Since its 2000 inception, the School of Communications has experienced exponential growth, increasing its faculty from a half-dozen to more than 80 faculty and staff members today.
In an effort to further strengthen its student-centered learning environment, the school adopted and implemented a new departmental structure in fall 2019. The school reconfigured to house six undergraduate programs, each with a leader. The programs are:
- Cinema and Television Arts
- Communication Design
- Media Analytics
- Sport Management
- Strategic Communications
In this structure, students enjoy increased access to department and program leaders, whose expertise aligns closely with their professional career pursuits. These smaller academic units provide opportunities for group meetings with students by major and interest group, and allow for regular communication on upcoming activities, events and programming.
Associate Professor Vic Costello serves as the director of the communications core and minor, overseeing the school’s opening and closing core courses, communications electives and the communications minor.
For a closer look at our program leaders, as well as frequently asked questions, please scroll down.
Frequently asked questions
How will the changes affect students? Below is a list of questions and answers that might be helpful.
Rationale behind the change
Why did this change happen?
The restructuring process began during the 2018-19 academic year because the Communications Department had grown too large to be managed effectively and efficiently by a single department chair. The communications faculty voted to restructure the department to provide greater support for faculty and students. Under the new structure, department chairs and program directors will also be able to build better relationships with industry partners.
Why is this change better for students?
The structure allows students to have great access to the faculty leader in their major.
What day-to-day changes will students see?
There are no changes in the academic requirements for students. All COM core courses remain unchanged, but the five required courses in each major will have a new prefix. Students should consult with their department chair or program director concerning issues related to their majors, including course registration, grades, advising and instruction. Questions regarding COM core and elective courses should be directed to Vic Costello, director of communications core and minor.
Why is this change better for faculty?
Faculty will have greater professional development support and mentoring to improve their performance as teachers, mentors and scholars. In addition, this change will provide the opportunity for faculty to build closer relationships with industry leaders because majors will have greater disciplinary focus.
How will this change affect extracurricular activities?
The change has no impact on extracurricular activities. All of the school-sponsored programs are operated at the school level, not at the department level. Academic departments and programs may create new co-curricular opportunities to support majors. Students may also create new clubs and organizations.
Does this change make programs less flexible and more structured?
No. Smaller departments and programs will be more nimble, making it possible to more quickly implement curricular changes.
What will the school look like in 10 years?
Communications professions and disciplines are rapidly changing. In addition, the university is currently conducting strategic planning for the future. Because the school must to be responsive to these changes and new institutional strategies, it may be necessary to make changes in our structure and curriculum to benefit students and the professions we support.
What are the possible negative effects of this structure?
Faculty will have more leadership opportunities and may need to serve on additional department, program and school committees. As a result, it may be necessary for the school to hire more faculty to cover courses resulting from administrative and service release times.
Will there be an online hub or resource center for students to “chat” with their department/program head? What kind of interaction can be expected?
The school may consider using online resources to help students chat with their department and/or program heads. Students will continue to contact their department chair or program director through email, phone and in-person means.
Before I declare my major, how will my advisor placement be determined?
Students are assigned to an academic advisor based on declared major by the Academic Advising Center. Students who have yet to declare a major will continue to be advised by their Elon 101 advisor. The Academic Advising Center will assist students with advising questions and graduation audits.
Will advising across the school change for current students?
No. Advising will remain the same. Students will be advised primarily by a faculty member in their major. In some cases, a student may be assigned to a faculty advisor in a related discipline who is aware of requirements across the curriculum. Most faculty members in the school have approximately 20 student advisees.
How does this restructuring affect registration?
If students have questions about their major, they should first contact their advisor before consulting with the department chair or program director.
What will happen when course sections fill up?
It is the responsibility of students to monitor enrollment in a closed section and sign up as a course becomes available. Students may also ask the department chair or program director to be placed on an informal waitlist. However, because of university registration procedures, this does not guarantee that a student will be placed in a course. The department chair, program director, or director of the core will consider individual requests and make a determination to open a new section, or in rare circumstances, allow a student in a closed course.
Communications core and curriculum
How will this new departmental structure change traditional COM classes?
It won’t. Students will take the same courses to meet their graduation requirements. COM core courses and COM elective courses are overseen by Vic Costello, director of communications core and minor, who will help answer questions and help resolve student challenges. Major courses will have a department chair or program director to help resolve student issues.
Will the department structure change COM 100 and the other core classes?
No, the department structure will not have an impact on the school’s current curriculum. The COM core, which includes COM 100: Communications in a Global Age, will remain the same. All communications majors take the same opening and closing core courses to help them understand the intersection of all communications disciplines.
Will there be new course numbers/names depending on the department?
The five required courses in a selected major will have a new prefix associated with each of the new departments. All COM core courses and electives will retain the COM designation for now. Students may enroll in those courses if they meet the pre-requisites. The registrar and academic advising center will update graduation and degree audits online to ensure student records reflect new prefixes.
Will there be more media analytics and strategic communications electives?
That is one of the school’s objectives. With smaller departments and programs, students will be able to meet with their faculty to receive more recommendations.
Will everyone be required to take an analytics course within a specific major?
No major curriculum changes will occur in the 2019-20 academic year. However, more analytics content will be incorporated in current courses. In addition, faculty will develop new courses within majors to ensure every student receives relevant analytics instruction.
How will analytics be incorporated into other majors?
Every department will have an analytics specialist who will teach and advise students in the media analytics program. These faculty will help lead discussions about how best to incorporate analytics in all communications disciplines and improve the media analytic major.
What if I don’t know my major?
Students should select a major before their junior year. Because opening core courses are the same for all communications majors (except sport management), students have time to determine and select a specific area of study. Students may benefit from taking courses offered by the university to help them select a major that matches their interests and career aspiration.
How does the restructuring affect COM double majors?
Although it is not encouraged, students may still double major within the school. However, students should keep in mind that all communications majors require a minor or double major outside of their communications discipline, even if they choose to complete a second major within the school. This does not include sport management, which does not share the common core of communications courses.
Will there be 100 level classes in each major?
All course requirements in the five majors begin at the 200 level. However, students must complete 100 level core courses to help develop a common vocabular and knowledge set. Opening core courses include: COM 100 – Communications in a Global Age, and COM 110 – Media Writing.
Can students still have a COM minor?
Only students who are not in one of the five communications majors may have a COM minor. Students in cinema and television arts, communication design, journalism, media analytics and strategic communications must select a minor outside of the School of Communications. Because sport management is not one of the five communications disciplines, students in this major may choose a COM minor.
Leadership: chairs and directors
What are the responsibilities of a department chair?
A department chair is the leader of an academic department. The chair helps with scheduling classes, assists students with questions about the major or courses associated with a major, oversees the advising of students, and ensures the currency of the curriculum through assessment and by building relationships with industry partners. Additionally, department chairs identify adjuncts to hire, evaluate faculty annually, and mentor and ensure the professional development of faculty.
When will I need to contact a department chair?
Department chairs and program directors assist with answering general questions about a major. If academic advisors can’t answer or solve an advising challenge, department chairs can assist with finding other solutions or alternatives.
Can a department chair serve as my advisor?
Yes, a department chair or program director may serve as an adviser for students in their respective majors.
Will all professors/faculty report to their department chair?
Yes. All faculty members will report to a department chair, who will mentor them, evaluate them annually, and support their professional development.
Will restructuring make access to certain classes or professors more challenging?
No, restructuring will not affect the ability of students to access classes. Although the prefixes for some courses will change, the prerequisites for classes will remain the same. Restructuring should increase accessibility to program leaders, including department chairs, program directors and faculty.
Media analytics program
If someone is a media analytics major, what department do they fall under? All? None?
Students in this major will have the same support as students in other departments.
As a current media analytics student, how will this change affect me?
Although media analytics courses will have a new prefix, courses and the availability of courses and electives will not change. Students will have greater access to the program director and faculty who teach media analytics. In addition, because of greater disciplinary focus, students should experience closer relationships with analytics professionals.
Will media analytics faculty and students have their own department in the future?
It is possible depending on the growth and size of the major.
What department oversees media analytics students?
Media analytics students will be in the media analytics program and not in a department. From a student perspective, there is no difference between a department and a program. The media analytics program director, Brian Walsh, has the same academic authority as a department chair. However, department chairs have more responsibilities related to faculty mentoring and evaluation.
If you are a media analytics major, how will registration and advising work?
Registration remains the same. Students must consult with their advisor before registering online. If students have questions about the media analytics major, they should first talk with their advisor before consulting with the program director Brian Walsh. Questions about opening or upper-level COM core courses should be directed to Vic Costello. Alyssa Donohue will remain the administrative coordinator for all undergraduate majors.
Will media analytics professors in a specific department teach classes with a concentration in that department?
Faculty will teach across disciplines as they have always done. For example, media analytics faculty will teach analytics courses, but also be able to teach university core, communications core and other School of Communications courses where they have expertise. Faculty will meet with their chairperson or program directors to determine when and what they will teach.
Will my media analytics professor be placed in a specific department? How will this affect my major classes?
Yes, faculty teaching in the media analytics program will have a department home and may teach courses in their department and courses within the university and communications core. Program director Brian Walsh will work closely with faculty to ensure that media analytics students receive quality instruction and advising. The new structure will not impact staffing or scheduling of classes in the media analytics major.
Who is the point person for media analytics majors?
The program director, Brian Walsh, will serve as the point person for all media analytics majors. The program director has the same authority for all student-related issues as a department chair.