University to offer new M.A. in Environmental Journalism

School of Communication will offer 36-credit M.A. starting fall 2020

Written By Stephanie Kroll

A brand new 36-credit master’s degree program will start up at the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester for anybody interested in furthering their communications career in environmental journalism.

In years past, Point Park University offered an undergraduate degree in environmental

journalism, but not enough students were involved in it, according to Steve Hallock, Ph.D., the director of the School of Communication.

But over the course of a year, Hallock along with other faculty members, decided to open it back up again, but this time offering it at the graduate level in hopes that the students know what kind of journalism they want to focus on.

As of now, the program is currently only accepting 10 applicants. The small classroom size is due to the faculties shared, and with the belief that students will do better in a small-class environment. The limited number could potentially increase the demand to get accepted into the program.

Because of the recent escalation of climate change coverage on many media platforms, like extinction rates rapidly decreasing, melting glaciers, or the rising of sea temperatures, Hallock said, “I can’t think of a more timely, more needed type of journalism than this. This planet is hurting. We need to tell the story and see what we can do about it.”

In order to tell that story, required courses for the program include investigative journalism, economics and the environment, and environmental communication. Some elective choices, ranging from public affairs, reporting, and documentary photography, will also be offered to adequately prepare students.

Students will also be getting out of the classroom experience from conducting their own research by testing streams and water in the surrounding area or visiting the county health department.

Students involved in the program will also have the opportunity to collaborate and conduct research together to create projects such as books, broadcast reports, or even documentaries of their topic choice to add to their final portfolio at the end of the year.

On top of that, some of the students will have the opportunity to work with or even have internships with area newspapers such as The Tribune Review, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh City Paper, Pittsburgh Quarterly magazine, and other regional media outlets that Point Park partnered with in past years.

Once finished with the program, Hallock is confident that jobs in this field will be in demand because, “there’s always going to be a mountain of environmental work out there to do in our region,” said Hallock. He also mentioned that because of the mix of students’ writing experience and environmental understanding, the quality of the work each person does, will surely give them an advantage when entering the job field.

Students could potentially land a job with a company they interned at or possibly work for any energy company, media company or environmental organization working as a communication specialist or public relations person.

None of this could have been possible without the grant and generous advertising budget from the Heinz Endowment that was given to the School of Communications team to help support and nationally recruit students for this new master’s degree program.