Development of Master’s in Applied Communication Degree underway

Program development a highlight of the past year


Program development has been something of a trend this year at Capilano University, which, even 10 years after transitioning from a college to a university, continues to only offer undergraduate programs. Now, however, Communications professor Dr. Michael Markwick is in the process of helping to introduce its first master’s degree, working closely with other faculty and community members to bring this program to CapU.

The Master’s in Applied Communications is still in the early stages of development. But faculty members are working closely with Indigenous communities, industry leaders and public sector representatives to ensure the best possible outcome for this degree. “There is a very strong appetite for it here,” said Markwick. “It matters for us to be anchored in our region, it matters for us to be in a respectful collaboration with Indigenous leadership.”

Although a popular field of study at Capilano, many remain uncertain about what Communication Studies encompasses. Markwick noted that there is definitely growing interest in the field, not only for educational purposes, but in terms of recognizing the importance of communications work at any level and in any sector of society, as exemplified in the March For Our Lives movement that saw Florida high school students walk out of classrooms in demonstration for tighter gun control in the past few weeks. “I think that one of the advantages is how interdisciplinary our field is,” said Markwick.

“Capilano University’s vision is to grow our degree offerings to include master’s degrees,” President Paul Dangerfield issued in a statement. “With master’s degrees, Capilano University could better support our communities by providing more options for students in their pursuit of lifelong learning.”

When Dangerfield became President in 2016, he made it clear that he wished to see new programs. He added that offering master’s degrees is included in the school’s growth as a teaching- focussed institution. With the exception of a Master’s Diploma in Science and International Business offered joinlty by CapU and the University of Hertfordshire, the University has never offered graduate programming.

The Master’s in Applied Communications would differ from the Diploma and Bachelor programs currently offered at CapU. “I think the sharp difference would be that people enrolled in the master’s would have the resources, the support, the coursework, to know their own minds,” Markwick said, adding that the program would foster original scholarship in students.

He also outlined that this program would be unique from anything else currently offered in BC, and would put an emphasis on Truth and Reconciliation with First Nations communities.

Markwick anticipates a shift in the attitude that CapU still has a community college atmosphere in the coming years, and that previous struggles to find footing as a university is coming to an end. “I’m finding that with Dangerfield and the team he’s developing, those days are done,” he said, “This degree is an important part of Cap’s arrival as a destination university.”

Markwick hopes that if a Master’s in Applied Communication comes to fruition, it will foster a sense of community among communication scholars who go on to work for the government or non-profit sector in BC. “We don’t have this cohort of people who have built relationships with each other who are innovative, original thinkers, when it comes to tough issues,” he said.

There are, however, hurdles and structural issues that need to be addressed before any master’s degree can be introduced, including a potential library space and finding faculty. Also to be considered are the needs for a dean and a new lounge space for graduate students.

The team working on this degree hopes to introduce it by 2021, and Markwick is enthusiastic about it’s possibilities to expand CapU in a versatile way. He expressed that communications has something for everyone, even those with degrees in other fields.

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