Professional and New Media Writing Master Degree Program

By Jessica Willner
SC Staff Writer

ESU will soon be home to the first English master’s degree program in PASSHE.

Just approved two weeks ago and expecting to begin Fall 2013, the program focuses on advanced writing and new media communication. The degree program, which is online-based, will give students in the quickly growing field of professional writing an accessible way to further their education and advance in their careers.

In the proposal for the program, Professor Bill Broun and Graduate Dean Marilyn J. Wells write, “To meet Commonwealth workforce demand for professional and new media writing jobs across sectors and industries, the proposed program will offer multiple pathways for prospective students to achieve the qualifications most in demand in job openings.” The proposal states that the program will qualify students for senior-level positions in their writing field.

Broun says that having a master’s degree “opens doors” and allows you to move beyond the skills you acquired with a bachelor’s degree. It also allows you to learn with a group of people who can share their professional experiences. According to the proposal, growing jobs in the professional writing field include “senior technical writer, web content writer, web writer, web content specialist, web journalist, digital writer, e-commerce content writer, internet technical writer, scientific writer, project-based content writer, proposal writer and writing and editing manager.”

The 30-credit hour program features 80 percent online learning along with face-to-face audio-visual technology. Classes will meet in Desire2Learn and live classroom, programs that recent graduates are already familiar with. Students will be required to meet at ESU for only two classes—one of which is a period of orientation set to take place over the summer.

The program offers flexibility and personalization. Students will be able to take 15 eclectic credits according to their personal interests in writing. They will also be assigned an advisor based on their interest in the field.

Broun says that the distance education setting is beneficial to both students and ESU. While the university is under budget cuts and financial pressure, costs will be kept low because facilities will rarely be needed and computer lab space will be kept open on campus. Students will benefit financially with less course materials and no commuting costs. They will also be able to avoid domestic conflicts.

Not only will students benefit financially while furthering their education, but they will also be able to network with professionals in their field and have a chance to “learn the latest skills and be with like-minded people,” says Broun.

Broun says that he, along with other current English professors, is excited to take a teaching roll in the program. He also says that some “hot commodities” will be hired, including talented professionals with New York City experience.

Broun explains that the department has been trying to implement the program for 11 or 12 years. He says, “We never got beyond the ESU campus in getting approved. Three years ago, a few of us in the English department began working on it again. What really made the difference and jump-started it this time was the support from Marilyn Wells.”

An important factor in the decision to initiate the program was held in ESU’s unique location. Professional writing careers are opening not only in the cities surrounding the campus, but in the campus’ county itself. The proposal by Broun and Wells says, “A majority of book and magazine publishers, as well as advertising and public relations firms, are concentrated in five major U.S. cities, including New York and Philadelphia, which are in close proximity to ESU. Furthermore, ESU is located in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, which is one of the fastest-growing counties in the United States.”

No other schools in the surrounding regions offer a professional writing graduate degree program. Broun says that there is a high student demand for it. According to a survey last April of undergraduate professional writing students, 92% said they would enroll in this program and 60% of media-related alumni said they would consider enrolling as well.

More information about the program will be available to students in the coming months.

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