2017 Success Stories: First cohort completes BGSU M.A. strategic communication specialization

Changing times in media and communication call for new skills

By Julie Carle

Seven media and communication professionals graduated Aug. 5 as the first group to complete the Master of Arts in media and communication with a specialization in strategic communication.

“The changing field of media and communication requires an awareness about the latest trends,” said Dr. Claudia Y. Owens, program director and instructor. “This program, which started in fall 2015, helps professionals prepare for the challenges they encounter in their fields.”

Graduates of the first cohort are Chad Christenson, Buckeye Broadband; Katlyn Ditzel Johnson, a global corporate communications specialist with Owens-Illinois; Jessica Gast, former assistant to the dean in the BGSU College of Education and Human Development; Terri Gibson, a graphic designer and account manager; Kelsey Rentner, foundation coordinator for the Detroit Red Wings; Joe Verkennes, director of marketing and communications at Monroe Community College; and Andrew Wiltsie, account executive at The Mars Agency.

For Verkennes, the program helped take his analytical skills to a whole new level. 

“I learned that the theoretical aspects of communication could really inform my practical experience,” he said. 

He utilized his master’s project, “Creating a Crisis Communication Plan for a Small or Mid-sized Community College with Monroe County Community College as the Model,” as an opportunity to combine the classroom knowledge with the reality of his workplace. 

“I will be using that research in developing such a plan for my employer,” he said. 

“I think the students and professors all learned from each other by fusing theory and practical application. Bringing professionals together to learn more about theory was really a tremendous educational experience,” Verkennes said. 

Christenson, a 17-year employee of Buckeye Broadband plans to use the degree to find creative solutions for communicating on behalf of the company’s digital marketing team. His master’s project dealt with “Changing Times: An Examination Changing Video Entertainment Sources and Cable TV Companies Communicating With Customers.” He also hopes to teach at the college level, blending his real-world experience with the theory taught in the program. 

Gibson, whose master’s project was “Transitioning Business-to-Business Marketing Communications to Social Media,” chose the BGSU program to “improve my knowledge and skills in relevant areas such as organizational communication, social media, advertising and public relations.” 

She earned a BFA from BGSU, specializing in graphic design, and plans to develop and expand her duties using technology and best practices in the industry.

The graduates agreed that the format of the master’s degree program, which comprised a blend of online courses and monthly face-to-face meetings during the first year at BGSU Levis Commons in Perrysburg, was one of the reasons they enrolled at BGSU.  During the second year all courses are online.

“It was structured for working professionals,” Gibson said. “Meeting face-to-face once a month for three hours in the evening was invaluable.”

Each of the student’s master’s project topics related directly to their positions: Gast researched “New Media Communication and Recruitment for Postsecondary Institutions; Johnson focused on “Social Media Marketing: A Solution for Marketing and Advertising Agency Promotion;” Rentner’s topic was “Domestic Violence and the National Football League;” and Wiltsie looked at “Proving Marketing ROI: A Digital Marketing Framework.”

“I’m really proud of the efforts this group made as the inaugural class for this program,” Owens said. “This fall we are starting our third cohort with another strong class of professionals.”