Curriculum

  • The Communication Leadership curriculum includes core courses and a variety of electives. All courses are 5 credits unless otherwise indicated. Use the search widget below to sort classes by degree track (MCDM, MCCN, track neutral) and by other attributes (credits, core requirements, etc.).

    Please view the University of Washington Academic Calendar for important dates, including quarter start and end dates, registration dates and deadlines, and campus holidays.

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COM 536: Leadership Through Story and Communities: Creativity and the Digital Age (Crofts) - Fall 2016

Required Core Course for MCDM and MCCN
Saturdays, 9/24, 10/8, 10/22, 11/5, 11/19/16, 9:00am-5:00pm | Puget Sound Plaza 508/509

Course Description:

The Comm Lead core classes are designed to build off one another, with the Fall core class focused on personal narrative and leadership styles, with the Spring core class opening the aperture on narrative to include organizational storytelling and engagement. Both classes are also designed to set expectations and behaviors for a fruitful graduate school experience that encourages students to take accountability for their own learning, to see themselves as creatives, as leaders, and as entrepreneurial thinkers whose evolving expertise serves not just their own professional growth, but the wellbeing of their greater community at large.

This foundational class considers personal leadership development through the two lenses of story and community, with particular attention paid to contemporary research on creativity. In this digital age when the technology of communication is so pervasive and accessible, leadership and creativity go hand in hand to produce strong community engagement. One’s personal narrative influences one’s leadership style, so using cross-sector profiles and guest speakers, we will carefully consider a range of leaders, personal narratives, communication styles, and how they connect meaningfully to customers, colleagues, and constituents. As part of the course, you will be exposed to communication theory and asked to map how your networks sustain and promote your professional and personal growth. In addition, you will have an opportunity to research and produce an original final project that reflects your personal and professional interests, ambitions, and curiosity within the field of communication.

Student Testimonial:  

“This course is about being able to understand that leadership and creativity are main tools in developing authentic, real and strategic messages. The class enhances the understanding of communications patterns in current organizations where storytelling becomes a unique tool to reach audiences when messages are everywhere. I learned in this class that one of the main things to true leadership is about opening ourselves to others in order to connect with them. There needs to be an ability to listen to others and care. Online worlds created by the fast-changing digital media technologies go back to the essence of connection with others. This class is the best personal and professional learning experience I had since I started the program. It gave me the creative room to imagine that everything is possible if you open up to yourself and to others. Leadership is a trait you can develop by using storytelling as a tool but in the end it’s about being able to share who you are with others and connect by listening back. The best storyteller is one who knows how to listen. Anita Verna Crofts, the professor of the course, represents that ideal teacher who is not only academically and professionally experienced, but who also cares for the whole growth of the people around her. Having this class changed my perspective on leadership, creation of communities and storytelling, but most importantly on myself.”

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COM 597: Digital Transformations of Organizations (Agarwal and Foot) - Fall 2016

Track Neutral, 5 Credits
Wednesdays, 9/28/16-12/7/16, 6:00-8:50pm** | CMU 302

**Please note that this class meets only 3 hours a week, but is a 5-credit course. The professors have designed the course to require weekly observations that serve as an equivalent to an hour of class time. The course has a prerequisite: a Memo of Understanding signed by the student and his/her organizational liaison is required to receive an add code for registration in the course. Please read the full course description below for more details.

Course Description:

Watch a video introduction to the course from Dr. Kirsten Foot.

The process of transforming organizations– whether for-profit companies, non-profit organizations, or government agencies– is often complex, even more so when digital information and communication technologies (ICTs) are involved. There are many reasons why technology adoption fails, why people resist the introduction of new tools, and why these tools have unintended consequences and effects. Managing technology change within organizations or being a “change agent” is rewarding yet extremely challenging work. This course prepares students to take on such roles. Using a case study approach, students in this class will learn how to identify potential roadblocks to change and develop analytical lenses for assessing digitally-mediated changes in organizations. Together we will examine several aspects of such changes including innovation cycles, change leadership, technology breakdowns, resistance to ICTs and/or organizational change, and collaboration.

During the second half of autumn quarter, this course will synch up with a “sister course” for professionally-oriented graduate students enrolled in a Communication masters degree program at Shenzhen University, located in China’s leading tech-industry city. We will experiment with real-time discussions between the two classrooms via video conferencing, and students in both locations will exchange some of their fieldwork observations and insights in English (and Mandarin, if desired) in order to develop cross-cultural and international understandings of ICT-mediated organizational change processes.

This course involves weekly assignments based on students’ fieldwork in a local organization, along with reading academic journal articles, organizational reports, case studies, and other types of documents, and writing weekly reports and other analyses. At the end of this course students will be able to identify key strategies for assessing and managing ICT-related organizational change, and analyze change processes in ways that support organizational development.

In order to obtain an add code to register for this course, students will first need to identify a local organization in which they can conduct fieldwork on a weekly basis during the course. The organization should be at least 5 years old, have at least 10 staff, and have undergone– or be undergoing– ICT-related change processes (tips for finding such an organization here). Each week the student will spend an hour at the organization’s headquarters, to interview a staff member and observe staff working with ICTs. The organization can be in any sector, and a UW department or office that meets the criteria above would be fine. Students should consider their schedules, organizations’ business hours, and transportation logistics when selecting an organization. Each student will print and sign this memo of understanding of the fieldwork for this course, and ask a staff member from the organization to confirm his/her consent by signing it. Heather Werckle will provide add codes upon receipt of MOUs signed by both a student and a staff member of an organization that meets the stated criteria.

Course Prerequisites:

  • Basic word processing, Excel, and Power Point skills, and the ability to access Canvas regularly
  • Access to and understanding of how to use Canvas
  • Ability to spend an hour each week during the 10 weeks of the course at the headquarters of a Seattle-based organization that has the characteristics described above
  • A Memo of Understanding signed by the student and his/her organizational liaison is required to receive an add code for registration in the course
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COM 597: Content & Social Strategy for Maximum Business Impact (Schiller) - Fall 2016

Track Neutral, 3 Credits
Saturdays, 10/1, 10/15, 10/29/16, 9:00am-5:00pm | CMU 126

Course Description:

Many experts think of social media and content strategy in big company terms: getting buy-in from management, developing a process, communicating among teams, defining metrics, etc. All very important, but in an over-saturated digital world how do you create the actual content? Not boring, me-too, formulaic content, but stories that people actually read, share and take action upon? Contrary to what many people think, great content is not built on luck or magic; it’s built using specific, repeatable techniques that you can learn and deploy to drive your business objectives. This class will teach you how to create unforgettable content, how to customize it for each social channel and how to ensure that your social and content strategy support each other for maximum business impact. Through a combination of case studies, readings and hands-on assignments, students will gain a solid understanding of how to create the kind of content that other marketers will wish was their own.

Student Testimonial:

I came into class with little to no formal training on content strategy. It was apparent from the get go that I would be learning multiple useful techniques on how to break down content and better improve said content based on the its ultimate goal. With her years of industry experience and scrappy attitude, Carol was a terrific asset to the class. Regardless of your individual pathway through the program, this is a great class for better understanding the online ecosystem that we all exist in.

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COM 560: Law, Data and Privacy: Legal and Privacy Issues with Data, the Cloud, Internet of Things, and Artificial Intelligence (Baker) - Fall 2016

MCDM Elective, Meets Law & Ethics Core Requirement
Tuesdays, 10/4/16-12/6/16 , 6:00-9:50pm | CMU 126

Course Description:

“Big Data”, “The Internet of Things”, “Behavioral Advertising”, “Analytics” — all buzzwords capturing the explosion of data and the promise of what we can do with data. Collecting, using, organizing, and sharing data and information also evokes legal issues and individual and collective uncertainty over who owns this data, what rights does one own, how does the data usage implicate privacy issues, how is and how should data use be regulated by the government, by private entities, for advertising, etc. This course will explore the legal issues associated with data usage, data collection, sharing of user information, and licensing. This course will pay particular attention to privacy laws in the United States, how the FTC and other regulators are approaching advertisers’ use of personal information, how organizations attempt to keep data secure, and how intellectual property rights protect (and don’t protect) data and databases. This course is designed both as a stand-alone course to satisfy the law and policy requirement of the program and as a companion to the law and policy course offered in the Spring, which focuses more on free expression and intellectual property issues around content.

Student Testimonial:

“This course was a fascinating overview of a quickly changing field. We touched on a variety of ethical and legal issues surrounding emerging fields such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and big data. The course is exciting and engaging because many of these areas are so new that laws haven’t even been written, and it provided a great framework to view these topics through a legal lens. Although we charted lots of unfamiliar territory, Kraig Baker is an outstanding lecturer and makes the topics approachable and even fun. You don’t have to have a law background to glean interesting and useful information from this course, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in how nascent digital fields will be shaped by the law, and vice versa.”

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COM 597: Design + Content: Introduction to UX Content Strategy (Holmberg) - Fall 2016

MCDM Elective, Meets Research Methods Core Requirement
Mondays, 10/3/16-12/5/16, 6:00-9:50pm | CMU 126

Course Description:

The role of the content strategist requires an understanding of the fundamentals of both traditional UX and content strategy, and this class seeks to build the overlapping skills and concepts needed to succeed in this role, whether as a dedicated content strategist or if it’s just one part of the work. Students will learn the foundations of both UX and content strategy, including user journeys and user research, content hierarchies, basic wireframing, principles of IA, and more, culminating in a creative strategy brief which encompasses both fields. The goal is to come away from the class with a holistic understanding of both UX and content strategy, and their relationship to one another.

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COM 583: Advanced Multimedia Storytelling: Human-Driven Documentary (Stuteville, Stonehill) - Fall 2016

MCDM Elective
Thursdays, 9/29/16-12/8/16, 6:00-9:50pm | CMU 302

Add-code required. 

Course Description:

Just a few years ago, creating rich multimedia was a boutique interest of elite journalists and filmmakers. But as lives and communities move further online, multimedia and character-driven, documentary-style storytelling is becoming a lingua franca for journalists, advocates, entrepreneurs, communities, and organizations. This course is a project-based class that teaches character-driven video production. Instruction will take students through story development, research and interview techniques, the technical aspects of shooting, editing, and production, as well as distribution and marketing. Emphasis will be given to reporting, interviewing, and the challenges of telling others’ stories well. Previous foundational MCDM storytelling class or demonstrated digital storytelling or video experience is strongly recommended. The Seattle Globalist is a nonprofit publication based in the UW Department of Communication that covers international connections in Seattle and specializes in human-centered multimedia journalism.

For an add code please send a short paragraph describing your experience, previous video/storytelling classes you’ve taken, and links to past work you’ve produced to stonehil@uw.edu.

Student Testimonial: 

“I can’t say enough good things about Alex Stonehill’s and Sarah Stuteville’s class. Both are gifted educators and expert storytellers. As educators, I found them open and willing to engage many points of view with equal respect. That’s a rare talent. Their entry in the Seattle International Film Festival 2013 (Barzan) attests to the pedigree of their storytelling. They encouraged me to seek a challenging topic. In the few weeks we had in the class, they were mindful to remind the class to stay on pace. They grounded this advice in real-world experience. A big debt of thanks to Comm Lead for leveraging Alex and Sarah’s abilities and experience into a rewarding experience; the class was over all too quickly.”

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COM 597: The Future of Marketing: How Digital Media is Changing the Practice of Commercial and Consumer Engagement (Salkowitz) - Fall 2016

MCDM Elective
Tuesdays, 10/4/16-12/13/16 (No Class 11/8), 6:00-9:50pm | CMU 302

Course Description:

Rapid evolution of digital media and technology continues to disrupt the business of marketing, making it essential for professionals in the field to keep abreast of trends in a number of areas. This class focuses on the technologies shaping marketing, advertising, media, public relations and communications in the 2-4 year horizon and explores strategies of successful marketing organizations, both digital and traditional. We will examine the impact of social media, mobility, big data, new content and rich media distribution technologies, multi-platform storytelling, apps, and other digital innovation on audience engagement. We will study how consumers and audience expectations are changing, and how marketers must shift their models to accommodate new realities and expectations. Finally, we will look at changes to the structures and processes that marketing organizations – corporate, agency or otherwise – can adopt to become resilient in the face of rapid change. This class assumes a general familiarity with the practices of digital marketing and digital technologies. It is recommended for marketing, advertising and commercial communications professionals interested in developments at the cutting edge of the field. We will offer a survey of techniques and practices, including case studies, readings from contemporary practitioners and thought leaders, and expert guest speakers.

Student Testimonial: 

“The first day of class, Rob Salkowitz tells you that there is no crystal ball to predict the future of marketing.  However, it really does feel like we were able to divine the future.  Based around a technique called scenario planning, as a class and as groups, we looked at the future of technology (from 3D printing to Internet of Things), content/content creation, and a whole host of other things as they would relate to marketing in the future and to make predictions. It was a great class for thinking about trends and their influences and ways that marketers can stay ahead of the curve based on the knowledge that we have in-hand today.”

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COM 597: Communication Through Culture: Ethnographic Approaches to Understanding and Motivating Organizations and Communities (Philipsen) - Fall 2016

MCCN Elective, Meets Research Methods Core Requirement
Wednesdays, 9/28/16-12/7/16, 6:00-9:50pm | CMU 126

Course Description:

Each organization and community has its unique “culture.” As technology has both enhanced and disrupted how we traditionally connect to each other, harnessing the culture within these specific social structures is an increasingly valuable strategy in the networked age. If we can discern the cultural foundation of an organization or community, we can interact with, and motivate its members more effectively and efficiently. In this course, you will learn how to determine the heart of a particular, localized culture of an organization (businesses, non-profits, civic entities) or community. Specifically, you will learn how to see the cultural values, rules, and symbols of a culture as vital resources for promoting successful collaboration within and across groups. This is a crucial undertaking for 21st century leaders who seek to inspire and transform through communication.

Student Testimonial: 

“Communicating Through Culture was the most unexpectedly rewarding class I ever took. When the quarter began, I had no idea what to expect, and I was leery of the plentiful, heavily academic readings listed in the syllabus. I ended up enjoying the class so much I was sad when the quarter ended! Lisa took an arguably esoteric subject matter (the ethnography of communication) and not only did she help me to understand it, but she bridged the gap between academia and industry. I came out of the course with a newly positive attitude toward research and a keen interest in knowing more about how people communicate.”

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COM 597: Building Successful Online Communities (Hill) - Fall 2016

MCCN Elective
Mondays, 10/3/16-12/5/16 , 6:00-9:50pm | CMU 302

Course Description:

Before Wikipedia was created, there were seven very similar attempts to build online collaborative encyclopedias. Before Facebook, there were dozens of very similar social networks. Why did Wikipedia and Facebook take off when so many similar sites struggled? Why do some attempts to build communities online lead to large thriving communities while most struggle to attract even a small group of users?

This class will begin with an introduction to several decades of research on computer-mediated communication and online communities to try and understand the building blocks of successful online communities. With this theoretical background in hand, every student will then apply this new understanding by helping to design, build, and improve a real online community.

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