Hope College students majoring in communication can take a fast track to a master’s degree thanks to a new partnership between the college and Western Michigan University.

The college and university have established a “4+1” bachelor-to-master’s pathway that will enable Hope graduates who majored in communication to complete a Master of Arts degree in communication at the university in one year when enrolled full-time instead of the usual two — a time savings that also eliminates a year’s worth of graduate-school tuition.  Signed by representatives of the college and university during a ceremony at Hope on Wednesday, Jan. 10, the agreement will enable the Hope students to apply up to 12 of their undergraduate credits in communication toward the 30-credit graduate degree.

“We’re excited about giving the students the opportunity, through five years, to be part of two world-class programs — to be at Hope for four years and then at Western for a year, and to come out of that with both the bachelor’s and master’s degree,” said Hope College President Matthew A. Scogin. “It’s symbolic of what I would like to see more of at Hope, which is these kinds of partnerships giving students a very clear pipeline to world-class programs after Hope College.”

“It’s always been our goal as a department to raise the number of students that go on to grad school or at least realize that grad school is an option,” said Dr. Jayson Dibble, professor of communication and department chair at Hope.  “Our program is based on theory, research and practice, and those are the raw ingredients that feed into a top master’s program.  This special pathway accelerates Hope students’ time to degree and saves them money, while connecting Western Michigan University with highly qualified students.”

Although Western has 4+1 partnerships with other institutions in other departments, Hope is the first with which the university has partnered in communication. The School of Communication at Western has already been using the model successfully for several years with its own undergraduate communication majors, who can also apply up to 12 hours of their coursework toward the university’s master’s in communication.

“Hope College, renowned as one of our finest private liberal arts colleges, has prepared its graduates well for the rigors of pursuing a graduate-level degree at Western,” said Dr. Edward Montgomery, president of Western Michigan University. “Hope students are steeped in outstanding undergraduate research and creative projects, and we are pleased to note that the scholarly prestige of our institutions is well matched,” he said.  As the students continue their education at Western, he noted, they “will find an academic home that offers strong mentorship and upholds a synergistic relationship between research and classroom instruction.”

Hope students who are interested in the opportunity provided by the “4+1 Accelerated Graduate Degree Partnership” must first gain admission to Western’s master’s program in the School of Communication.  They will be able to transfer up to six credits from among selected 300-level courses, and gain up to six credits by examination.  They will also be eligible to apply for teaching assistantships for the year they are enrolled at the university.

The communication major at Hope consists of 33 credits, plus statistics, out of the 120 semester credits that Hope requires for graduation.  Students pursuing the major choose from seven academic-concentration areas: corporate communication, global communication and peace studies, journalism and writing for media, media production and criticism, organizational communication and leadership, relationship communication, and rhetoric and public advocacy.

Approximately 50 students graduate from Hope with a communication major each year.  Currently, 147 students are majoring in communication and another 44 are pursuing minors.

Although the new agreement is Hope’s first such partnership with Western, it’s the college’s second accelerated-degree partnership.  In 2022, Hope and next-door neighbor Western Theological Seminary established the “Vita Scholars Program,” a “3-2” program which enables students to graduate from Hope with a Bachelor of Arts degree and from the seminary with a Master of Divinity degree after a total of five years instead of the usual seven.