New online master’s program is first of its kind

Natalie Hayden

Jobs that may not exist yet could await graduates of WKU’s new online master’s degree.

The Sport Media and Branding program, which will be available in fall 2012, is a concentration within the already present Athletic Administration graduate degree and is the first of its kind, said Ken Payne, associate professor of public relations.

The program is innovative for many reasons, Payne said. It’s the first master’s program at WKU’s school of Journalism and Broadcasting and is also the first completely online master’s program focused on sports advertising.

“We certainly think we have a unique position in the marketplace right now, of being focused on media, focused on branding, focused on advertising, PR, in the sports arena, at the master’s level and delivered all online,” he said. “Those three things are very hard to find in programs right now.”

Payne said he believes the program will be preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, because the marketplace for any type of branding is radically changing.

“People are still figuring out how to leverage all these tools and technologies to deliver the brand experience,” he said. “The fascinating thing for someone in this program is there may not be a job title for you yet. But I promise you you’ll get enough background in this program to go out there and be ready for the next level jobs that are being created right now in the marketplace.”

The program will be entirely online and will consist of 33 credit hours taken over five scheduled semesters, said Amy Fitzpatrick, coordinator of cohort programs for the Division of Extended Learning and Outreach.

“It’s a mixture of journalism courses and recreational and sport administration courses, so it’s a collaborative effort,” she said.

Fitzpatrick said right now the goal for the program is 15 to 20 students, but depending on the interest level, they could take the maximum number, which is 30.

There has already been a strong interest in the program, Payne said. Three students had already signed up for the degree before he even knew it had been approved by Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, Payne said.

“The fact of the matter is sports and entertainment drive so much programming and writing today that it’s almost silly not to think of that when you’re developing something, because it’s so pervasive in the marketplace,” he said.

Fitzpatrick said that a few students from other states have already applied, and that possibly the program could go international someday.

Payne agreed, citing “Linsanity,” the recent global craze over the New York Knicks’ point guard, Jeremy Lin, as an example of why sport media and branding is a global career.

“To think that sport media and branding is United States-only is foolish,” he said. “It’s hugely international. And yeah, I hope we do see students from all over the globe. It’d be a lot of fun.

“What you’re seeing on the books now is just the first step — getting this thing launched up and running, and we have hopes that it will grow and develop over the years into something we can’t even imagine right now.”