SMC’s Department of Strategic Communication will launch its second decade this fall with a new chair at its helm.
Professor Lance Holbert joined the faculty this summer with visions of expanding the program to expose as many students as possible to the international trends in the field.
Holbert replaces Cornelius Pratt who has served as chair since 2012 and will continue to serve on the faculty.
“I think the big change over the course of the next decade is the true internationalization of the field,” said Holbert during an interview on his plans for the department. “It’s really going to be worldwide in scope. If you look at the more well situated disciplines — psychology, political science or the sociology — they are truly worldwide in scope.
Expanding the international reach
A strengthened international presence in the program could come in the form of faculty members and graduate students collaborating with researchers from around the world and ensuring that as many undergraduate students as possible have an international experience by studying abroad or interacting with foreign communication practitioners.
Holbert said he will always be asking himself, “What can we do as an international program? There’s a lot of it here already. The fact that Temple’s so well situated for the process of internationalization is a big reason why I came here. We can take it up a couple of notches.”
Holbert has held teaching positions at the University of South Carolina, The Ohio State University, the University of Missouri and the University of Delaware. In 2013, the National Communication Association’s Mass Communication Division named him the Teacher of the Year.
Holbert specializes in political entertainment media and the growing trend of politicians using entertainment outlets to humanize themselves, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s recent appearance on The Tonight Show, when he danced with Jimmy Fallon.
“It allows a politician to connect with an audience in a way that news simply won’t allow,” Holbert said. “It’s no different than Clinton playing the saxophone back in 1992 during that election.”
As the head of the department, Holbert plans to build strong connections with strategic communication practitioners in Philadelphia and will work to increase their presence on campus and in the classrooms.
“But there’s no reason to stay bound to Philly,” he said, noting that he’d like to build similar connections in New York and Washington, D.C.
The study of strategic communication is of vital importance today, Holbert said, because of its pervasiveness.
“People are bombarded left and right. You can’t get away from somebody advocating something or somebody trying to persuade you in some way,” he said. “Educating people to it, not just to engage in it, to be practitioners of it, but to be critical consumers of it, I think is exceedingly important.”
Innovation and ethics
And as the ways we communicate continue to evolve, he hopes to continually integrate new media into the classroom and hopes the faculty will work to become familiar with whatever comes next.
“If we’re going to be teaching it, we have to be doing it as well. It’s not like we can just talk to it like there’s this thing out there,” he said. “Scholars need to be engaged in this type of practice. It does nothing but benefit them as well.”
Among the principals he hopes all students who come through the department learn is a strong sense of ethics.
“If you’re handed the reigns of trying to persuade others, then functioning ethically is essential,” he said. “I think it is important to recognize that ethics and effectiveness do not run counter to one another in the practice of strategic communication. When you function ethically, it’s the single best thing for your career.”
By Jeff Cronin