Photo by Ian Beckett / Staff Photographer

By Hailey Wood, Staff Writer

In a world dominated by social media, a new minor has emerged at USM.

Professor Francesca Vassallo from the political science & history department, created the social media activism minor.

Vassallo was inspired to make social media activism into a minor because of the change in political activism over the past five years.

“Nowadays, candidates, campaigns, movements or parties all need a strong presence online,” she said in a recent email. “The current need for activists requires organizations to hire individuals who are not only passionate about causes, but also knowledgeable in political organization strategies, including the effective use of social media.”

The new minor is geared towards “students interested in combing their interest for engagement and activism in different environments through online media communication,” Vassallo said. It would also specifically help students interested in political campaigns, organizations and movements learn how to work in that area, she added.

The social media activism minor has two required courses, Critical Thinking about Social Issues and Communication and Social Media. Along with these six credits students are required to take nine credits in electives.

“Courses in this minor will allow students to learn and understand political action in its multiple forms as well as new types of interactive and social political engagement opportunities,” said Vassallo.

Some of the electives involved with the social media activism minor are Philosophy, Social Media and Security, People and Politics and Media & Politics. All sharing one thing in common: they are focused on politics and/or social media.

Professor Maureen Ebben from the Communications and Media Studies Department, said that her course, Communication and Social Media, is relevant for today’s communication context. “This course explores social media dynamics including communication in a networked public culture, interpersonal communication online, privacy and information security, social media production and work, media ecologies, and managing media and information in a networked and highly connected world,” she said.

Ebben was also excited to announce that her and her colleague, Professor Jessica Lockhart applied for and received a USM Title III High-Impact Grant to use for a collaborative student research project. Their grant project is entitled “Social Media Podcast Storytelling Project: A Student-led Collaboration Between CMS 242 Communications and Social Media and CMS 322 Digital Audio Storytelling.”

This cross-course student project involves active learning across several domains. It is student-led, research-based, skills-based, hands-on, collaborative, and community-building,” said Ebben.

This program is unique among other degrees offered at universities across the country. Vassallo said that she thinks USM’s program is only the second social media activism in the U.S.

In 2016 US News reported that University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communication offers a 38-credit master’s program in social media and similarly University of Southern California offers a master’s program in digital social media it’s journalism school.

“Students with diverse interests in social causes will learn to apply their passion to action, while learning the theories behind a successful online presence for different types of communities,” Vassallo said.


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