Partnering to Re-Imagine Communication

The UW Communication Leadership program and Continuum College collaborate to make a new certificate and master’s program a reality.

To be conversant in the emerging technologies and issues buffeting our world right now and to be able to bring that to an organization is highly valuable

 — Hanson Hosein, Co-Founder, Communication Leadership graduate program 

When our news feeds incorporate the terms “unprecedented” and “uncharted territory” on a daily basis, we must acknowledge that this is a transformative time. A global crisis has only accelerated the adoption of emergent technologies — telemedicine, sensors, tracking apps, artificial intelligence — even as its aftershocks accelerate greater societal trends. 

Managing these advancements demands a new kind of agile, far-sighted leadership that is also responsive to its stakeholders in unprecedented ways. Communication lies at the heart of this new form of relational power, as we listen, engage and illuminate the path forward.

The University of Washington is addressing the need for leaders with two new Communication Leadership programs. For professionals already navigating their career, there’s an affiliated Certificate in Leadership in Emerging Technologies & Trends, a nine-month program that teaches professionals how to harness technology to create purposeful change. 

And for people interested in starting or pivoting their careers, there’s a Master of Communication in Communication Leadership (MCCL), a 24-month program that provides graduates with a broad foundation in communication theory, practice and methods.  

A BIG NEW PROGRAM IDEA FOR A NEW ERA OF COMMUNICATION

From the UW Communication Leadership graduate program, co-founder Hanson Hosein and director Ekin Yasin have spearheaded storytelling that builds connection and influences change throughout the university and community. From leading their open to public Comm Lead Connects events and the Partner Program that allows students to offer pro bono services to local organizations, these pioneering educators are no strangers to helping communication professionals hone their skills.

However, when it came time to help build and run the Certificate in Leadership in Emerging Technologies & Trends, they turned to UW Continuum College. “I most appreciated the creative attitude that Continuum College brought to the process,” says Hosein. “We all recognized that we were conceiving something new.” 

When developing the certificate, Hosein says they had to think about what life would be like two or three years in the future to be relevant to students. “We looked at the emergence of artificial intelligence and the internet of things, and we felt that communication leaders had to be there at the outset of even thinking about the technology,” he said. “That way, our graduates could insert themselves into pivotal conversations around potentially intrusive technologies, so there was a people-first approach to them.”

According to Hosein, the certificate’s underlying intent is to create a framework for leaders to respond to current events and then communicate trustfully to their constituents about their decisions. “To be conversant in the emerging technologies and issues buffeting our world right now and to be able to bring that to an organization, either in a communication or leadership position is highly valuable,” he says.

Continuum College also provided the Communication Leadership program with a way to tie in their graduate degrees. By completing the Certificate in Leadership in Emerging Technologies & Trends, students can earn up to college 12 credits. If students are later accepted into the Communication Leadership program’s new Master of Communication in Communication Leadership, Master of Communication in Digital Media, Master of Communication in Communities & Networks, or possibly another UW master’s, they could apply those 12 credits as electives.

“If a student pursues the certificate, that could be an amazing way of also introducing themselves to the program and saving time,” says Yasin. "They would start with 12 credits towards their degree and have explored a particular area in the program intensely, and then transitioned into the full experience.”

Hosein adds that one of the best parts of the certificate is that it allows certificate students to sit alongside graduate students in the Communication Leadership master’s program, enabling them to quickly get a flavor of the culture and community unique to the program. 

“Continuum College’s recommendation that we begin with a hybrid ‘pilot’ — seating new certificate students alongside Comm Lead ones in existing graduate courses was our great ‘ah-ha, we can do this’ moment,” says Hosein.

Crafting a Comprehensive Graduate Experience

Our students can familiarize themselves in areas that are important for a global professional world.  

 — Ekin Yasin, Director, Communication Leadership graduate program 

The Communication Leadership’s newest graduate program, the Master of Communication in Communication Leadership (MCCL), is designed to provide graduates with multiple responsive opportunities to make sense of all the challenges around them.

“The degree is a response to a number of our students wanting to have a comprehensive experience and understand what communication and leadership mean,” explains Yasin. “So, we crafted a new 60-credit version of our existing master's degree programs that add several novel requirements, such as professional writing, internship and capstone project,” she says.

Yasin notes about 80% of the program’s faculty are digital media and communications practitioners who work at very large companies and have leadership roles in various sectors, providing rich expertise for students.

The UW’s MCCL degree is the only program that brings together the eight specialization areas that comprise communication leadership. Designed to provide the necessary foundations for multiple careers, Yasin says, “Our students can familiarize themselves in these areas that are important for a global professional world and then specialize in one of them toward the end of their experience.” 

An Opportunity for More Meaningful Learning

Creating the affiliated certificate and a master’s degree was an innovative process – one that took the Communication Leadership graduate program and the College Continuum College several years to complete. However, the longer process that ended up spanning the pandemic allowed for the opportunity to create a more meaningful learning experience.

“I’m always thinking about the zeitgeist and ensuing value proposition: what does the moment call for that justifies offering something new, and how do we make it endure long after we’re settling into the next normal?” says Hosein. “Continuum College was as supportive as I needed it to be, all the while providing the research and deliberate speed required.” 

Applications for the affiliated Certificate in Leadership in Emerging Technologies & Trends are open now and classes start in September 2021.