FAIRFIELD, Conn.—Sacred Heart University’s School of Communication, Media & the Arts has introduced three new undergraduate majors: sports communication and media; strategic communication, public relations and advertising (SCPRA); and immersive media and mixed reality (IMMR).
Previously, sports media and public relations and advertising were concentrations under the larger communication studies major. “There were only three classes in the concentrations,” said Lori Bindig Yousman, chair of the department of communication studies. “Sacred Heart had established wonderful curricula and opportunities in the graduate programs for sports communication and strategic communication and PR. This is a chance to offer our undergraduate students the chance for a tremendous educational experience.”
Sacred Heart is the only school in the country that offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in sports communication and media, which include classes such as hands-on sports and live-event broadcasting, contemporary sports journalism, digital editing and sports, culture and the media. Additionally, the University’s proximity to Stamford’s NBC Sports and Bristol’s ESPN gives student’s access to internship and career opportunities. Similarly, SHU’s location in Connecticut’s “creative corridor” between New York and Boston is an advantage for the new strategic communication, public relations and advertising major, said Bindig Yousman.
“We have faculty members who are working professionals, and they are a wonderful asset and addition to our full-time faculty members, who are traditional scholars,” she said. “It’s a fantastic complement to the program and helps give students an inside track.”
“In this day and age, more than ever, we need thoughtful, critical thinkers in strategic communication, public relations and advertising,” said Bindig Yousman. “With our liberal arts curriculum, we are fostering students who are critical thinkers, who understand the social impact of media and the ethical obligation of being professional communicators.” Students in the SCPRA major also will receive hands-on training in cutting-edge technical skills required to excel in the industry, she said.
Courses for the SCPRA major include writing for advertising and public relations, digital publications, social media strategy, advertising and public relations campaigns and media production. Other classes will delve into the industry’s theoretical, historical and social impact on society.
Incoming freshmen were able to take social media strategy and social virtual-reality exploration during the summer 2020 session. The social media strategy and social virtual reality exploration course—open to all students and eligible for core credit—illustrates SHU’s leadership in communications education and integration of virtual reality and social media into the public relations curriculum.
“Social media is headed in a really cool direction with the enhancement of VR,” said Candace Parrish, director and assistant professor of SHU’s strategic communication and public relations master's program. “There are so many critical areas of social communication that will progress in digital spaces and our freshmen are getting the opportunity to be a part of the shaping of this discussion. The course, social media strategy and social VR exploration, is a fun and innovative class where students have the opportunity to explore the intersections of VR, AR and social media to create their own social media VR organization and ponder opportunities for advancing strategic communication in the future.”
The new IMMR major is a revision of the SCMA’s previous digital communication major. The interdisciplinary program’s fundamental philosophy is to inspire digital expression that enhances human experience through personal connections, new media arts and emerging communication technologies.
“More than ever before, there is an opportunity to rethink and reinvent a better world through human-centered design. This modified degree program will provide an exceptional opportunity to combine new forms of artistic expression, creative technologies and innovative approaches to storytelling,” said Shanshan Wang, assistant professor. “The practical work involves VR/AR content creation, animation and special effects, 2D/3D design, and spatial sound composition. This program will open up possibilities, raise questions and position SHU as one of the leaders in emerging media.”
Students will choose between two concentrations: interactive filmmaking or interactive media and animation. Interactive filmmaking builds cinematic storytelling and virtual reality (VR), while interactive media and animation concentrates on art, design and animation in creating augmented reality (AR).
Both concentrations will involve work in SHU’s new, state-of-the-art NeXReality Lab, using the latest technology for VR, AR and cross reality (XR, a blend of hardware and software to produce a result). “It’s really harnessing our cutting-edge technologies, as well as getting grounded in understanding media culture and the social impact of media,” said Bindig Yousman. “It’s about being thoughtful and ethical in the way we use these technologies.”
Download a photo of Professor ShanShan Wang.
Sacred Heart University School of Communication, Media & the Arts Professor Shanshan Wang talks with students about augmented and virtual reality at West Campus. Photo by Tracy Deer-Mirek 8/12/19
About Sacred Heart University
As the second-largest independent Catholic university in New England, and one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., Sacred Heart University is a national leader in shaping higher education for the 21st century. SHU offers more than 80 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs on its Fairfield, Conn., campus. Sacred Heart also has satellites in Connecticut, Luxembourg and Ireland and offers online programs. More than 9,000 students attend the University’s nine colleges and schools: Arts & Sciences; Communication, Media & the Arts; Social Work; Computer Science & Engineering; Health Professions; the Isabelle Farrington College of Education; the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology; the Dr. Susan L. Davis & Richard J. Henley College of Nursing; and St. Vincent’s College. Sacred Heart stands out from other Catholic institutions as it was established and led by laity. The contemporary Catholic university is rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition and the liberal arts, and at the same time cultivates students to be forward thinkers who enact change—in their own lives, professions and in their communities. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its Best 385 Colleges–2020 Edition, “Best in the Northeast” and Best 252 Business Schools–2019 Edition. Sacred Heart is home to the award-winning, NPR-affiliated radio station, WSHU, a Division I athletics program and an impressive performing arts program that includes choir, band, dance and theater. www.sacredheart.edu