Media for Social Impact (MA)
The Fall 2024 application is now open! We review applications on a rolling basis, and we encourage you to apply as soon as you have gathered your application materials to be considered for the widest array of potential funding opportunities.
Time to degree: three semesters + thesis (31 credits)
All courses online
Are you looking to make an impact by creating media?
Today's real-world challenges require innovative, effective, and engaging communication solutions. Many nonprofit organizations, community groups, government agencies, corporations, media houses and art centers are looking for creatives who can use media platforms to advance social change.
The online MA in Media for Social Impact will help you connect with a community of your choice, work within the community to assess its members’ needs, and generate a collaborative theory of change applying best practices of media creation. Our recent alumni are already working with diverse communities to make an impact – see a partial list at the bottom of the page.
Columbia College Chicago's MA in Media for Social Impact equips students with a broad range of media skills so they can stimulate community action and civic engagement. Join a diverse pool of socially engaged media artists, journalists, educators, producers, information designers, entrepreneurs, and civic-minded professionals. Together, we will strengthen democratic participation, shape public policy, and inspire social change.
The program is fitted to your interests and goals; you can decide which skills to leverage from our offer of elective classes in production, social entrepreneurship, and strategic communication. Simultaneously, you will work on a community project that will guide your practical and theoretical learning of media for social impact. You'll learn to design, implement and assess a project-based solution that addresses real community needs in a setting and context aligned with the social impact you wish to see. Through our core media for social impact classes, you will build relationships with community leaders, strengthen your social communication skills and explore media solutions to quality-of-life issues.
Inside and Outside the Classroom
What to expect your first semester
Our curriculum stresses both theory and practice. You’ll take four courses in your first semester. In our graduate seminar course, you will study theories of peacebuilding, mediation, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s nonviolence activism. Guest speakers drawn from our community partnerships will teach you how to put those ideals into practice. You’ll also take courses in civic tech, solutions journalism, and participatory action research to strengthen your research acumen and learn to manage collaborative projects.
What to expect your last semester
You’ll be enrolled in a capstone class during your last semester. In this hands-on course, you will work with two faculty advisors as you choose your thesis project. The thesis project can be a community project where you join an organization to either design or produce media that supports the organization and its community. Alternatively, you can conduct a research thesis where you will evaluate an existing civic media project. You'll be ready to create your thesis project with the experience and knowledge developed in our courses in production, research, and leadership taken during your first two semesters. Upon graduation, you will be able to design, execute and evaluate the impact of a social impact project and communicate it effectively.
Work while completing your degree
Columbia College Chicago offers this unique online experience for working professionals in mind around the globe.
Media for Social Impact, MA: 31 credits required
- COMM 503 Civic Media and Participatory Culture
- COMM 555 Participatory Action Research
- COMM 567 Civic Tech, Policy and Urban Development
- JOUR 564 Solution Journalism: Investigating Social Impact
- COMM 519 Communication for Community-Driven Leadership
- COMM 520 Media Ecosystems
- COMM 555 Civic Data Analytics and Impact Communication
- JOUR 567 Solutions Journalism Lab
- COMM 601 Civic Media Practicum
- JOUR 599 Topics in Storytelling for Social Change
Last Fall Quarter
- COMM 691 Thesis (1 credit a-synch class)
Careers in Media for Social Impact and Alumni Achievements
A Master of Arts in Media for Social Impact is the doorway to a variety of career paths that combine digital media with social change. If you're a young professional pursuing a career in media production, use the degree to demonstrate your ability to tackle social issues through digital media. If you're a professional with experience in civic engagement, the program will leverage the skills and partnership-building you need to succeed as a social leader.
- Media Arts & Community Engagement: Creating media as a form of community engagement.
- Marley Molkentin (2021) is the Program Coordinator for eidos at University of Pennsylvania, an initiative geared to transform LGBTQ+ healthcare. Molkentin also published her civic media practicum in the online publication Disability Visibility Project.
- Francia Garcia Hernandez (2022) works as a reporter for Austin Weekly News and Village Free Press and published her story about a bilingual children’s book in Block Club Chicago.
- Social Advocacy & Digital Design: Designing data to inform and advance awareness of social issues.
- Dean Strauss (2020) works as a communication director at Autism Self-Advocacy Network and designed a CTA station for a Columbia marketing campaign.
- Jordyn Harrison (2022) worked with Austin African American Business Networking Association (AAABNA) on My Black Owned, an entrepreneurial initiative in West Chicago.
- Youth Media & Media Literacy Education: Teaching youth to create media and be fluent in media consumption and production.
- Rosey Hayett (2021) is the director of NM Film prize Jr., a youth media film festival.
- Peter Midwa (2022) is the a media educator co-founder of Mtoto News, a scholastic journalism organization in Nairobi, Kenya.
- Engaged Journalism & Documentary: Reporting on social issues to drive change.
- Shelby Hawkins (2021) works at NPR Morning Edition in Washington D.C.
- Kyra Lyons (2022) works at PBS Wisconsin as a producer and published her work on environmental justice.
The MA in Media for Social Impact program draws on faculty expertise from across Columbia College Chicago. Our faculty members are active practitioners in various media fields and have established links with ongoing social impact projects.
- Jennifer Baker, Adjunct faculty, Interactive Arts Media
- Hakim Belabbes, Filmmaker at HAK Films
- Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin, Professor, Communication
- Alexandra Esenler, Programs & Ops at OpenArchive and Projects & Dev at Global Voices
- Peter Fitzpatrick, Professor, Photography & Special Advisor Community Engagement
- Yonty Friesem, Associate Professor, Communication and Graduate Program Director
- Robert Hanserd, Associate Professor, Humanities, History, and Social Sciences
- Elio Leturia, Associate Professor, Communication
- Dave Pabellon, Assistant Professor, Design
- Jackie Spinner, Associate Professor, Communication
- Jeffrey Spitz, Associate Professor, Cinema and Television Arts
- Christopher Whitaker, co-founder and acting co-director of the Alliance of Civic Technologists