Expert Bio: Dr. Paul Booth
The goal of the DCMA program is to help students become better creators, users, and professionals in digital technology.
With a passion for communication in many forms, including technology, media, and even pop culture, Dr. Paul Booth is highly involved as Associate Professor of Communication at DePaul University’s College of Communication in Chicago, IL. It is through this passion that he helps students achieve a comprehensive education in the field so that they can go on to find careers as content and design specialists, media managers, and much more. Find out what Dr. Booth has to say about DePaul's graduate Digital Communication and Media Arts degree and how it can help interested students reach their career goals.
Tell us about your background?
Dr. Paul Booth is an Associate Professor of Communication at DePaul University. He earned his PhD in Rhetoric and Communication at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, his MA in Communication from Northern Illinois University, and his BA in English Literature from the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. He is the Graduate Director of DePaul’s Digital Communication and Media Arts degree, for which is oversees the student applications and enrollment, class and organizational structure, student assessment and thesis options, and advises students on the program. He teaches courses in both the DCMA program and the Media and Cinema Studies program, including Fandom and Active Audiences, New Media and Culture, Communication and Technology, Monsters in Popular Culture, Writing Television Criticism, and other courses in popular culture, fandom, and technology.
What differentiates your MIC (Masters in Communications) program from other schools?
The Digital Communication and Media Arts program is a flexible, student-centered program that combines both theoretical and practical knowledge about how digital technology is changing communication practices and patterns. In the DCMA program we believe that the most effective communicators and producers of information in the future will be those that not only understand how to communicate critically and ethically, but also have experience with contemporary technology. Students in the program have the chance to take courses from both the College of Communication and the School of Design in the College of Computing and Digital Media, and all students will leave the program with the knowledge and the experience to shape digital communication moving forward.
After graduating from the program, students will be able to explain how digital technology has affected communication practices across a range of subjects and disciplines, to compare new technological practices and evaluate changes in technological practices across a range of communication subjects, to demonstrate key competencies in video production, audio production, graphic design, and other technologies within digital media arts, and to identify the underlying ethical issues that the advent of digital technology has brought to contemporary society.
Talk to us about the class sizing and curriculum of the MIC offering?
Class sizes are small, with an average of about 10-15 students per class. Project-based classes are often smaller to allow students more one-to-one contact. The largest classes don’t exceed 25 students.
The program is split into two tracks (more on that below), but all students in the program regardless of track take four core courses: Introduction to Digital Communication, Digital Media Ethics, Creative Process and Strategy, and Foundations of Digital Media. Two of these courses are in Communication and two are in Design. Each class brings a useful perspective on the field of digital communication and media arts. Intro to Digital Communication focuses on the changes digital technology has brought to communication practices across a range of fields and Digital Media Ethics emphasizes the need for ethical and moral consideration for new communication practices (one of the original professors for this course has written a textbook on Digital Media Ethics!). The two Design courses have a more technological bent, as students in Creative Process and Strategy focus on developing their own creative process by working on project concepts, and those in Foundations of Digital Media engage with a range of digital technologies, including video, audio, graphic design, and human-computer interaction. (There are technical competencies required for this courses, and we offer two introductory courses for students that don’t meet the prerequisites.)
As mentioned, the program is split into two “tracks,” although students in either track have the option of taking any of the courses we offer in the program. The Digital Communication track requires students to take three “digital communication” electives from the many offerings in our journalism, public relations, advertising, and media studies curricula. Digital Communication students also take two Digital Design courses from the School of Design, and have four open electives (two of which can be used for the Thesis completion option, if eligible).
The Media Arts track asks students to take an additional course, “Storytelling Across Media,” and two electives from production workshops. Additionally, students in the Media Arts track are required to complete a thesis project, which is two additional courses. Finally, the Media Arts track asks students to take four open electives, two of which must be from Communication.
Astute readers will notice that there are so many open electives in both tracks that students can actually graft their own interests onto the curriculum—the DCMA program has been designed to be flexible and movable, so that students can really benefit from the range of courses that all that DePaul University offers. Under guidance from the graduate advisor and the graduate director, students can pick a curriculum that suits their particular needs and desires.
Why should a student come to your school to get their MIC?
One of the strengths of the DCMA program is the way it comprehensively integrates the strengths of two colleges, the College of Communication (home to the Digital Communication track) and the School of Design in the College of Computing and Digital Media (home to the Media Arts track). However, the program is designed as a whole, and students are required to take courses in both tracks in order to fulfill the program’s inter-disciplinary mandate. This is a truly student-centered program with a “choose your own adventure” style of focus, as students can concentrate on the topics that are the most important to them.
No two students ever graduate from the program having taken the same course load! At the same time, the flexibility means that the program is always keeping up-to-date with contemporary changes in technology.
What job related industries are your students focusing on post-graduation?
I think one of the most exciting and vibrant aspects of the DCMA program is its flexibility both for the students and for the curriculum. Students have the freedom to take a variety of open electives, and even within some required electives have scores of classes to choose from; it really means that students can pick the courses and the curriculum that best suits their interests. No two students ever graduate from the program having taken the same course load! At the same time, the flexibility means that the program is always keeping up-to-date with contemporary changes in technology. The required classes give a firm grounding in the discipline but the rapidly changing options for electives means students get the most relevant and current materials, be it technology or theoretical.
Students that graduate from the program find themselves well poised to enter or further a career in a variety of fields, from social media management to media director, from content specialist to design strategist. We have students in program who are fresh out of undergrad as well as students who are returning to a graduate program after working in the field—the interaction between the two groups is one of the best parts about teaching in the program! Students become experts in the DCMA program and can leverage their work in the program to change careers, move ahead in the one they’ve got, or develop new skills. Many students also opt to go on to get a PhD in a related field. Like the field of digital communication and media arts itself, our program aims not to limit, but to expand opportunities for all students.
What type of internships does your program provide?
The DCMA program has an emphasis on job-related internships and we offer both paid and unpaid internships for credit. We have a full time internship director to help students find and succeed at their internships. We are in the heart of downtown Chicago and there are a plethora of opportunities for internships from mainstream television and radio networks to sports teams to international public relations and advertising firms, to small, independent theaters.
Tell us about your faculty. What are the characteristics you focus on to lead your programs?
Faculty at DePaul are friendly, expert teachers who are leaders in the field. Students in the DCMA program receive a lot of support from their faculty and staff. The program is incredibly student-centered, meaning that there are enough open electives that students can effectively create their own emphasis in the program to suit their needs. The graduate director and graduate advisor work closely with students interested in taking a variety of courses to help plan out their schedule. In addition, students working on their completion options will work closely with additional faculty to do the research or project. We also have internship advisors who help students find internships if needed.
DePaul University also has a robust support system for students, including a career center for any student interested in starting or changing a career, or just moving up in the career they are already in. There are writing centers on campus to help students who may not be used to graduate-level writing yet. DePaul University is well prepared for students with a variety of experiences
Benefits for students pursuing online MIC as opposed to on campus?
Although there are some online courses available, the DCMA program is not online at the moment.
What is the goal for the MIC program? Where do you see it in the next 5 years?
The goal of the DCMA program is to help students become better creators, users, and professionals in digital technology. Our goal is for the program to stay current with contemporary technology and industry trends; in fact, if the program were the same in five years as it is today, I’d be disappointed! Change and growth are our two major goals every year.
What geographical outreach does your program have? Are your students more local? Out of state?
We have students from many different places – international students, students from around the country, and students from the city of Chicago.