based fellowships and scholarships:
Professional Strategic Communication M.A. students are working professionals in advertising, public relations, corporate communications, nonprofit organizations and government. This program focuses on advanced professional study of communications strategy, planning, evaluation and creative management.
Anahita Ahrar of Woodbury, Minn. holds a B.A. degree in Communication Studies from the University of Minnesota. She is currently employed as a senior specialist on the Target India Central team at Target Corporation and also works part-time as a PR/marketing assistant for Jungle Red Salon Spa Gallery. The area of strategic communication that Ahrar finds most interesting is the evolving world of public relations as it pertains to social media and corporate organizations. She hopes this degree will allow her to expand her experience in the field of public relations and find a career surrounding media outlets, the entertainment industry and event planning. She would ultimately like to work for a well-known PR firm or own her own business.
Holly Brus is from Denison, Iowa and holds BAs in both International Politics and Spanish from the University of Iowa. Holly is currently employed at the University of Minnesota. She is the lead events coordinator and office manager for International Student and Scholar Services. Her past experience includes working for the Foreign Relations Council and the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities where she developed programming and communication strategies for United Nations Foundation campaigns (Nothing But Nets, Girl Up, and Shot @ Life). Holly is interested in how social media affects social and political change as well as exploring the worlds of for-profit advertising and marketing.
Bob Cameron graduated from the University of Minnesota, became a Navy Cryptologist, and is now a FBI Special Agent working cyber crime. He is a member of both the Cyber Action Team, a group that reacts to computer intrusions worldwide, and the Cyber Field Instructor Program, responsible for technical presentations and outreach. Cameron’s academic interests include brand development, building arguments and public relations.
Sally Daly graduated from the University of North Dakota with B.A. degrees in English and Communications. She currently works for CaringBridge, where she holds the senior customer care representative position. She will celebrate three years with CaringBridge in October. Her favorite parts of the job include reporting customer feedback, managing/training remote Customer Care volunteers and hearing stories from some of the incredible people who use CaringBridge. Daly is excited to learn the planning and execution process for developing an organization's strategic plan. She also looks forward to the case studies and learning different tactics from various organizations. She hopes to use her M.A. degree to be on a leadership team for a nonprofit organization, as she would love to use her communication skills to help people.
Barbara DeGroot of Minnetonka, Minn. is a public relations specialist at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Previous work experience includes media relations at Global Volunteers, copy editor for the Pioneer Press, feature reporter for the Las Vegas Sun and the Wausau Daily Herald and co-author of the “Insiders’ Guide to the Twin Cities” guidebook. She holds a B.A. in Latin American Area Studies from the University of Minnesota and looks forward to studying how to effectively reach a receptive and engaged audience in the ever-changing media landscape.
Kate Demulling holds a B.S. degree in Sociology and Family Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She was previously employed as the international adoption coordinator for Children’s Home Society and Family Services, and currently works as a research and evaluation project manager for the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development. Demulling is most interested in studying health communications, particularly within family relations. She aspires to work for a health communications organization where she can efficiently and effectively communicate with the organization’s prospective and current clientele on how to accomplish their personal goal(s).
Matt DePoint currently works as the public relations coordinator for the Academic Health Center at the University of Minnesota, where he focuses primarily on brain sciences, diabetes and health policy. Previously, he worked at Exponent PR and Tunheim where he collaborated with a variety of clients on areas including health care, education, consumer and agriculture. DePoint earned his B.A. in Journalism with a focus on strategic communication/public relations from the SJMC. In his M.A. program, he is most interested in studying the evolving landscape of public relations and social media and hopes to one day be the director of communications for an organization or institution.
William Dunder of Minneapolis is a freelance photographer and new media specialist. He works for a number of photographers, production companies, organizations and institutions, including the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center, Tom Bakk’s gubernatorial campaign and The Fanconi Anemia Foundation. He holds a B.A. in Fine Arts from Beloit College, enjoys studying advertising and has future plans to work as a creative director for an advertising firm.
Emily Franklin is the director of communications and environmental projects at Environmental Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building partnerships to solve Minnesota’s environmental problems. Franklin is responsible for developing the organization’s overall communications strategy as well as management of ongoing activities including newsletters, media relations, the website, blog and social media. Prior to joining Environmental Initiative, Franklin worked in environmental and regulatory affairs for a subsidiary of Xcel Energy and completed a communications and fundraising fellowship with Saint John’s Arboretum in Collegeville, Minnesota. The Minnesota native earned B.A. degrees in Political Science and Environmental Studies from the College of Saint Benedict. She is most interested in exploring how to more effectively measure and evaluate communications and fundraising campaigns.
Carl Jaeger holds a B.A. in both Journalism and Mass Communication and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While in Madison, he was involved in The Badger Herald, one of two daily campus newspapers and also interned in a Capitol press office. Upon graduation, Jaeger started as the weekend assignment editor at Fox 9 News (KMSP) in Minneapolis and was soon promoted to evening assignment editor. He is currently a producer for the Fox 9 Morning News. His academic interests include viewer/reader engagement, integrating new media into traditional media and political communication.
Reshma Kapadia is from India and holds a MBA in marketing from the University of Mumbai. She has over 10 years of work experience in business development and marketing. At Airtel, India’s largest telecom service provider, she led the customer acquisitions portfolio where she was responsible for growth in customer market share, consumer research and product development. She moved to Minneapolis more than a year ago with her husband and has been actively volunteering with the marketing and fund-raising teams at YWCA. Kapadia’s academic interests include product and brand development, social media and mobile advertising.
Elyse Paxton, originally from Chicago, Ill., earned her B.A. in Speech Communication from Iowa State University. She is currently the communications coordinator for Academic Support Resources at the University of Minnesota. Her main responsibilities include writing and executing strategic communication plans, creating internal newsletters, editing course and program descriptions and creating tutorials for faculty and staff. Prior to this position, Paxton was an editor for Gardening How-To and FenderBender magazines. She is most interested in factors affecting strategic communication and intercultural communication processes and aspires to earn a management position in communications that involves her love of writing and editing.
Madeleine Saxler holds B.A. degrees in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She's currently the communications specialist for the South Washington County Schools, where she develops and implements communications plans to support the district's mission of igniting a passion for lifelong learning. Previously, she served as both a communications intern and communications specialist in a similar role for a smaller school district, West St. Paul - Mendota Heights - Eagan Area Schools. The areas of strategic communication that she is most interested in studying include strategic communications planning and management, public relations and branding. Saxler hopes to use her degree to work in positions that focus on strategic planning and brand management.
Jennifer Veile previously earned a Masters degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also holds a B.S. in Mass Communications and English Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. For the past three years, she has worked for the University of Minnesota Libraries as the multimedia site manager and media consultant. Previously, she worked for NPR and PBS in Illinois and PBS in Duluth, Minn. She is primarily interested in how non-profits and academic programs/services can highlight their visibility. Specifically, she is interested in strategies to cut through the din of communication to make an impact and get noticed and communicate internally. Veile enjoys teaching people how to communicate and would eventually like to guide an organization or individuals on how to brand themselves. She envisions using video as a communication tool that can help others accomplish their branding goals.
Heather Voorhees, an internal communications consultant for Fairview Health Services, has worked in the communications industry for 10 years. After earning a bachelor’s degree in mass communications (with an emphasis on print journalism) from Minnesota State University Moorhead, she worked as a journalist for small-town newspapers and local magazines throughout Minnesota. In 2008, she joined the internal communications team at Fairview Health Services, where she works to effectively and efficiently relay educational and inspirational messages to more than 20,000 employees throughout the Fairview system. Communication is a passion of hers, both on and off the clock: in her free time, she teaches a monthly career exploration course for Dakota County, leads a new homeowner class through Habitat for Humanity and serves as public relations chairwoman for Rotary District 5950.
Jered Weber of Verndale, Minn. earned his B.A. degree in English and Mass Communications, with a minor in history and a certificate in publishing from Minnesota State University Moorhead. He currently serves as the director of communications for the Minnesota State University Student Association. He is primarily interested in learning the psychology behind effective strategic communications. In addition, he would like to learn how to couple this understanding of the “human” element in communications with the latest tools and strategies to more effectively move public opinion towards solving the greater public policy challenges of this generation; most notably, that of climate change and energy independence. In the future, Weber hopes to find a position in the nonprofit, government or private sector where he could work towards creating a clean, independent energy future through effective communications and public outreach.
Jenna Williams holds a B.S. degree from the University of Minnesota in Environment and Natural Resources. She currently serves as the communications coordinator for the University of Minnesota’s Department of Forest Resources where she plays many roles, including recruiter/marketer for undergraduate programs, newsletter editor, social media manager and events coordinator. The areas of strategic communication that Williams is most interested in are communication strategy development, social media and marketing. In the future, she would like to continue to work in the field of environmental/natural resource communications and eventually hold a leadership position for a team of communicators.
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The Strategic Communication M.A. program prides itself with being well connected within the community. The program regularly consults with members of its strategy review board and calls on them to enhance curriculum and enrich student experiences. Learn more about our board below.
*Kurt Errickson, staff representative, AFSCME
Marilee Grant, director of community relations, Boston Scientific
Kelly Groehler, vice president of communications and public affairs, Mid America Energy Holdings Company
Margaret Ann Hennen, president, Hennen Communication, LLC
John Himle, principle, Himle Rapp
Judy Kessel, founder, board chair, StoneArch Creative
Matt Kucharski, executive vice president of agency services, Padilla Speer Beardsley
Beth LeBreche, vice president of strategic development, Gage
*Rebecca Luna, account director, Exponent PR
Rachael Marret, senior vice president of customer engagement, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group
Mary Meehan, co-founder and CEO, Panoramix Global
Eric Pehle, executive vice president, general manager, Weber Shandwick
*Karen Schultz, business development manager, Gage
Doug Spong, president, Carmichael Lynch
*Alumni who serve on the board
Graduates of the master’s program in strategic communication will develop knowledge, skills and training to be next-generation communications leaders. The foundation of successful organizational communications is strategy – and that’s the core educational focus in this master’s program. You should develop your leadership ability, marketability and productivity. It will help you be a leader. We believe the curriculum will enhance your ability to identify and develop the best communications strategy, develop creative and original approaches to solving communications problems, and make you better informed about theories that are the basis for effective organizational communications.
Graduates of the program now work in communications positions at a wide variety of organizations – advertising and public relations agencies, trend tracking consulting firms, Fortune 100 corporations, small manufacturing companies, state agencies, school districts, area colleges and universities and many non-profit organizations. The degree itself is not the key to success – but the knowledge gained helps advance the careers of many students. Routinely, students in the program say that they can apply what they learn in class the next day at work.
This program is designed first and foremost for storytellers. You will experience the rigor of an MBA curriculum but with more focus on strategy and creativity. Many students do take elective MBA courses in marketing, consumer buyer behavior and brand management.
Our completion rates above 90 percent suggest that students who commit themselves to our program find this degree extremely manageable. Since courses meet on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings, many of our students establish a new weekly routine. Course workload is easily completed on weekends, instructors are flexible and cohorts work like a support group.
No. Some successful strategic communications professionals have degrees in other disciplines. Each candidate’s qualifications will be evaluated from various perspectives – with undergraduate curriculum just one of many factors.
We’re using a rolling admission process. That means the sooner you apply, the sooner you’ll find out if you’re accepted. The application deadline is June 15— but we urge you to apply as early as possible. Enrollment will be limited to only 20 students.
Once your application is completed (keep in mind that it’s a dual application process, with one for the University of Minnesota Graduate School and one for the SJMC) and your application fee is received, the process takes about four to six weeks. Candidates will be notified on a rolling basis.
Yes. Program director Steve Wehrenberg is available to answer questions at email@example.com.
Directions on how to apply can be found in the Application Information tab.
No. Instead of a master’s thesis, you will do a Capstone Project that will require you to prepare and present a final project in consultation with your academic advisor and reviewed by two other graduate program faculty members. Acceptable formats for the final project include: a publishable series or by-lined academic journal article on an important strategic communications issue or trend; an original research paper on an important dimension of strategic communication; a major paper and presentation on a specific challenge and recommended solution in strategic communication.
All registered students begin classes in September.
Generally, yes. However, if you already have a graduate degree in another field, the Academic Director may waive the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) requirement. GMAT scores will also be accepted.
Generally this program is highly customized in advanced strategic communication. Students will be expected to take all courses totaling 33 credits in a structured schedule and program.
Yes. And graduate level courses from other programs may be considered as elective credits, subject to approval by the Academic Director.
None of the courses are available online, however you may be able to take one or more of your electives online.
This full-time program has been designed for working professionals, so courses are offered two nights per week (generally Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 5:30 - 8 p.m.) in the fall and spring and one night a week (generally Tuesday or Thursday evenings from 5:15 - 10 p.m.) in the summer. Students take six credits (or two classes) per semester to complete the program in two years. Students who want to attend on a part-time basis must consult with the program directors at the time of application.
"Young Adult Motivations Towards Volunteering with Youth Organizations"
Amelie Hyams, M.A. '12
"The Advent Conspiracy: An exploration of the efficacy of a communications campaign in increasing charitable giving"
Aleta Johnson, M.A. '11
"Changing Attitudes: The Print-to-Digital Shift and its Implications for Magazine Advertising"
Steven Norman, M.A. '11
"Establishing Online Credibility: An Evaluative Look at Corporations' Use of Blogging"
Angela Rolle Thompson, M.A. '11
"Community Relations: Considering Effectiveness and Value"
Meghan Flaagan, M.A. '10
"Internal Communication and Its Effects on Employee Satisfaction and Engagement"
Kari Fox, M.A. '10
"Trust, Expertise, Likability...Why they matter in the financial services industry"
Heidi Backer, M.A. '09
"The name of the game: TCF Bank Stadium and Reactance Theory"
Rebecca Hennen, M.A. '09
"Re-branding a Political Candidate"
Michael Tankenoff, M.A. '09
"The Role of Online Social Networking in Professional Settings: A study of online social networking use within a business organization"
Elizabeth Bogut, M.A. '08
"Exploring the Communication Efforts of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities Organization from an Ordinary Non-Profit to an Effective Business Model"
Shadetra Johnson, M.A. '08
"Cause Branding: The Consumer Perspective"
Eva Widder, M.A. '08
"The Pharmaceutical Direct-to-Consumer Marketing Model: Medtronic’s Way to Branding and Architectural Success"
Alan Olson, M.A. '07
"Starbucks, Taco John’s and the Typology of Brand Greatness"
Matt Rogers, M.A. '07
"New Uses of Expectancy Value and Symbolic Interpretation in Applying Complexity Theory in Labor Union Communications on Health Care Advocacy"
Kurt Errickson, M.A. '07