All posts by Nicole Szymczak

Online strategic communication degree empowers working professionals

Pretty woman is working in a café

Organizations seek out the abilities. Professionals strive for the knowledge and skills. And starting Spring 2017, the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences will welcome its first class into a new online master’s program, convenient for working professionals, on strategic communications.

The Master of Arts in Strategic Communication represents the first time the College has offered a degree program 100 percent online. The program responds to the needs of professionals through its flexible delivery as well as through content that addresses the challenges of a 21st century communication environment.

"Given the rapidly changing communication ecosystem, mid-career professionals are eager for training to update their skills," says Prabu David, Dean of the College of ComArtSci. "Currently, communication professionals, including our own alumni, do not have rich, in-state options to learn new media techniques. This new online M.A. in strategic communication fills that gap."

Students in the nine-course, 30-credit program will examine how to leverage today's evolving media and digital mix into an integrated marketing and communications strategy for businesses, start-ups, non-profits or government agencies. Expert faculty will handle all aspects of course content and bring expertise in corporate messaging, news and information, fundamental communication processes, audience research and data analytics, and new technologies. Students will also complete a service-learning project that enables them to apply their newly acquired expertise within a community setting.

"The College of ComArtSci has long-standing leadership in an integrated theory-to-practice orientation toward effective communication strategy and tactics," says John Sherry, associate dean of for graduate studies in ComArtSci. "There is no other college in the world with such broad and deep coverage of these issues."

Students can complete courses and requirements from anywhere, anytime and at their own pace in one to three years. The program is ideally suited for working professionals with three to five years of experience in communications as well as for business and communication entrepreneurs. Students will also have opportunity to collaborate with other online learners, further enhancing their professional network.

"The ability for individuals to be located anywhere and enroll in this master's program is a distinct advantage," says ComArtSci Alum April M. Clobes, president and CEO of the MSU Federal Credit Union. "Being able to complete the program while working full-time is also essential for long-term success. MSU's high rankings in the field of communications along with excellent faculty, will make this a highly sought after degree."

The program is currently accepting applications and no GRE is required. To learn more about MSU's new online master's degree program in strategic communication through the College of ComArtSci, visit or contact the program director at

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Love of art and cartooning led to storied career for new director of MSU Media Sandbox

Posted on: April 18, 2016

gude-karl-2016-6344Although descended from a long line of engineers and an ambassador, Karl Gude drew his greatest influence from a 19th century Norwegian artist.

"Hans Gude was my great great grandfather," says Gude. "He was a famous landscape painter during the Romantic period. Me, I became a cartoonist and illustrator. Close enough."

While creating art is among Gude's talents, the newly appointed director of the MSU Media Sandbox in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences is considered a master of visual storytelling in journalism. In 2006, Gude joined the MSU faculty to spearhead the first information graphics program through the School of Journalism. Since then, he has led study abroad programs in Spain and has taught courses in creative thinking and problem solving, a topic he is passionate about and guiding principle of the Media Sandbox: an integrated media arts program of cinematic arts, game development, graphic design, web design, visual storytelling, 3D art and animation.

Before coming to MSU, Gude served as Director of Information Graphics at Newsweek magazine, the Associated Press and the National Sports Daily.



Gude and his staffs covered major news events, including seven presidential elections, wars, sporting events, natural disasters, science, medical and technical advancements and the attack on the World Trade Center.

 "This emotional story was unfolding down the street in our hometown," Gude says. "At Newsweek, we worked on the graphics through our shock and grief."

train big drawing girl299Gude has consulted with corporations, PR and news organizations, academic and scientific institutions and government agencies to create infographics. He also writes and draws a column for the Huffington Post, has given TEDx talks in Detroit and Lansing, and has spoken twice at the South by Southwest (SXSW) technology conference. His drawings and cartoons have been widely published, including in the New York Times. He also has more than 5.3 millions views to his YouTube page where he demonstrates ways to use visualization software and more.

"I always thought I would be hired as an artist somewhere," Gude says. "I feel really lucky to have stumbled on a career in journalism, and to come in early in the growing field of infographics."

Pathway to the sandbox

Gude traces his path to journalism and into the Media Sandbox back to his early teens—the days when his father sent him to his room for causing trouble. Once there, he would pick up a pencil and paper and draw, triggering a calming effect he says gave him a sense direction for what he wanted to do in life.

After high school, Gude moved to South America to live with his maternal grandparents and teach English. When he turned 20, he came back to the U.S. and took an art course at a community college. He wound up doing carpentry, working in hardware stores and eventually moving to Vermont to work on a dairy farm. All the while, he kept drawing. After tending to cows and delivering calves for two years, he sold his truck and moved to New York City. It was 1979, he was 23, and he had $5,000 to try and make it as an artist and illustrator for comics and children's books.

"What else does a young man want to do other than that?" he laughs. "I told myself if my money ran out, I would move back to the farm. But I was driven by desperation and hunger and the fact that I had decided New York City was the coolest place on the planet."

Gude succeeded. He worked as a messenger delivering packages to make extra money, and colored in comic book covers for a publishing house. While there, a colleague told him about a journalism job. She gave him a slip of paper with a phone number and told him to call.

"I called, got an interview, and eventually this place called United Press International called me back," he says. "They hired me to help explain the news of the day by visualizing and drawing things—what they now call infographics."Karl-drawing-table-at-UPI-1979

Guide realizes his career is part happenstance and part ambition fueled by the drive to overcome the objections of those who devalued creative professions, like his father and some teachers. That realization, he says, is among the lessons he wants to convey to students, particularly those pursuing creative and innovative paths through MSU's Media Sandbox.

"It's important for students to know that all their skills and intelligences are valued," Gude says. "I don't want students to lose their uniqueness, to have it squeezed out of them. I want to do everything to help them find their individual voices, to understand what they are good at, and to forget those negative messages they may have received."

Gude lives in East Lansing with his wife, Dorsey Gude, who he met while working at the Associated Press and who works in development at MSU. His two 20-something sons have explored both science and the arts, with the older pursing environmental sustainability and the younger classical guitar and writing.

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"In the Field" at Sanders Rally

Posted on: March 8, 2016
Bernie Sanders Rally at the MSU Breslin Center

Bernie Sanders Rally at the MSU Breslin Center

Journalism students, led by Editor in Residence Joe Grimm, covered Bernie Sander’s visit to Michigan State University in March.

The Vermont senator attracted more than 6,000 to the Breslin Center in East Lansing days before the Michigan primary.

Journalism students received press passes to attend the rally, and interviewed Sanders supporters and attendees throughout the event.

“I spent seven hours at the Breslin running around, talking to people, and taking photos, and some people might think that's crazy, but journalism is what I love to do and it's where I thrive,” said Rene Kiss, junior Journalism major. “I've been involved with journalism since my freshman year of high school, and the Bernie Sanders rally was the largest event I've ever covered.”

Along with giving the students the opportunity to interview rally participants, the event also allowed them to interact and network with the various reporters and industry professionals that were present.Bernie Sanders Rally at the MSU Breslin Center

“Overall having the honor to cover Bernie Sanders campaign was amazing,” said Hakeem Weatherspoon, sophomore Journalism major. “I had the opportunity to walk alongside a reporter from Washington D.C. that is now working in Detroit, and he offered me an internship.”

The students are focusing their semester reporting on political news, have created a website to share their local and nationally focused election content, as well as their   coverage of the Sanders rally.

Broadcast Journalism in Residence Bob Gould, also organized a live stream of the event, to make it accessible to those who could not attend.

By Victoria Bowles, senior Journalism major and ComArtSci Editorial Assistant


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ComArtSci + WKAR develop app that empowers Flint residents during water crisis

Posted on: March 1, 2016

EmpowerFlintwpMichigan State University and WKAR-TV have put the power of information in the hands of Flint residents through a new tool that navigates community resources in the wake of the ongoing water crisis.

The mobile app "Empower Flint" provides a checklist of important actions people can take to protect themselves, their families and pets as they battle elevated lead levels in the water supply. Released March 1, the app was developed by a team of researchers and specialists from MSU, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, and WKAR-TV in collaboration with the people of Flint.

"Our goal was to build something that adapts to the needs identified by Flint residents, and that stands the test of time as community needs evolve," said Kami Silk, MSU associate dean for research and professor of communication and agbio research. "Our hopes are that the app will fill an information gap and be embraced as coming from a trusted and familiar voice in Flint: MSU."

The app's "find" operation enables users to search for the closest water stations, free water filters, lead testing sites, community events, and sources of nutritious food. Users will also find directional maps, news feeds, and volunteer and community activities at their fingertips. Most important, "Empower Flint" pushes out critical alerts about water safety, lead levels, and immediate steps that residents can take for personal and public health.

"We saw a lot of experts and community partners providing a lot of important information," said WKAR-TV Station Manager Susi Elkins. "Since we're communicators, we saw it as a chance to put our expertise to use for the greater good and devise a way to make communicating that information as easy as possible."

Associate Professor of Media and Information Brian Winn led the development of the app starting in mid-January with members of the College of ComArtSci's GEL Lab.




"The idea was to put as much Flint-related information as possible in the hands of users," said Winn. "We also set out to build in longevity and provide support for the long haul."

Developers say the university's strong presence in Flint will contribute to the app's sustainability. Working with the Flint branches of MSU Extension and the College of Human Medicine, Silk and Elkins assembled ongoing focus groups of residents to test and provide feedback the app.

Professor of Human Medicine Rick Sadler was among the partners helping developers connect with future app users. Since 2008, the public health expert has been working to provide healthy food options to Flint residents.

“The great thing about apps is that you can routinely push new info to the public, making it easier to stay up to date," Sadler said. "This is really important in our current situation, and this app is a way we can combine our efforts."

Elkins acknowledged that not everyone in Flint will have a smartphone to use the app, but reflected that at-risk communities tend to have mobile devices more than cable, TV or the Internet. Elkins said she and Silk will be working with community partners to identify a team of Flint residents to help roll out the app as well as to communicate information accessible through the app to people who don't have smartphones.

For one community member involved in app testing, that value of "Empower Flint" is already apparent.

"I have three kids with elevated lead in their blood," said the Flint resident. "Until I saw the app, I didn't know they were supposed to have increased calcium, so now I'll make sure they get more milk and cheese."

The "Empower Flint" app is available for both Android and Apple iOS smart phones and tablets, and can be found on Google Play and the Apple App Store. WKAR and the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences collaborated with a number of partners, including Central Michigan 2-1-1, MSU Extension, the colleges of Human Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, and the residents of Flint.

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