As new forms of media and concerns over “fake news” grow, UCF is finding a way to prepare its graduates for best practices in the field of communications.

The university next fall will begin offering a doctorate in strategic communication, which will teach students working in nonacademic and professional settings how to effectively counter rumor, misinformation and fear during crises. That will bring to 225 the number of degrees offered at the university, including 30 doctorates.

The program is offered through the Nicholson School of Communication and Media and its courses will provide public-communication strategies on issues such as preparedness for natural disasters, disease management, safe sex and other fields.

“It runs the whole range of crises,” says Timothy Sellnow, director of graduate studies at Nicholson. “Students will be ready to respond from the outset of a crisis to the recovery stage.”

Sellnow says strategic communication is one of the fastest growing areas in the communication field. Practitioners in this field differ from other communicators because they must work in partnership with professionals in public and private sectors. Together they solve real-world problems, such as the recent health scare caused by the recall of romaine lettuce tainted with E. coli bacteria.

The program also will focus on theory and research for developing more effective models of strategic communication. The curriculum will include elective courses from concentrations in instructional communication, health communication, or risk and crisis communication. After completing these requirements, students will be required to take the candidacy examination and complete the dissertation.

“Our mantra is: ‘The right words at the right time save lives.’”

Graduates can teach, consult with first responders in strategic communications, and work in agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

“These are people who are highly interested in building their communication skills and deeply committed to the focus of the program,” Sellnow said. “Our mantra is: ‘The right words at the right time save lives.’”

Applicants must have master’s degree in communication or a related field such as public relations or emergency management. The director of graduate studies will evaluate applicability of master’s degrees in other related disciplines for admission purposes. Applicants must have a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA for all undergraduate and graduate work.

Enrollment will open this spring in advance of the fall classes. For more information, contact Sellnow at