“We’ve got a nice core curriculum that cuts across all concentrations and ensures that no matter what a student specializes
in, when they leave here, they’ve got a wide array of skills and
a working knowledge of many aspects of the field of communication,” he explained.
Yet the expansion of offerings didn’t stop there. In 2012, the
Department of Communication introduced its first master’s
program in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations. This fully-online format allows graduate students to
learn and interact with peers from around the world in digital
time, as a public relations professional might.
“And in a rapidly changing media environment and social
environment, in which much more of our interactions are online and much more of our public relations is online, teaching
students in that environment is really appropriate,” said Professor Battema.
With a growing student interest in the health field, plans
are also in the works to add a fifth undergraduate concentration in Health Communication, which would be the only
one of its kind in New England. The recent Ebola crisis and
measles outbreak in Disneyland, among other epidemics,
have demonstrated the need for clear and timely communication during public health crises.
“I think this new concentration is going be increasingly
necessary because if you look at, for instance, the Affordable
Health Care Act, there’s a lot of anxiety about how to negoti-
ate it and how to communicate about it,” he said. “We want
to educate students to be able to communicate with the public
about health policy.”
For students in other majors, a minor in Communication
complements their course load by building a solid foundation
in the so-called “soft skills” employers look for. Courses in
PROFESSOR DOUG BATTEMA
TO QUESTION MEDIA MESSAGING
When Professor Doug Battema was
offered a position at Western New
England University in 2002, he saw a
valuable opportunity to take what had
been the Communication concentration
within the Department of English and
help build it into a full-fledged major
and stand-alone department. Prior to
his arrival, Communication courses were
part of a “one-size-fits-all” curriculum.
Professor Battema and his colleagues
reshaped the program to create two
specialized concentrations: Interpersonal
Communication and Mass Media. Further
down the road, two more concentrations
in Public Relations and Journalism joined
the roster. These expanded opportunities
for students are a point of pride for him.