Calvin to offer a master’s of arts in media and strategic communication


Max Stallings and Sam Smartt

Strategic communication and media productions blend to create a new master’s program

The communication department at Calvin is offering a Master’s of Arts in Media and Strategic Communication (MA) with its first class beginning January 2021 pending its approval from the Higher Learning Commission. According to Kathi Groenendyk, chair of the department of communication, the program will build upon the strengths of the media productions and strategic communication programs and will build a “strong foundation of strategy and how to effectively communicate.” Groenendyk stated, “We looked at several MA programs in communication and media, and what we came up with is distinctive. We have not found anything that has blended this approach between strategic communication and media like what we’ve been able to accomplish.” 

Students do not need experience in media productions, although it could be beneficial, said Groenendyk and Sam Smartt, communication professor and part of the MA development team. Students who have a bachelor’s in film and media will not learn more in terms of technical knowledge, “but in terms of how to apply that and use it in different contexts, absolutely,” said Smartt. Students can potentially complete their undergraduate and master’s studies in four and a half years, depending on the credits they entered with, but typically students will finish in five years, said Groenendyk. All students will begin the year with a week-long boot camp in foundational media production, and then classes begin in February with the start of second semester. 

The format of the program will include 32 credit hours and a micro-internship at Calvin’s new Creative Media Agency. This agency will be headed by a “highly respected professional,” says Groenendyk, and students will take on roles such as creative director and client communication. Smartt detailed the type of work the micro-internship would entail, stating, “The type of work that [students] would do would be quite varied… I imagine there could be some clients who are interested in strategy and maybe develop a social media campaign. Others might need graphic design work done. Others might need small-scale video productions. Others might be looking for more intense video production.” It will offer opportunities to collaborate with the community as well as with undergrad students. During this intensive six-credit course, they will have clients and build on skills learned in the classroom. Smartt said, “We think it’s important to connect students with people outside of the university… as much real world experience we can bring into the program, the better.” Classes for the program will begin as on-campus evening classes, but will transition to online classes a year into the program says Groenendyk. 

Another aspect of the master’s program is its media production labs. As Smartt explained, “We’re all about storytelling in our undergraduate film and media program, but this is going to be a wider variety of media that students are using, so how do they adapt stories to different contexts and mediums?” These media labs will allow for flexibility within careers; Smartt gave the example of the advanced journalism course having a media lab with a journalism documentary component. Other courses with media labs include the advanced PR and advanced advertising courses. 

With a breadth of opportunities and a program “grounded in theory and criticism… students [will] develop a practical skill set and they’ll really be able to develop a portfolio that will advance them in their careers,” said Groenendyk. 

To learn more about the Master’s of Arts in Media and Strategic Communication program, go to their webpage at