A national team representing the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) has recommended full accreditation for the School of Communications.
The team found the School in compliance on all standards and praised the School’s faculty and leadership for building a collegial program with effective teaching, impressive scholarship, and strong contributions to the public good.
The favorable recommendation will be considered by the Accrediting Committee, which meets in Chicago next March. The final decision-maker will be the Accrediting Council, which meets in St. Petersburg, Florida, in May.
If the team's recommendation stands, the School of Communications would formally become a nationally accredited program as of May 2006. At present, only 17 private colleges and universities in the world have an accredited communications program, including Syracuse, Columbia, Northwestern, Miami, Southern California, and Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. In all, 105 colleges and universities in the world have an accredited communications program.
The ACEJMC team presented its 47-page report and recommendations to President Leo M. Lambert and Provost Gerald L. Francis at the conclusion of its Oct. 23-26 visit to Elon.
“I commend the School’s faculty, students and national advisory board for the concerted and thoughtful focus on quality that has brought the School of Communications to this point,” President Lambert said.
One of ACEJMC’s expectations is that every student complete at least 80 credit hours outside the major, with 65 or more of those hours in the liberal arts and sciences.
“ACEJMC recognized Elon’s strength as a liberal arts university with strong professional programs,” Lambert said.
The chair of the site-visit team to Elon was Dr. Terry Hynes, dean of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. Team members were Professor Hubert Brown of Syracuse, Dr. Jan Quarles of Middle Tennessee State, and Rich Archbold, executive editor of the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram.
The team praised the School’s strategic planning, leadership and level of faculty governance. Following individual interviews with every faculty member in the School, the report said, "Faculty overwhelmingly underscore the collegial nature of the School, campus environments and culture, and repeatedly express their appreciation for it."
Based on classroom visits and four student group sessions, the team found that students are intellectually challenged in their courses and that students said "they appreciate how faculty members insist that they stretch themselves to accomplish objectives they never thought they could accomplish." The team also contacted a number of professionals in advance of the visit, and the team members said "employers report great satisfaction" with students from the School of Communications.
The team highlighted the faculty’s vast professional experience, its diversity, its unusually high level of collegiality, and the School’s intellectual climate.
"The philosophy of the teacher-scholar permeates academic life in the School," the report said. "The faculty make an impressive mark with the breadth and depth of their work.... Overall, the amount of scholarship is impressive."
Students told team members in private conversations that teachers in the School are "very accessible,” and students gave the university high marks for its advising and counseling services.
The level of technology merited special praise, with the team writing, “To say that the School is well-stocked understates the case. The availability of resources is clearly a strength of this program. The extensive facilities excite the students and support instruction well. The facilities are comfortable and inviting, and students seem to feel very much at home as they work to complete their assignments and projects. The very state-of-the-art facility clearly shows that communications education is a priority of this university."
The report also cited the School for its meaningful contributions to the public good, from an Internet Predictions Project that is generating national attention to a video series on journalists who covered the civil rights movement.
A new ACEJMC standard that went into effect this year focuses on assessment of student learning. The team complimented the "Elon Eleven" restatement of ACEJMC's 11 values and competencies and the varied assessment measures used by the School to evaluate student learning. The report called the School's analysis of the data "thoughtful and layered."
Preceding the team’s visit, the School prepared an 800-page self study that analyzed all aspects of the program. The team report said, “The self study was excellent -- well organized, well written and thorough. 'Superb' would not be too strong a word to use in describing the Elon School of Communications self study."
The self study was prepared by Dr. Paul Parsons, dean of the School of Communications, with the guidance of the full faculty.
Three programmatic weaknesses were cited in the team report: a need to keep working to increase student diversity, a need for regular School-originated alumni communication, and a need to consider a closer relationship between the School and student newspaper so that it can become a more effective teaching tool.
In terms of strengths, the national team listed these six:
--Dedicated and collegial faculty.
--Service-learning orientation that pervades the School and campus culture.
--Very effective School leadership and administration, and very supportive central university administration.
--Open, friendly School and campus culture that creates a strong community for students and supports their engagement in a wide variety of activities.
--Excellent School facilities and equipment.
--Deeply rooted university and School culture of strategic planning, tied to equally strong plan implementation.
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