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New for ’23: Health & Social Change and Media Psychology Majors

aerial shot of campus at night

Emerson is rolling out two new interdisciplinary majors in fast growing fields that will give undergraduates the tools to think critically about the media they consume and produce, and address growing health inequities in the U.S. and globally.

Both the Media Psychology and Health & Social Change majors will admit their first cohort for Fall 2023, Justin Sharifpour, assistant vice president of enrollment data and technology, said during a webinar to formally announce the programs on March 18.

“These two majors take Emerson in a slightly different direction,” School of Communication Dean Raul Reis said. “They are informed by the liberal arts … but they are very much informed by the expertise that we find among the faculty in these really growing fields.”

Although both majors will live within the School of Communication (SOC), they were created with the input of faculty from SOC, School of the Arts, and the Marlboro Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies, and will include courses from all areas of the College in their curricula, Reis said.

Health & Social Change will reside in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department, under the direction of Associate Professor Robin Danzak. The program will prepare students to work in health care, government policy, nonprofits, or international NGOs, or pursue graduate degrees in a variety of health fields, medical anthropology, or arts therapy.

“Number one for us is that students really understand health disparities, social determinants of health, and that they are also able to work on themselves and become culturally aware and build that cultural humility so they can contribute to health in their communities in a broader spectrum,” Danzak said.

Students in the program will learn how our current medical and public health systems work, and be grounded in the scientific method, as well as quantitative and qualitative research methods (majors will take more science classes than the typical Emerson student). Health will be defined broadly, and take into consideration issues like climate change, not just individual disease, and will look at health locally, nationally, and globally.

Everything within the major – whether a class in research methodology or healthcare in film – will be taught through a lens of social justice, said Senior Executive-in-Residence Nancy Allen.

“That will be baked in throughout all of the core curriculum,” she said. “We will be looking at health disparities and social determinants of health with a focus on advocacy and policy and social change.”

Media Psychology is a relatively new field of study, but a very Emersonian one, Marlboro Institute Associate Professor Lindsey Beck said.

It will reside in the Marketing Communication Department, under the direction of Assistant Professor Naa Amponsah Dodoo. Graduates will be ready to work in media research, marketing/advertising, policy making, UX design, education, or health care, or study psychology or marketing in grad school.

While the program looks at the technology that people use to communicate and its impact on society, Dodoo said, it zeroes in on how people think and behave to understand media from a variety of perspectives.

“We’re not only talking about design or production,” Dodoo said, “but we’re talking about looking at multiple perspectives to truly give students a way to analyze various media platforms that exist in today’s world.”

Students will learn to apply theories of psychology to various aspects of media, including storytelling, marketing, and user experience; demonstrate media and digital literacy and understand how to use media sensitively and inclusively to engage audiences, and, as with the Health & Social Change major, learn quantitative and qualitative research methodologies.

Both new programs will require capstones that put theory into practice through community partnerships, and both will offer courses from across various departments and disciplines.

The programs though still being fine-tuned, were developed with the input of faculty committees that likewise drew from across the College.

The Health & Social Change Committee included, from CSD, Danzak, Allen, Professor and Chair Ruth Grossman, Scholar-in-Residence Patti Nelson, and Senior Scholar-in-Residence Maryam Salehomoum; and, from Communication Studies, Assistant Professor Deion Hawkins and Senior Lecturer Heather May.

The Media Psychology Committee included, from Marketing Communication, Dodoo, Associate Professor Nejem Raheem, and Chair and Professor Brent Smith; from the Marlboro Institute, Beck, Assistant Professor Eileen McBride, and Associate Professor Todd Smith; from Journalism, Professor Paul Mihailidis; from Writing, Literature, and Publishing, Associate Professor Benoit Denizet-Lewis, and Dean Reis.

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