You still have an imaginary friend. Dr. Neil Alperstein is betting his career on it.
Is there an athlete you think you’d get along with or a podcast host who reminds you of someone you once knew? As an adult, the relationship you have with that celebrity, politician or other public figure is almost surely built through media — the traditional printed kind, movies and music, but also the fast evolving social and immersive web.
Alperstein is the academic director of Loyola University’s master’s in Emerging Media program that launched this past academic year and currently has 35 students enrolled. Paired with Dr. Elliot King, the chair of the university’s communication department, Alperstein conceived, launched and is running the program, along with help from Ronnie Gunnerson, who is handling the program’s operations since joining last spring.
Like the trends it covers, the course is primarily online — though organizers have held in-person social and supplementary events for those in the area, said Gunnerson.
In it, students are learning about how the ways we make and consume media and culture are shifting. That shift is impacting our organizations and ourselves, including our relationships with the wider world.
But please understand, this is not a program to learn how to open a Twitter account.
“While students learn social media skills, that is not where the focus lies,” Gunnerson said. “Instead, the program is committed to creating thought leaders in emerging media, and our concept of emerging media is that some new form of media is always emerging.”
Because though Facebook is attracting users globally like none of its predecessors, what it represents is far larger than one publicly-traded company.
“Our students are learning how to identify, assess and strategically analyze the potential business, social, cultural and even moral impact of what’s coming down the pike,” she said.
The program no doubt veers into unique philosophical conversation — just watch the video below of Alperstein talking about his connection to his celebrity look-a-like Larry David — but with any new collegiate program, one question often comes up. Will the degree help its students get a job?
The program is too new to have career data, of course. Just three students are due to complete the course-load this summer, but they’ve all been studying full-time, Gunnerson said.
“What our students are understanding is the deeper implications of how we all communicate,” said Gunnerson, who started teaching evening classes at Loyola in 2007 while working at PBS. That means they can not only be better marketing professionals but also see how storytelling needs to be a part of any organization’s strategy, Gunnerson said.
Ten more students will begin in July and applications are being accepted through August 1 for the fall semester.