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Revamped CSB and SJU Communication Department now known as Strategic Communication Studies

Making sure graduates are prepared to meet the challenges that await them in their chosen careers – not just today, but well into the future.

That’s the impetus behind the changes to what was previously the Communication Department at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.

The department has been renamed Strategic Communication Studies, and with that switch will come changes to the curriculum that more clearly delineate targeted pathways for students to gain experience and expertise in particular fields.

Courses in the Strategic Communication Studies major will be grouped into two distinct concentrations – public relations, advertising and marketing (PRAM) and advocacy and leadership (A&L).

“Before students could find their own way through the major with the guidance of an advisor,” department chair Kelly Berg said. “They can still do that now. But they also will have more clearly defined paths available to them.

“Communication is great because you can do so many things. But it’s also nebulous and that can be hard for some students today who are spending a lot of money on their education. Sometimes they want to see more clearly what the possibilities are. If they want to find their own path through, they can still do that. But if they want a more specific path defined and laid out, they now have that, too.”

Indeed, Berg said students can choose to complete one of the concentrations, both (which will require taking two additional courses of four credits each) or neither.

The changes also include several new courses, including a required communication ethics course (Communicating Ethically) that will replace the old capstone course requirement – something Berg said is even more vital with continued misinformation circulating online and the rise of new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI).

“We have a generation now, and I think that will continue, made up of students who truly want to make a difference in the world,” she said. “While we’ve always focused on that in our classes, we wanted to find a way to be more intentional about how we create arguments and become the leaders we need to be. Our students will still be learning the critical thinking skills you get at a liberal arts school, they will still be learning how to write and communicate and how to analyze information.

“And while we’ve always included ethics in many of our courses, now we have a separate class. That will help students learn how they can be effective through crafting ethical communication.”

In addition, Berg said the enhancements also will mean even stronger cooperation with other majors on the two campuses – including global business leadership.

“This really is a way of sharpening things up and making sure the courses we offer work more in synchronicity with one another,” Berg said.

CSB sophomore Dasha Gray is currently pursuing the major and welcomes the increased clarity of purpose.

“It helps close the door to confusion,” she said. “In the past, when you’d tell people you were majoring in communication, they’d ask what that was. Is it marketing? Media? Journalism? But when you say Strategic Communication Studies, it becomes a conversation starter.

“It allows you to explain to people all of the different career choices this major opens up.”

Berg said the changes have been discussed for more than a year.

“Our faculty members did background research into all the careers that are out there now, as well as the careers that are projected to be there in the future,” she said. “We talked to alums who are already in their chosen fields, and to our current students. We wanted to find out the ways in which we were meeting their needs and the ways in which we weren’t.

“And we had discussions with other departments – including admission – to find ways we can work together in the best interest of our students.”

The department’s name change has already taken effect. Berg said much of the new curriculum will be in place by this fall, with the remaining new courses expected to be rolled out by the fall of 2025.

“We want to make sure the curriculum we offer is keeping up with the needs of not only today’s employees and employers, but those of tomorrow as well,” she said. “Getting our students prepared for the future is our primary mission.”

Students in a Communication class

Students in a newly rebranded Strategic Communication Studies major can pursue two distinct concentrations – public relations, advertising and marketing (PRAM) and advocacy and leadership (A&L). The new coursework will go into effect this fall and be fully in place by the fall of 2025.