feature and two sidebars about the School of Communications are
the featured elements of the next issue of the Magazine of Elon,
a quarterly publication. The
cover story follows, with links to the sidebar articles on Connie
Book's digital TV research and the school's Internet Predictions
Project at the end of this story.
of Communications is preparing to take a major step forward as it
seeks accreditation from the Accrediting Council on Education in
Journalism and Mass Communications. Only 16 private colleges and
universities in the nation have received ACEJMC accreditation, considered
the highest recognition of quality in the field. These stories explain
why Elon's communications programs are now considered among the
best in the country.
J. Anderson and Julie Chapman
measure of quality in Elon's journalism and communications program
can be found in the numbers. About 20 percent of Elon students,
more than 800 undergraduates, are majoring in a communications field.
of Communications includes 32 faculty members, most of whom have
extensive professional experience in their discipline. Students
utilize two fully equipped television studios, three digital media
labs containing 63 sophisticated Macintosh computers, a three-room
audio suite, a 13-station video editing suite and a digital theatre.
Four different newspapers are available free to students each morning,
and they can check out more than 80 digital video and still cameras.
But while Elon's
facilities, housed in McEwen building, are the envy of much larger
universities, the more important measure of quality can be found
in the school's approach to educating students to enter a career
field that is evolving rapidly. The communications industry is undergoing
a fundamental transformation in which video, audio and print publications
are merging in a media world now being defined by the Internet.
used to describe this is "convergence."
with the times
To adapt to
this changing environment and bring the program in line with standards
of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications
(ACEJMC), the school implemented a major curriculum revision in
fall 2004. The new communications major includes concentrations
in journalism, broadcast and new media, corporate communications
to emphasize writing and analytical thinking, but they also integrate
four common themes: a global perspective, digital technology, high
ideals and a required internship. For example, students begin the
major with a course titled Communications in a Global Society, a
new required core course is Digital Media Convergence, and journalism
students take a course titled Web Publishing and Design.
have gone to a highly converged curriculum where there's almost
no specificity," says Paul Parsons, dean of the School of Communications.
"We aim for a middle ground. We want everyone to be able to write,
to be a photographer when called on and to be able to create a Web
page. We want to produce students who have breadth as well as depth."
the faculty adopt this philosophy by teaching courses across the
curriculum. "We have journalism faculty members who may teach a
broadcast course or may teach a senior seminar course," says Parsons.
"We try to have a converged faculty so that we don't become isolated."
Among the many
new faculty members who have joined the school in recent years are
former industry professionals who made the transition to academia,
becoming excellent teachers and researchers.
John Guiniven, former bureau chief with United Press International
and former press secretary to Sen. Robert C. Byrd, came to Elon
from Syracuse University.
students and faculty are as good as those at Syracuse's Newhouse
School," Guiniven says. "I think we're a program that's more than
'up and coming.' I think we've arrived, and I believe we're easily
in the top 10-15 programs in the nation."
Lee Bush spent 20 years as a public relations executive at major
agencies in Chicago and taught at Northwestern University.
universities where faculty members are trying to teach advertising
or public relations, yet have never worked on a campaign, never
seen the inside of a corporation," Bush says. "That doesn't make
much sense in a professional school where you're preparing the next
generation of communicators for their careers."
up with industry
also keeps curriculum relevant with current industry practices through
an active 25-member national advisory board that includes a variety
of top executives from newspapers, television, publishing, advertising/public
relations and film companies. The members consult on curriculum,
speak to classes, arrange internships for students and even partner
on research projects.
schools are not up to speed with the changes that are taking place,"
says Don Bolden, chair of the board and editor emeritus of the Burlington
(N.C.) Times-News. "It's absolutely crucial to bring in people who
are in the workplace every day, helping to bring about the changes
that are occurring. They help the school develop new programs and
give guidance to faculty and students."
of Communications fully embraces Elon's commitment to a hands-on
approach to learning. Beginning with their first courses, students
produce class projects using the latest computer software and digital
"By the second
week of school, I had a camera in my hand. By the third week I was
anchoring the news," says senior Matt Belanger, who graduates this
spring and immediately heads off to begin work as a reporter at
KELO-TV in Sioux Falls, S.D.
enrich their hands-on experiences in student media organizations,
including The Pendulum newspaper, WSOE-FM radio and ESTV student
television. They are soon ready for media internships, which allow
them to produce impressive portfolios of professional work and develop
connections that will be valuable in a job search.
'04 did reporting internships at the Cary News, Greensboro News
& Record, Burlington Times-News and Frederick (Md.) News-Post. She
had three job offers at graduation and took a position as a reporter
for the News-Post.
other way to get a foot in the door," Cunningham says. "It's all
about getting bylines. I wouldn't be working here without those
communications program has changed considerably since the mid-1980s
when it was part of the English department and counted 100 majors.
Associate Professor Don Grady, who came to Elon in 1985 and served
as the first chair of the Department of Journalism and Communications,
has had a front-row seat to the evolution of the program. Grady
says he is "tremendously proud" of the progress that has been made
over the past 20 years, and says the success has been due to a strong
balance, blending communications theory with strong writing and
technical skills," Grady says. That approach, he added, will prepare
students to work in a rapidly changing environment. "This
is the most exciting time in the history of communications for our
students to be entering this field," Grady says. "We are experiencing
fundamental and radical changes and there is a tremendous amount
of uncertainty. But there are also great opportunities and we are
very conscious of the need to prepare students in a broad way."
a new curriculum that requires students to receive extensive exposure
to the liberal arts, in line with the philosophy of ACEJMC. The
accreditation council calls for every communications student to
have at least 80 of their 132 credit hours outside their major.
At least 65 of those hours must be in the arts and sciences.
students to take a great deal of coursework in diverse disciplines,
such as psychology, economics or sociology," Parsons says. "We
deeply value a broad education. That will make students better journalists,
better communicators and better citizens."
There are 105
accredited schools of communications, including 16 at private colleges
and universities such as Syracuse, Washington and Lee and Columbia
universities. This year, Elon hopes to join this peer group. But
before the accolades comes the work. Parsons and the communications
faculty are in the midst of a yearlong self-study and will send
their findings to ACEJMC in September. Council members will visit
Elon Oct. 23-26 and scrutinize every aspect of the program before
making their recommendation.
is a national benchmark of program quality," Parsons says. "This
will take us to the next level, the national level, and proclaim
that Elon has arrived."
Go to the sidebar "Fine-tuning
the Future," about Connie Book and her work.
Go to the sidebar "Imagining
the Internet," about the Elon/Pew Internet Project.