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The Mass Media

University Communication Department launches new major

Chair of the Communication Department Kenneth Lachlan speaking to a student
Chair of the Communication Department Kenneth Lachlan speaking to a student

The Communication Department at the University of Massachusetts Boston has launched a new major, set to open this fall, and revamped its minor. 
The major is an 11-course program, and the minor requires 6 courses. Both programs focus on the social and scientific study of human communication — how humans create meaning through the exchange of information.
According to associate professor and Communication Department chair Kenneth Lachlan, roughly 170 students are enrolled in the new major, and about 50 are enrolled in the minor. Since there are currently not enough staff members to handle the level of demand the department is facing, the university is planning on hiring one more tenure-track faculty member to start in 2014.
Lachlan said the skills acquired through the communication major are useful for a number of fields, including journalism, and that it is very common for communication majors and minors to be enrolled in the Professional Writing minor in the English Department.
“We have a very good relationship with the Career Services department regarding placing people in internships,” said Lachlan. “Every semester about a dozen communication students are enrolled in an internship for credit.” Students have been placed in internships at Greater Media Inc., Kiss 108, Sony BMG, Stash Media, and the Boston Herald.
Having a background in communication gives you a competitive edge, according to assistant professor Jessie Quintero Johnson, whose specialties include public health and media communication. Much of what she teaches, including the design of health messages that are persuasive and the impact of those messages on people’s health, beliefs, and attitudes, provides students with skills that are applicable to any number of professions, she said.
“It became evident that UMass Boston was in need of a communication major after the economy tanked,” said Johnson. “Many students were transferring from more expensive institutions to study at UMass Boston, and those who were communication majors at their previous schools were then forced to switch majors.” This issue prompted the university to develop a more serious department for communication.
Students who are interested in declaring the major or minor can expect to improve their understanding of human interaction in various contexts, including interpersonal, organizational, cross-cultural, and mass media, said Assistant Professor Julie Zhu, who currently teaches Intercultural Communication and New Media Society.
The University hired Lachlan to spearhead the creation of the Communication Department in 2009, and the department became independent in July 2012. 
“Most of us have to work within the constraints of an existing program – I had a very rare opportunity to be a part of something new,” he said.
Before then, students got a minor in communications studies by entering the Communication Studies program, which was housed in the American Studies Department. The Communication Studies program was launched in 2002.
For more information about the new communication major, visit umb.edu/academics/cla/communication, or contact the department’s administrative assistant, Martin Hansen, at [email protected].