Plans for a new academic complex excited alumni, students and faculty who gathered Friday to help launch a fundraising drive that, once complete, will allow Elon University to double the amount of campus space dedicated to the School of Communications.
School of Communications supporters came together Friday afternoon Under the Oaks to learn from Elon University leaders about plans to double the amount of space for communications programs while creating a new campus quadrangle.
The campus kick-off for the Campaign for the School of Communications attracted dozens of students, faculty, staff and alumni in town for Homecoming Weekend. With a performance by the Elon a capella group Twisted Measure, the afternoon program took place one day after a formal “Evening for Elon” campaign launch in New York City emceed by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams P’13.
The School of Communications campaign will fund construction of two new buildings and renovation of two existing facilities, bringing together all of Elon’s communications and student media programs into a quad that will frame the historic grove where the university holds its annual New Student Convocation and Commencement programs.
“What we will have in this corner is a magnificent building anchoring the School of Communications, a beautiful tower, a lot of glass, a lot of transparency, and fantastic architecture that will complete this historic quadrangle, which is so important to Elon’s culture,” Elon President Leo M. Lambert said at the Oct. 17, 2014, program.
Lambert saved his highest praise for the achievements of those seated before him.
“As critically important as this new building will be for the School of Communications, the reputation of this university and the reputation of this school will not be built with a building. It will be built with the accomplishments of the alumni body,” he said. “We’re proud of the work you’re doing and we thank you for your dedication to your craft and your professions, and most importantly of all, for your dedication to Elon University.”
The main new building supported by the campaign will be a two-story, 45,000-square-foot facility larger than the current McEwen building. It will include a large media innovation lab and four additional media labs, three classrooms, seven student engagement spaces, 29 faculty offices, the dean’s suite, and the 250-seat Turner Theatre, funded by a gift by Elon parents Jim and Toni Turner and their sons Garrett ‘08 and Parker ’06. The theatre will serve as a showcase for student productions, including a high definition screen, stadium-style seating and a premier sound system.
The new building will be connected to McEwen by the Snow Family Grand Atrium, a two-story glass structure that will include a large video screen that will feature student productions and daily world news broadcasts. The atrium will be named for David and Lynette Snow, parents of current Elon communications student, Lauren Snow ’16.
Brian Williams and his wife, Jane, have made a gift to name one of the school’s broadcast studios, which is located in the existing McEwen Building. The renovated studio will include a digital news headline ticker framing an exterior window that opens onto a plaza that provides a new pedestrian entrance to campus at the corner of Williamson and Lebanon avenues.
A gift by an anonymous family will name the second new building funded by the campaign. A 4,800-square-foot pavilion will sit in front of Whitley Auditorium and between Long Building and the new communications building. The pavilion will be the home of the internationally renowned Imagining the Internet Center, along with a media analytics lab, four faculty offices and a student-faculty research area.
“When we became a school and moved into McEwen 14 years ago, we didn’t use the upper floor,” Paul Parsons, dean of the School of Communications, said at the campus kick-off. “It was the home of the Honors Program, Undergraduate Research, General Studies and other offices. But soon we began growing, in dramatic ways, and filled up all of McEwen and then began spilling out of it.”
A major remodeling project for McEwen Building will provide new offices for The Pendulum, ESTV/Elon Local News, WSOE Radio and the Phi Psi Cli yearbook. McEwen will also include an Internships/Career Services Center, while the Live Oak Communications student agency will be located in the new communications building. The campaign will also fund renovation of Long Building, which will be the new home of the Interactive Media master’s program along with offices for the Sport and Event Management program.
“As the last accreditation team put it, our growth in quantity has been ‘nothing short of spectacular,’ but the team also said our growth in quality has been ‘nothing short of spectacular,’” Parsons said. “That’s by far the most important statement. We want to be a communications school that provides continuing excellence to our students.”
Parsons said that School of Communications faculty and staff are proud of student and alumni successes in strategic communications, cinema and television arts, sports media, sport management, and all forms of broadcast and print journalism.
“The School of Communications is about 20 percent of the student body of Elon, and we’ve outgrown our space. The school and student media are now spread across six buildings,” he said. “This expansion will bring us together into a communications quad at our current location, framing these trees where students receive acorns when they arrive and oak saplings when they graduate.”
Don Grady, associate dean of the School of Communications, highlighted changes to the university’s communications curriculum to meet the needs of an increasingly visual society. Beginning this fall, Elon University offers a bachelor of fine arts in cinema and television arts, and new majors in communications design and media analytics to help students better understand behaviors of today’s media users and audiences.
“What makes us different from some other programs is that we’ve remained alert to changes in the professions and disciplines of communications,” Grady said. “We’re nimble and willing to adapted. But through it all, we have remained steadfast in our primary mission: to teach students to write, think critically about the substance of our disciplines, and manifest content in ways that emphasize the importance of serving the public good and making all of us better informed citizens.”
The program featured remarks from three prominent young alumni of the School of Communications and a first-year student whose class will use the new facilities by its senior year. University leaders hope to break ground on the project by early 2016.
“Knowing that we will have access to a brand new, high-tech facility our senior year, right when we’ll be working our hardest to impress employers, makes us that much more excited … We, as a student body, can only thank parents, donors and alumni for helping to give us these opportunities. Knowing that people believe in Elon communications students enough to invest in future programs and classes by providing a state-of-the-art facility really inspires us to reach our full potential.” – Meredith Piatt ‘18, Communications Fellow
“When I see this new space … I can only think of the caliber and quality of work that will come out of it, and it’s really exciting.” – Max Cantor ‘10, co-recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Service to Elon Award from the Office of Alumni Engagement, writer/director in New York City
“For me, personally, I learned editing at Elon, and I spent many days and nights in the basement of this building, learning a craft I do every day. But the thing that sticks with me from Elon is the purpose of the tools you’re learning.” – Tim Johnson ‘09, co-recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Service to Elon Award from the Office of Alumni Engagement, director/editor in Los Angeles
“With the skills I learned at Elon I was able to find a job right out of college, and those skills were the building blocks of my career path. The School of Communications is more than just a classroom. It’s hands on experience. It’s engaged learning. That’s what make the school so great and it’s alumni so successful.” – Kim Hayes ‘05, Elon’s 2014 Young Alumna of the Year, development/production for Big Picture Studios in Las Vegas