By Samantha Phillips
When Youngstown State University looked to increase its international reach, communications professor Jeff Tyus headed to Ghana to promote the department’s master’s in interdisciplinary communications program.
“My goal was just to go and get the word out about our program, what we offer, let them know assistantships are available and all that,” Tyus said. “They have to decide for themselves if they can do it, if it’s something they’re interested in.”
Tyus visited the Ghana Institute of Journalism and the University of Education in Winneba, Ghana. He stayed with a friend of his from Ohio University, who helped him make contact with the schools. He reached out to 20 or 30 students.
The students he encountered had their bachelor’s degrees and were working and trying to develop their skills or interested in pursuing a doctorate degree. He said some were considering becoming communication majors, because their jobs require communication skills.
“They want to be able to apply communication with whatever their undergraduate major was,” he said. “They see our discipline as a means of adding to their undergraduate degree to make them a little more well rounded.”
His host also had connections with people working in the media who were interested in the interdisciplinary program for professional growth.
The department launched the program in 2013. Program Director Rebecca Curnalia said the program is designed for students who want to increase their skill set or pursue a doctorate degree.
Curnalia said the degree makes student more competitive on the job market and can help them develop skills beyond what is offered at the bachelor’s degree course level.
“Our courses are designed to help students develop the professional communication skills that employers are looking for — leadership, teamwork, writing, speaking, analytical and quantitative skills.”
Tyus hopes international students will take advantage of the program and in turn see more diversity in the communications department.
“We have a couple other programs that have Ghanaian students in their master’s program,” Tyus said. “Mathematics and economics have a large number of those Ghanaian students, so they wouldn’t be isolated if they came here, there would be others.”
Nathan Myers, associate provost for international and global initiatives, said it’s wise for YSU to recruit students from smaller markets like Ghana, where there is less competition. In larger markets, like China, the country’s universities have several recruitment agents from different American universities visiting within the same week.
Secondary markets like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are the type of countries that Myers said he will focus on in terms of recruitment.
“This is kind of a complex university,” Myers said. “YSU has multiple majors, multiple academic programs at different levels, and so it’s really to our benefit to have a content expert out to explain our own program to students that might be interested.”
Tyus may return to Ghana with Myers to follow up on the groundwork he made during this trip, but he said he would rather explore other areas that other colleges may have overlooked.
“I would like to be able to travel to different places and reach out,” he said. “I don’t want to get caught up in going to just one place all the time, because there are other places that we’re not well represented in as well.”