Communication Program Steps Up

Published: July 13, 2005 | Read Time: 4 minutes

Southern Utah University will be offering a new graduate degree this fall, thanks to a decision by the Utah State Board of Regents Friday afternoon in St. George, Utah. The Board approved the Master of Arts in Professional Communication during its regular meetings this week and opened the door for another graduate program to begin on the Cedar City campus.

Provost Abe Harraf, the chief academic officer at Southern Utah University, is elated about the announcement because there has been a lot of hard work invested in this process.

“There is no question that the University has worked hard for four years to get this program. We have had to reallocate some resources and make sure we have the entire faculty aligned to deliver this degree,” says Harraf. “When we roll out the first classes this fall, they will be taught by a 100% Ph.D. faculty—a requirement for a graduate program.”

This graduate degree will now extend the top-quality bachelor’s program in Communication to the managerial level by focusing on career competencies and applied research capabilities.

This Communication Master’s degree is the fifth graduate program offered by SUU and the first within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The other graduate programs offered at SUU are in Accounting, Business, Education and Fine Arts Administration.

SUU President Steven D. Bennion was quite happy while describing why this is a valuable addition to the University’s curriculum. “This degree fits perfectly within the Institution’s mission of adding ‘selective graduate programs’ over the next several years. When we add a graduate program in another college on our campus, we are able to showcase another set of excellent faculty in the process.”

Bennion continues, “This also provides a program that will help to meet the demand of our southern Utah audience within the region we are expected to serve.”

The Professional Communication degree is designed to provide graduate education for people seeking jobs, promotions or increased competence in communication industries—especially those driven by new technologies. As an applied professional degree, it is sufficiently broad based to span a variety of professions. Since this degree is designed to be especially attractive to working professionals, the scheduling of course work will attempt to accommodate their schedules.

“We will have many of the courses planned for the afternoons,” says Harraf. “We want to make this as convenient as possible for the interested parties. In that same vein, we are also looking at having several courses online soon and hope to have all of them available online within a year so they are accessible from anywhere.”

The University has already received a grant that will help pay for the costs of putting these new courses on the web.

The new degree includes three areas of emphasis: advertising/public relations, interpersonal/corporate communication, and mass communication. It will require a minimum of 36 semester hours of graduate coursework, an applied research-tool competency and a comprehensive final examination. It culminates in a graduate project, internship or thesis complete with a thorough oral examination of the project results, internship portfolio, or thesis.

Communication Department Chair Jon Smith is very pleased to see this dream turn into a reality. “The workload now shifts from trying to get the degree approved to getting the curriculum approved. We will present the curriculum to the Graduate Curriculum Committee this Monday night for their approval.” Smith adds, “This brings prestige to our faculty as well as challenges. We are ready for it and the faculty is excited for the new opportunities of working with additional research and publishing, and interacting with graduate students.

“Our faculty is preparing the curriculum for students and they are fully capable and ready for this exciting new step for our department.” Smith continues, “It has been a long time and a lot of hard work to get to this point so we are very excited with today’s decision.”

Prospective candidates can begin immediately preparing their application materials for entry into the program. They will include: a cover letter, transcripts, a Graduate Records Exam score, an application, a writing sample and three letters of recommendation. More information is now available on the web at

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