Ashland University Establishes Online Master’s Program in Health and Risk Communication

Ashland University received final approval this week from the state’s Higher Learning Commission in Columbus for its new online master’s program in Health and Risk Communication. The approval means Ashland University officials will begin offering the new program immediately.

“The University is excited to add what we think is another great online master’s degree program, which aligns with AU’s vision to develop more outstanding distance education programs and aligns with our current emphasis in health related programs,” said AU Provost Dr. Frank Pettigrew. “This program also aligns with the mission of the institution that focuses on helping to prepare health professionals to better serve the expanding health related agencies.

“Since this program is completely online, we expect to get people from all different backgrounds participating in this program,” he added.

As part of the distinctive design, the program features rolling enrollment that allows students to start classes each term rather than once or twice a year. Also, the online format allows students to earn their master’s degree in approximately half the time of traditional master’s degree programs.  

Dr. Theodore Avtgis, chair and professor in the Department of Communication Studies at AU, said Ashland’s online master’s program in health and risk communication will provide students with a unique educational experience.

”We are addressing today’s job market demands with tomorrow’s skill sets. Health and risk communication is a hybrid of two separate areas in the discipline of communication studies,” Avtgis said. “Health communication deals with the interpersonal aspects of patient-provider interaction, the team aspects of healthcare delivery as well as the development and execution of healthcare campaigns. Risk communication is a separate entity that deals with the identification of potential threats, the addressing of current threats or crises, and eventually, threat containment and threat mitigation.”

Avtgis said the new program will feature noted scholars, or visiting graduate faculty, in the health and risk communication fields from throughout the country.

“When you merge the fact that this is 100 percent online with the fact that we have absolutely incredibly talented scholars throughout the world servicing this program, you truly have a unique experience, and we believe that this educational experience will prove very popular for students both in professional careers as well as their intellectual careers,” he said.

Dr. Dariela Rodriguez, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies, agreed with Avtgis.

“Traditionally, health and risk communication have been treated as separate areas of study. However, in the post 9/11 environment, we are learning that health and safety are inextricably linked, you cannot separate those two anymore,” she said. “So while many communication studies programs continue to address these areas as separate, here at Ashland what we have done is created a program that reflects the current and future demands of the health and safety sectors.”

Dr. Dawn Weber, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, stressed the importance of AU’s new online program.

“The master’s degree in health and risk communication prepares students with the skills and training that ensures the public is well informed in the event of a crisis,” Weber said. “We are excited because the program’s online learning environment will provide tomorrow’s leaders, from across the country and around the globe, with an opportunity to receive instruction from our expert faculty in order to effect the changes needed to shape health and risk communication in the future.”

For more information about the program, contact Wendy Hall at 419.207.6010 or visit

Ashland University, which has been ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###

Front Page Banner Image: 
Ashland University Establishes Online Master’s Program in Health and Risk Communication