Journalism department to offer social media certificate

Facebook and Twitter may no longer be deemed inappropriate in some classrooms as Central Michigan University will now offer an undergraduate certificate in social media.

The program, which consists of 12 required hours of journalism classes and one three-credit hour elective, will educate students on the benefits and impacts of social media today. The program will inform students on the ethical implications of social media and will teach students to maximize online traffic to meet business objectives.

CMU is not the first university to implement such a program. Cleveland State University, Ball State University, State University of New York at Purchase and University of California, Irvine have developed social media programs.

Journalism instructor Mary Lichtman began developing curriculum for the program in the fall of 2010 and will teach some of the courses offered for the certification. Social media has become important in every career field, and the program will help students reach business goals and objectives through social media, she said.

“Social media has changed the way we look for jobs, the way we buy our clothes and other products; it has changed the way we travel,” Lichtman said in an email. “There is no career field that hasn’t been changed by social media.”

She said the curriculum will offer many practical tips to maximize online traffic through social media as well as educate students on the ethical implications.

Students will actively use social media in the program, though some sites may be less known than others, she said.

"After completion of the certificate, students should be able to assess the current use of social media and other communications in an organization, determine the goals of the organization and its risks and governance processes, select best practices for the organization, train employees, create content that engages audiences and drives traffic where the business wants it to go," Lichtman said.

Journalism Department Chairwoman Maria Marron said the program will help students become proficient in business aspects of social media. Marron said some former journalism students have found successful jobs by mastering social media.

"I think with the explosion of social media, it's absolutely important that journalism students and, for example, PR and advertising practitioners know the value of social media," Marron said.

Algonac senior Chris Smith, a public relations major, said social media is one of the main interests of his studies. Smith said he would be interested in such a program, and many technology-savvy college students may find careers in social media.

"Social media is actually becoming a lot bigger. It's like free marketing for everyone and a lot of people don't really know how to use it, especially older executives that are kind of out of date with technology," Smith said. "It's a great opportunity for college kids to kind of jump into that niche and take over"