September 23, 2015

Want to major in Twitter? N.J. college starts social media expertise center

HACKETTSTOWN — As more jobs require applicants to have an expertise in social media, Centenary College is opening a new academic center to train students and the public in the use of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms.

The Warren County-based private college will debut its new Social Media Center for Expertise next month, school officials said. The center, which will offer classes for students and help for local businesses, is believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country.

Centenary students will be able to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in social media marketing. Students will also be able to add a social media minor to other majors, including communications and graphic design.

College officials said demand is growing for graduates who know how to use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Periscope and other emerging social media platforms.



 

“We had a course in social media and I said I think we need more,” said Kathy Naasz, a veteran Centenary College professor and dean of the new center. “There are jobs out there and student demand . . . I said let’s start this central command center.”

Over the last few years, several colleges around the country have launched master’s degrees and certificate programs in social media. But few offer four-year degrees focused on social media.

Centenary College officials said they reviewed programs at more than 500 colleges and could not find any other schools offering a business administration degree with a concentration in social media.

Naasz rejected any criticism that social media is too new or too lightweight a topic to be worthy of an academic degree.

“It is not a passing trend. I believe it is here to stay,” Naasz said. “Look at where companies are spending their money.”

The new center, which the college has dubbed #theVIBE on social media, will officially launch Oct. 9, though some students are already taking classes.

“It is not a passing trend. I believe it is here to stay,” Kathy Naasz, dean of the new social media center.

The center is housed in a section of Centenary College’s historic Seay Building on the Hackettstown campus. The space has been renovated with exposed brick walls, modular furniture, video monitors on the walls and a bring-your-own-device bar.

It is designed to look like the New York City tech start-ups Naasz, a former AT&T sales executive, visited while researching ideas for the new program.

The new center will also offer a social media certificate program for professionals and free help for some small- and medium-size businesses in New Jersey who want to use social media to attract and track customers.

Google was among the companies Centenary officials consulted when designing the program.

“The program Centenary College is launching in social media will help fill the gap we see today in analytic talent and appears to be on the forefront of instilling the skills colleges should be teaching to future professionals,” said Kevin Hartman, head of analytics for Google’s consumer goods and entertainment sector.

The first courses at the center include Social Media Marketing, Digital Advertising, Digital Analytics and Social Media Strategy and Consulting.

Naasz said she is co-teaching all of the courses this semester, but eventually hopes to hire adjunct professors who work in the social media field to teach the classes.

The private college, which charges undergraduates $31,754 in annual tuition and fees, is funding the start-up of the new social media program and center, school officials said.

“Providing our students with the opportunity to study this field that is predicted to experience accelerated job growth through 2022 is one that is valuable and unique,” says Barbara-Jayne Lewthwaite, Centenary’s  president.  “This is an exciting new venture that will provide students and businesses alike with knowledge that is now fast becoming essential in the business and communication field.”

Kelly Heyboer may be reached at kheyboer@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyHeyboer. Find NJ.com on Facebook.