The online Master of Science in Strategic Communication at Butler University offers a rigorous yet flexible curriculum through a merger of theory and practice in a connected community of students and faculty.

You’ll learn real-time application of a broad range of communication skills and prepare to advance within your current organization or transition into a new career path.

  • Apply concepts and best practices to lead communication strategy on multiple media platforms aimed at diverse audiences.
  • Design and analyze research methods to drive informed communication strategy and address organizational goals.
  • Utilize real-world case studies and simulations to learn how to strategize, plan, execute, and evaluate ethical and effective strategic communication.
  • Complete a comprehensive capstone experience and tackle real-world communication challenges that an organization is facing.

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Industry Professional Spotlight

Faculty member and PRSA member Robert Norris talked with us about his experience in the field and what sets the online MS in Strategic Communication at Butler apart.

Robert Norris, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) member and lecturer Butler University, College of Communication · M.S. in Strategic Communication

1. Please share a little about yourself and your professional background.

I spent 35 years in the field of corporate communication—30 of them with what is now Duke Energy Indiana, and another five with Cummins Inc. During that time, I dealt with changes in leadership, strikes, fatal accidents, a near-bankruptcy, two mergers, an attempted hostile takeover, and several environmental issues involving public safety. It was challenging on every level, but I learned a lot. It was in 2006 that I also began teaching as an adjunct instructor in communication at IUPUI and Butler University. Butler offered to make me a full-time Lecturer in 2014, and I have taught four or five courses per semester ever since. I teach some established courses and some I created, including Crisis Communication on the undergraduate level, and Media Relations on the graduate level. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.

2. Why did you decide to get into strategic communication?

Everyone has something they do well. My thing was writing, which is a core competency in this business. My writing portfolio enabled my entrée as a public relations assistant in 1976, but it also opened the door to representing my company in front of live audiences, which is another good skill to have.

3. What is your education background?

I hold a B.A. and an M.A. from Indiana University—both in history. Without an academic background in communication, it would be hard to enter the field today; I’m probably among the last to get in through the side door. But experience has also been a great teacher, and my awareness of history has enabled me to put several overwhelming issues in perspective.

4. How long have you been a PRSA member? What do you most enjoy about being involved in this organization?

I first joined PRSA in 1976, chiefly because I felt that’s where I belonged as an aspiring professional. I began attending so I could learn from my betters, and I continued so I could serve the chapter in other ways. I was not always able to maintain my membership over the years but am a member now because it offers several ways for me to give back to the field of communication.

5. How can a master’s degree in strategic communication benefit public relations and other strategic communication professionals?

A master’s degree not only shows that you bring more to the table, but also that you have committed yourself to a career path. Your M.S. will be seen by professionals and H.R. managers as a significant, positive credential when the time comes to hire or promote.

6. Tell us about Butler University’s online Master of Science in Strategic Communication?

Butler’s MSSC is designed with working graduates in mind—those who have some job experience under their belts and are looking for that next step in their career. It’s 100% online to fit into busy schedules. Still, it’s built to connect students with their peers, their faculty, and industry representatives through weekly “live” synchronous session, discussion boards, or more informal modes of engagement. It’s also focused on merging theory and practice, helping students really refine their thinking and approach to communication. At its core, it’s a highly flexible, interactive, and challenging program that current students are finding extremely valuable.

7. What is your role in the program?

I teach one of the electives, STR 574, Media Relations. It’s a practical course grounded in established communication theory. Corporations and PR agencies call media relations their number one job, so an ability to deal effectively with reporters and editors is likely to add to your value wherever you go.

8. What sets it apart from other programs in the region and/or across the country?

First, it is taught by academics who understand the industry and truly care about supporting our students. We get to know you, your background, your needs, and tailor the class experience accordingly. Second, it’s 100% online. The majority of class content is asynchronous so coursework can be done on a schedule that suits you. But we also offer really engaging weekly optional “live” synchronous meetings where we come together to apply our knowledge to real world challenges and discuss the big issues as a group. Finally, Butler’s program creates opportunities for you to apply course material and assignments directly to your career; it’s not uncommon for our students to tell us that things they learned have direct and immediate application to the communication challenges they tackle daily in their jobs.

9. Why should someone choose this strategic communication master’s over another similar degree? (public relations, marketing, mba, etc.)

Strategic Communication embraces all the elements that go into an effective communication program—research, planning, brand strategy, social media, media relations, law & ethics, plus specialties like crisis communication. Whether you are headed for industry, government, or non-profit, It’s the best way to equip yourself for a seat at the big table.

10. What can students do during the program/after they graduate with the M.S. in Strategic Communication? (Career outcomes, etc.)

This degree can be applied in a range of industries, including healthcare, technology, non-profit, government, politics, legal, and environmental. Surveys confirm that effective communication is wanted by everyone.

11. What advice do you have for someone who isn’t sure if they should return to school for their master’s degree?

Going back to earn a master’s is one of the best decisions I ever made, even though I did not think of it as a career move at the time. I was 48 and just wanted to learn some new things. For someone with career ambitions, I think earning a master’s degree is almost a no-brainer. It will take less than two years and give you something you can carry with you the rest of your life.

12. What do you most enjoy and what do you find most challenging about the industry?

Almost the same thing—the variety. When you’re in communication, you cut across all lines. You may help someone’s marketing effort today by placing stories in the right media. You may help steer their ship safely through treacherous waters tomorrow when a scandal brings reporters running. You may represent the public’s interest to top officers when they ask your help in shaping policy. You have license to go anywhere and learn anything because you represent your client/company in the court of public opinion, and you must have good information to do that well.

13. What advice do you have for someone pursuing a career in some realm of strategic communication?

a. Someone with a background in the industry?
Identify what you’re good at and where you have weak spots. Then work on the weak spots. Never stop doing this.

b. Career changer?
Remember that communication is the common denominator. Everyone needs it, so the greater the breadth of your expertise the more career directions will be open to you.

c. Straight out of undergrad?
Pick a program at a different school from the one that awarded your bachelor’s. Everyone likes to see variety in your record, and prospective employers will be more impressed when they see it.