The power and reach of digital and traditional media is now nearly limitless, a truly “always on” engagement with communities, stakeholders, supporters, and the world at large. While the tools needed to launch fully integrated media and communications strategies are more accessible than at any time in history, the experience, insight, and wisdom to use these tools effectively for social change are still challenging to master.

Adler University’s fully online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Media and Communications gives experienced communications and engagement professionals the latest data-driven strategies and knowledge to help deepen their practices. Our program also offers recent college graduates and career changers the comprehensive background needed to develop as leaders in their chosen fields.

Our Media and Communications program was designed by the City of Chicago’s former director of social media and head of technology for the Obama for America campaign. It is led by an academically focused director with broad experience in corporate and community-facing engagement, as well as an advisory board of digital media pioneers including a former news director for Twitter.

Our innovative Media and Communications curriculum surveys the range of knowledge around audience behavior and motivation, and focuses on effective story-driven communication strategies for an evolved approach to engaged, ethically guided activism and social movement. The knowledge you’ll gain is appropriate for a range of sectors and applications, including corporate responsibility initiatives, political campaigns, community organization and outreach, and more. Degree candidates also complete a capstone project that integrates coursework and best-practice case studies to create a viable communications strategy for implementing positive change for a specific campaign, organization, or movement.

This leadership-focused master’s program can help graduates advance their professional standing in the field; our schedule-flexible online approach means students can balance existing professional and personal responsibilities while they complete this degree program. All of our online programs are delivered with the academic rigor and personal attention that has distinguished Adler University for more than 60 years.

Earn your master’s degree in Media and Communications fully online from an institution that shares your values of social justice and community-based solutions.

Program Outcomes

Graduates of Adler University’s online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Media and Communications program will be prepared to use the full range of communications tools and strategies to advance social change by being able to:

  • Integrate psychological and behavioral principles in selecting and using new media and digital communication resources to successfully advance an agenda or idea.
  • Understand how the successes of social justice movements can inform modern campaigns that leverage the latest in audience engagement strategies.
  • Anticipate user behavior to develop interactive design frameworks that engage and influence communities to move toward unified action.
  • Discover how tested and proven baseline communications principles can be adapted to activate online audiences to influence offline actions, through the use of cutting-edge social listening tools.
  • Explain historical precedents, current practical applications, and future foreseeable adaptions in order to shape social change movements through the use of new media and communication platforms.
  • Organize technical, data-driven, defensible, and innovative digital applications to develop effective, persuasive, and actionable communications strategies.
  • Analyze the practical applications of big data and deep analytics to challenge preconceived user behavior assumptions and inform evidence-based strategies positioning, as well as enhance or redeploy information-sharing and persuasion techniques.
  • Identify organizational barriers and create strategies and initiatives that implement the structural change necessary to manage and influence a real-time online engagement program that activates meaningful social change.
  • Formulate creative multimedia recommendations using both new media and accepted qualitative and quantitative research techniques.

Courses

Adler University’s fully online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Media and Communications is a 36 credit-hour program. Courses are eight weeks in length, and this program can be completed online in two years with scheduled breaks.

The M.A. in Media and Communications online program is offered in the following sequence of classes, including a final capstone course:

Media and Communications
36 credits
MAMC 500 (3)
Evolution of Media in Social Movements
As the media landscape has evolved from the stable broadcast mechanisms of the early days of radio and television through the expansion of social media, organizations and individuals have consistently had to adapt to keep pace. This course will give students a foundation in the fundamental platforms of modern communications and the technologies behind digital engagement. With this foundation, the course will examine how social movements are built, how existing power structures can be challenged, and how activists’ voices can be amplified through social media.
MAMC 501 (3)
Psychology of Choice, Narration, and Persuasion
The power of communication to inspire social movements is built upon the psychology of language, persuasion, and decision-making. Social movements are predicated on constructing organizations around a theory of change and inspiring people to join the cause. In this course students will learn about the core principles of linguistics, choice theory and architecture, and applied behavioral psychology. The essentials of motivating individuals and groups, designing incentives, and framing messages will all be explored in depth.
MAMC 502 (3)
Foundations of Audience Research and Analysis
Effective communication relies not just on effective narrative but also on comprehensive understanding of the audiences we wish to engage and our impact on them. This course exposes students to quantitative and qualitative audience research methods, online listening and monitoring practices, and social media conversation analysis in order to shape message frameworks, build strategic narratives, and measure impact. Basics of applied statistics, modeling, sampling, and polling methodology will also be explored. In a communications landscape dominated by social behaviors, understanding the dynamics of dialogue, listening, and community responsiveness are all essential aspects of effective engagement.
MAMC 503 (3)
Fundamentals of User Behavior
If we are to move people to social action, we need not only to inspire them but also to create immersive experiences across multiple platforms that give them opportunities to act. Understanding usage and design patterns, incentives, gamification, affordances of technology and design, and platform-specific actions is crucial to building active, engaged communities. Beyond individual calls to action, the course will examine community building, knitting individual actions into long-term relationships, and empowering existing community members to drive experiences for new members.
MAMC 504 (3)
Influence of Technology on Global Movements
This course provides a survey of global studies—state and non-state actors from international organizations to local and transnational social movements—through the lens of technology. The course offers a broad understanding of how technology impacts the lives of people from the local community to regional, national, international, and non-state arenas. We will seek to find commonalities across international borders at the same time we assess the dynamics of media and technology in different regions of the world. We will look to answer how mobile computing and access to technology drive engagement in the developing world, and how closed and open societies engage media—such as how the Arab Spring and other social and political movements have used technology to challenge existing power structures and how states have used social media to influence, monitor, and neutralize potentially threatening social movements.
MAMC 505 (3)
Winning Digital Campaigns: From Election to Social Justice Movements
From the election of Barack Obama to the rise of the Tea Party, this course offers a case–based examination some of the most highly effective electoral and political campaigns in recent history. Insights from and analysis of those victories will be applied to a spectrum of advocacy and social justice organizations. Taking apart entire programs from strategy through tactics will develop student understanding of how to build and execute winning digital campaigns based on foundational understanding of media, psychology, communications theory, and experience design. A case-based approach gives students the opportunity to understand campaigns in real contexts of real issues and real outcomes.
MAMC 506 (3)
Essentials of Big Data and Deep Analytics
Understanding success and defining objectives are crucial to building effective organizations and movements, and driving real outcomes and action. Advances in data aggregation, storage, and computing have together made possible real-time analysis of huge data sets, via methods and technologies known collectively as “big data.” This course will demystify and unpack those methods and technologies through the lens of how understanding them can drive effective engagement and leadership. Taking advantage of big data principles and concepts can help create measurement and analytics systems that drive data-driven decision-making.
MAMC 507 (3)
Narrative-Powered Activism
Expanding the principles of storytelling from single channels to an interconnected narrative that spans an entire landscape of networked communications is how organizations go from compelling to powerful—blending narrative and action into a seamless engagement model. It requires building a strategic matrix of communities and tools, content calendaring and planning, responsive protocols, real-time social posture, a defined risk tolerance, and processes that allow for agile, opportunistic engagement. In this course, students will learn content development and editorial planning and how to craft strategic narratives to drive action in a community.
MAMC 508 (3)
Law, Ethics, and Privacy in the Digital Age
While data mining, information gathering, and user-tracking can offer unprecedented value and insights to communications professionals moving a message and measuring impact, it also poses new challenges to our relationship with individual privacy. This course will prepare students to tackle the practical ethical and legal issues surrounding data and digital media. Students will examine the available acceptable use and privacy policies of major digital players such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to understand how the rules of the game evolve, as well as the boundaries that a digital strategist must operate within. Students will also look at statutory and regulatory issues and the impact of their enforcement. Topics around the legal use of content, intellectual property, and copyright will also be explored.
MAMC 509 (3)
Converting Audiences to Advocates with Paid Digital Media Optimization
Successful organizations take a passive information-receiver on a journey to become a mobilized advocate for your cause. This “ladder of engagement” is the framework that a community is built around. Students will learn how to intentionally optimize conversion rates at each rung of the ladder in order to drive a deeply engaged community. This explores testing and optimization techniques for user experience, content, digital advertising, search engine marketing, and search engine optimization into communications and digital engagement.
MAMC 510 (3)
Building and Leading Organizations
Communications and engagement is only one element of a social movement or advocacy organization. In social movements and advocacy organizations, digital engagement and technology are force multipliers for the entire organization, not simply ends to themselves. Defining organizational structure, process, and culture that enables innovation and digital engagement; integrating communications and engagement with programs, events, offline volunteer activity, and operations; and creating a culture of innovation, technology, and digital across the entire organization are crucial. This course will combine real-world case studies from successful organizations with principles of industrial/organizational psychology.
MAMC 511 (3)
Capstone - Developing Integrated Strategic Communications
This course prepares students to weave tactical elements into a complete integrated communications structure. Built on case studies of success and the individual elements of effective organizations, this course is designed to integrate all previous coursework, engage students as the leaders of a movement, and empower them to analyze, organize and implement social change.

Careers

Graduates of Adler University’s M.A. in Media and Communications online program will have the skills, knowledge, and experience for the following career roles and more:

  • Advertising Manager
  • Campaign Communications Director
  • Communications and Public Relations Manager
  • Community/Grassroots Organizer
  • Community Engagement Manager
  • Community Relations Director
  • Corporate Social Responsibility Manager
  • Digital Strategist
  • Fundraising Professional
  • Legislative and Public Policy Advocate
  • Marketing Manager
  • Nonprofit Leader
  • Public Affairs Director
  • Recruitment Specialist
  • Social Media Director
  • Special Projects and Events Director

Davina Jones, director of the M.A. in Media and Communications for Social Change program at Adler University

Davina Jones, Ph.D.
Program Director

Education

  • Ph.D., Communications Studies, Bowling Green State University
  • M.A., Communications Studies, Bowling Green State University
  • B.A., Speech Communication, Bethune-Cookman University

Experience

  • Professor, Pasco-Hernando State College
  • Executive Pastor, MTI Empowerment Center
  • Host, Greater Day Cafe inspirational videos
  • Founder and Director, Nia Inspirations, Inc.
  • Professor, Florida State College at Jacksonville
  • Guest Professor, Atlantic Cultural Institute, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Instructor and Academic Dean, Webster College of Ocala, Florida
  • Assistant Professor, Bethune-Cookman College
  • Program Coordinator, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

Areas of expertise, academic & research interests

  • Rhetoric: persuasion, social movements, and message construction
  • African American history

How does your background inform this program, and what you teach?

The communication discipline is extremely diverse. My concentrations in the field mirror some of that diversity and include rhetorical studies, persuasion, social movements, and interpersonal development. As a rhetorician, I have spent much of my academic career surveying how we use language to achieve outcomes, particularly those related to a range of social issues and movements that continue to shape our discourse:

  • Why are some movements more successful than others?
  • What are the language nuances that make audiences gravitate to one cause and not another?
  • How do we measure the impact of our language choices?
  • How is social justice achieved in one situation and not another?
These are just a few questions that have guided my interest in communications. My background as a professor, scholar, and community practitioner of socially conscious work allows me to serve in the capacity of Program Director with great passion and conviction about the many possibilities we have to use media to create change.

What specific career relevance or career enhancement does the Media and Communications program offer prospective students?

Organizations around the world are struggling with the need to keep up with media as a powerful channel of representations, misrepresentations, and desired outcomes. Our Media and Communications program is uniquely designed to equip our graduate students to be the new generation of communication experts who grasp the fluidity of new media, its impact on social issues, and our ability to use media to affect systemic change in organizations, social institutions, and communities around the world.

How does Adler’s program differ from programs offered by other schools?

Many of our competitors understand the demand for a new generation of communication experts, but few—if any—understand the demand for communication experts to be socially responsible practitioners who master the art and science of communication in the interest of social consciousness and social justice. Graduates from Adler’s Media and Communications program are challenged to use the arts and sciences of communication with the specific intent to help elevate social consciousness in multiple sectors that include for-profit, nonprofit, and community-based organizations.

How do the concepts of social justice and social responsibility apply to media and communications? How is the Adlerian ideal expressed?

Media has always been at the heart of social justice. One picture, one speech, one video, one strategic action can ignite a call for social justice that might have otherwise been unattended. Our students not only study media and its relationship with social change--they will become the new media professionals who seek to influence social change. While other institutions may be in business to graduate degree-holders, Adler University’s Media and Communications program is in business to graduate change agents—socially responsible communication practitioners.

How does the Media and Communications program incorporate community?

One feature of community that Media and Communications offers is the time-tested implementation of an advisory board of industry experts who will not only assist with the scholarly and practical relevance of the program’s design, but also with apprentice-style platforms for our graduate students and instructors and professional networking links for alumni.

How does the faculty engage with students of the program?

Faculty engagement is key to our students’ academic and professional success. Using the discussion formats, video posts, video chats, video lectures and 24-hour comment turnaround time, our faculty are ready to facilitate an engaging experience in this online platform. Expert communication faculty guide graduate students through the honing of their applications that can then become new patents for social change. Research in primary and secondary schools often demonstrates that the teacher-student relationship is a key factor in student achievement. The experiences of graduate students and their transitions into professional careers is no different.

How is this a career-enhancing program?

The great strength of the communications degree is its interdisciplinary transferability. Every major industry depends on digital, media, or message/speech-related communication competence. From traditional specializations in mass communications and rhetorical discourse, to new administrative roles in civic engagement, community advocacy, and social media, the Media and Communications program equips our new graduates to meet new demands in media and communications and the need to uniquely negotiate the relationship between media and social change.

What excites you about what you teach?

What excites me about the field of communication studies is how transferable and universal it is in exploring the impact of our actions and interactions with each other. The right message at the right time using the right channel can change a community, change an organization, change a family, and very possibly, change a nation.

Is there a specific course you’d like to highlight?

The Evolution of Social Movements is a personal favorite because of my background in rhetorical studies. It is an investigation of communication strategies that lead to social change and social justice. Data Analytics, however, is a unique course because it points to evolutions in the science of communication that are important to the form and art of communication.

Is there one thing that stands out in terms of the online student experience?

I have been pleasantly surprised by how advanced online education has become. Experiential activities that were once possible only in face-to-face classrooms are present in online communities more than ever before, sometimes even more than in face-to-face classrooms.

I’ve also come to value the time that an online student has to digest a thought. If online students choose to step away and immerse themselves in more in-depth reflection, they can do so. Or if they’re ready to move on to the next lesson, they can do that, too.

While I cherish the benefits of face-to-face interactions, the in-class student must always move to the next topic when I (the teacher) move. Online students can move as they learn, not as I dictate.

Why should someone already working in this field consider Adler’s M.A. in Media and Communications?

The field of communication studies has changed and continues to change at exponential rates. While many traditions, theories, and concepts learned in former degree programs may still be relevant, the applications are new! To not explore the relevance and use of these new media applications would be the equivalent of attempting to run a presidential campaign only using newspaper advertisements, an innovative application in the 1800s, but mostly ineffective in the 21st century as the sole media component. The current survival of an organization or movement depends heavily on its ability to operate in this new media paradigm.
Kelly Macias

Kelly Macías, Ph.D.

Education

  • Ph.D., Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Nova Southeastern University
  • M.A., Sociology with an emphasis in International Training and Education, American University
  • B.A., Spanish, Syracuse University

Experience

  • Guest Lecturer, Salisbury University
  • Teaching and Graduate Research Assistant, Nova Southeastern University
  • Adjunct Faculty, Howard Community College
  • Lecturer, Diversity Dialogues, University of Baltimore
  • Advisor, University of Baltimore
  • Organizational Development Consultant and Trainer (Ecuador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Uganda, United Arab Emirates), United States Agency for International Development
  • Organizational Development and Leadership Development Consultant (Ghana, Nicaragua, Philippines, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam), World Bank Group
  • Leadership Development Consultant (Colombia), Phelps Stokes Fund
  • Steering Committee Member, Global Conference on Testimony