Emerson to offer health and social change, media psychology majors starting in 2023

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By Vivi Smilgius, Associate Editor of Express, Associate Sports Editor

Indicating an increased focus on the intersection of communications and health, Emerson will introduce two major novelties beginning in fall 2023: Health and Social Change and Media Psychology.

Both programs aim to inspire new perspectives on social issues related to global health and psychology. School of Communication Dean Raul Reis said he was particularly excited about the major news.

“Media psychology is a relatively new field,” Reis said. “The approach here looks at psychology, psychological theories, and what we know about behavior and attitudes to help us understand our relationship with media as producers and consumers.”

Reis said studying health and social change will provide students with a unique opportunity to tackle global health crises in a mindful and advocacy-focused way.

“We seek to explore the complex issues that surround health policy, not from the perspective of policy makers or even public health, but from a broader, more social approach,” Reis said. “We’re going to be looking at very large and complex issues.”

Both majors emerged from a committee founded in September 2020 to begin thinking about new majors, in response to perceived shortcomings in Emerson’s academic offerings.

“We were meeting regularly, working on different courses, doing research and seeing the gaps in these programs and [finding] how we can be better,” Reis said. “It was really a collective effort…it was a very collaborative process.”

Robin Danzak, one of the spearheads in the development of the Health and Social Change major, said the major development groups included faculty from various departments, which led to the creation of two majors instead of one. a.

“We had some difficulty initially focusing on our goal for the major,” Danzak said. “However, once we realized that social change had to be the driving force, things fell into place.”

Nancy Allen, who currently teaches several public health-related courses at Emerson, said she will most likely teach some of the courses offered by the health and social change major. For her, health and social change opens the door for students to address global health issues through social justice initiatives.

“Whether it’s climate change, the opioid crisis, or COVID-19, many of the crises we face are health-related,” Allen said. “This new major seeks to take and train students interested in these subjects, who want to positively impact their community or the world through social change mechanisms.”

The health and social change major is more than just a liberal arts approach to STEM, Allen said — it’s public health adjacent that combines elements of public health and communication to help students “affect the social change through the arts”.

Students in the major will open doors to a variety of careers beyond STEM, including fields such as climate change, mental health, addiction, disability, cancer, and nonprofits designed to help solve these problems.

“I can absolutely imagine Emerson graduates seeking to shape public opinions on some of these health issues through the media,” Allen said.

Assistant Professor Naa Dodoo, who recently joined the committee, said the media psychology major will provide another focus for students to find solutions to global issues. Like health and social change, the media psychology major will have its own “Emersonian touch.”

“We’re taking what we already know and making it even better in a new media context,” Dodoo said. “It’s an opportunity for us to expand our offer, especially for students who might be interested in going in this direction.”

Media Psychology allows the college to test a new market and cater to a wider range of students’ academic interests, allowing them to “explore something relevant in today’s world” and investigate on the ever-changing impacts of technology and media, by Dodoo.

Although majors won’t be offered until 2023, the college will be in communication with high school counselors and students to promote the new programs, Reis said. Although he is not at Emerson to attend the launch of the majors (because he has to leave college in june), he said he looks forward to Emerson’s continued growth.

“We’re really excited,” Reis said. “These programs embody the spirit of Emerson and what we try to do at the college.”


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