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Executive Program in Digital Media for Social Impact

Courses & Instructors

Students take both core courses and as many electives as they choose, to suit their particular needs and interests.

Core Courses

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The Social Impact of Digital Media (6 weeks)

  • Dr. Guobin Yang, Director, Center on Digital Culture and Society; Grace Lee Boggs Professor of Communication and Sociology, University of Pennsylvania
  • Dr. Rosemary Clark-Parsons, Program Manager, Center for Social Impact Strategy, University of Pennsylvania

Digital media platforms have transformed the possibilities, modalities, and long-term outcomes of social change projects. In this course, you will learn general frameworks for understanding the role digital media can play in social impact initiatives and build strategies for incorporating digital media into your impact model. Drawing on research at the intersection of digital media, social impact, activism, and cultural studies, you will explore the affordances and challenges internet technologies present for changemakers. By the end of the course, you will have a clearer vision of what a mission-driven approach to digital engagement might look like for your initiative. 

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Digital Marketing for Social Impact (5 weeks)

  • Anna Miller, MBA, Director of Marketing, Online Learning Initiative, University of Pennsylvania

Successful marketing campaigns require an artful combination of empathy and experimentation. This course will give you a framework to confidently build a comprehensive marketing strategy from the ground up. We’ll outline how to best leverage digital tools to test, track, and iterate on your strategy. We’ll explore the ethics of marketing for social impact. You’ll learn the foundational building blocks required to successfully reach people. And you don’t need to be a marketer to enjoy this class. This course will give you a chance to pause, consider your audience, get curious, and explore deep empathy as a way of connecting your audience to the incredible work you’re doing. You’ll walk away with a marketing plan in hand, ready to implement. 

Elective Courses

*Elective course offerings may vary year to year. 

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Digital Media for Social Movements

Digital media platforms and their users are changing the way social movements mobilize. While activist organizers continue to face many of the same obstacles that have challenged movements for generations, the internet has raised both new opportunities and questions for today’s change-makers. Building successful movements in the digital age requires a thorough understanding of digital media and their affordances and limitations as organizing resources. Drawing on case studies of movements from around the world and cutting-edge social science research, this course will equip you with an actionable toolkit for strengthening your digital media practices.   

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Influencer Marketing for Social Impact 

  • Dr. Emily Dean Hund, Research Affiliate, Center on Digital Culture and Society, University of Pennsylvania

In the last decade, influencer marketing has grown from a small and haphazard digital endeavor to a multibillion dollar industry with continually expanding reach. Social media influencers have quickly become key figures in the marketing plans for organizations of all sizes and scopes. While influencers have traditionally been associated with consumer products and experiences, in recent years they have proven valuable for mission-driven groups and organizations, helping to increase visibility of particular issues and encourage various actions. While the influencer industry can be fraught with continually shifting norms, practices, and risks, this course will teach you how to understand the landscape and the potential role of influencers for your initiative.

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Media and Climate Justice

  • Dr. Hanna E. Morris, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

This course examines how issues of climate justice are represented across different forms of digital media. Students will learn how to comprehensively assess the development, design, and efficacy of online advocacy and climate justice policy campaigns. Through an engagement with an array of case studies, from the #NoDAPL Movement to Fridays for Future to the Sunrise Movement and Green New Deal, students will learn best practices and strategies for communicating issues of climate justice, equity, and inclusion to a variety of audiences and stakeholders. Students will leave the course with a well-developed set of skills and strategies required to produce robust digital campaigns dedicated to climate justice and social change.

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Media Reform, Policy Activism, and Designing a People’s Newsroom

  • Dr. Victor Pickard, Professor of Media Policy and Political Economy, University of Pennsylvania

This course will examine several case studies of activist interventions toward creating a radically democratic media system. The course will first provide a historical overview of the American media system. Then it will examine the contemporary changes facing our news and information ecosystems. Finally we will consider alternatives that center racial equity and community governance. Drawing from historical case studies, the course will foreground activist theories, strategies, and practices. 

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Principles of Inclusive Technology and Ethical Design

  • Dr. Jessa Lingel, Associate Professor of Communication, University of Pennsylvania

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are powerful tools of connectivity and social change, but they also contain embedded ideological tensions that can produce inequalities and deepen inter-group disparities.  At the core of this class is a sustained analysis of how race, gender, class and sexuality shape the development and use of ICT. Drawing on a range of theories for communication, information, media, race, gender, sexuality and technology, this course helps students understand ethical critiques of science and technology; develop critical analyses of public policies that have consequences; identify barriers to the recruitment and retention of historically marginalized groups in the technology industry; and understand frameworks for thinking about communication technologies as shaping everyday life.

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Problems and Potentials in Race and Technology

This course considers the latest issues on race and technology. We will read and otherwise engage with algorithms and artificial intelligence, digital activism and resistance, and web innovation from the margins. Students will develop practice-oriented assignments connected to their specific fields that seek to address problems and/or harness potentials in race and technology.

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Apply Now!

Join our inaugural class of DMSI scholars. We are excited to dive into these topics together!