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Taking on Digital Innovation and Social Justice with Expanded Curriculum

When Pablo Boczkowski, MS in Leadership for Creative Enterprises director, launched this School of Communication degree program in 2014, he envisioned curriculum that would help students connect their creative expertise with the business knowledge, strategic skills, and entrepreneurial mindset necessary to successfully lead projects and teams in entertainment, media, and the arts.

He served as the director until 2017, shaping the new program while also acting as co-director of the Center for the Study of Media and Society in Argentina, a joint venture between the University of San Andrés and Northwestern University.

In May 2020, he returned to the MS in Leadership for Creative Enterprises program to serve as the director once again, with a renewed focus on expanding the curriculum and boosting industry engagement.

After examining the current industry climate—as well as the existing faculty dynamic—Boczkowski was inspired to add three courses to the program’s lineup, bringing new perspectives on digital innovation and social justice:

1.     Brand Management in the Digital Age (fall quarter)

2.     The Power of Strategic Storytelling (winter quarter)

3.     (In)Equity in Arts and Entertainment: History and Practice (spring quarter)

“That’s why I chose these new classes: I wanted them to complement one other and build on the curriculum already in place. They cover issues that have importance in terms of developing an overall understanding of the industry, as well as understanding important dialogue and trends taking place right now in society.”

Born and raised in Argentina, Boczkowski has lived in the United States for more than 25 years. His own global experiences inspire initiatives that help facilitate productive conversations and international perspectives.

As brands become ubiquitous within modern culture, shaping how we view nearly every aspect of life, Assistant Professor TJ Billard leads a new Brand Management in the Digital Age course in the fall quarter. The goal is to help MS in Leadership for Creative Enterprises students better understand how the practices of brand management have transformed in recent decades, becoming more personal and taking explicit stances on identity and justice.

Weaving in Billard’s research on mainstream communication studies, the sociology of social movements, and transgender studies will help students develop more nuanced, balanced views of brands, as well as the ability to understand important issues related to a brand’s social, cultural, and political significance.

During the winter quarter, Nathan Walter, assistant professor, leads The Power of Strategic Storytelling, introducing students to the genre of entertainment education: using entertainment as a vehicle to provide education on important topics.

By nature, people are instinctive storytellers; for thousands of years, narratives have played vital roles in transmitting crucial information. Because we naturally think about the world in terms of story elements and rely on narrative structures to explain the world and people’s actions, research has demonstrated that engaging stories may play a valuable role in helping people process new, difficult, and controversial information and adopt certain attitudes and behaviors.

As a result, creative industries—such as theater, music, film, and TV, for example—offer major potential when it comes to education and influence. From choices about plots and characters to framing problems and solutions, what people see and hear can impact their thoughts and opinions. The coursework examines core texts, story factors, audience characteristics, and the processes underlying narrative persuasion.

During the spring quarter, Lecturers Al Heartley and Jocelyn Prince lead (In)Equity in Arts and Entertainment: History and Practice, which investigates historical and current efforts toward diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as well as anti-racism work in the fields of performing arts and entertainment.

During this course, students have the opportunity to investigate industry norms and trends, along with successes and failures, practical examples of DEI implementation, potential problems within the field, and resources for emerging leaders in creative industries.

“All of our graduates will benefit from this new curriculum because it allows them to be more competitive in leading digital innovation,” Boczkowski emphasizes. “They’ll be doing so with a mindset of equity and inclusion, being mindful of the fact that the world is bigger than just one country. Global interconnections are a source of strength and need to be understood in order to lead creative enterprises effectively. We want to educate people to become very successful leaders across the world—not just within the United States.”

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