New master’s degree: Cross-disciplinary cooperation at its best

The creation of a new master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Communication marks a new stage in cross-disciplinary cooperation at YSU.

The degree, designed to meet the needs of employers who are increasingly looking for employees with good communications skills, is housed in the Department of Communication but is jointly administered with the departments of English and Marketing. Program graduates will master the theory and skills associated with organizational research and marketing, professional writing and editing, and interpersonal and computer-mediated communication. Program candidates might be currently employed and seeking professional growth, or students on their way to doctorate degrees.

Bryan DePoy

Bryan DePoy

For more information on the program, including instructions on how to apply, visit

“There are a few things that really set the program apart from other graduate programs in communication,” said Bryan DePoy, dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts. “One is that this is a truly interdisciplinary program and combines the intellectual capital of three academic departments. The second aspect is that this in an excellent example of shared resources. Third, there is no set pathway into this program. In other words, there’s not necessarily a communication studies trajectory; you don’t have to have a bachelor’s degree in communication to move into this program. The pathway could be music, business, English or any other academic area, and that is especially important.”

Julia Gergits

Julia Gergits

While there are other programs on campus that utilize several departments, they are generally at the undergraduate level, said Julia Gergits, English chair. “The state has made it clear that they don’t want any more traditional graduate programs,” Gergits said. “They’re not much interested anymore in PhDs in Literature. What they want are these more unusual job-focused or profession-focused programs.”

The degree has been in the works for four years and received the approval of the YSU Board of Trustees in March 2012.

“Generally, any cross-disciplinary program takes more work to get off the ground,” said Cary Wecht, associate dean of F&PA, who led the push for the degree program. “We had several faculty on board, and they were all enthusiastic. The only issues were the nuts and bolts type, trying to get people together is difficult in any collaborative venture.”

DePoy and others say the ability to communicate effectively is a skill valued by employers across many professions. The National Association for Colleges and Employers job outlook ranks communication as the most important job characteristic that employers seek. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts significant growth in communications-related fields through 2018, including public relations specialists (up 24 percent), PR managers (up 13 percent) and advertising/marketing/promotions/public relations/sales (up 13 percent).

For more information about the degree, contact Wecht at or Adam Earnheardt, chair of Communications, at or visit

Story by Harry Evans