It’s all about the students
One of the best decisions of my career was founding the College of Journalism and Communications Dean’s Student Advisory Council (DSAC) in 2009. The Council consists of 20 or so of our top undergraduate students representing all of our disciplines. We meet monthly and discuss whatever is on their minds. I also bring up issues, initiate discussions and offer perspectives on matters related to the students and College. They offer invaluable feedback on just about everything – including impressions of the College – what we’re doing well and where we need to focus more attention. We’ve developed a mutual relationship of respect which is essential for productive dialogue. And we have some fun, too!
I’ve learned even more from the DSAC members than I envisioned. We’ve discussed a myriad of topics including degree requirements, multimedia training, social media, their professional aspirations and, of course, Gator sports. They’ve challenged and, in most cases, reinforced and reinvigorated my vision and plans for the College. For instance, they’ve emphasized the need for students across all four departments to receive earlier and extensive training in visual communications, especially digital video editing. We’re working on a plan for that now. Last semester the students expressed a level of disappointment over how the College communicates with them. As a result, with the assistance of alumna Cindy Honickman, ADV 2007, I created a special topics course this semester to explore and devise methods of improving the communication flow. The students are designing a blog and we’re discussing utilization of social media and a Weimer Hall intranet that would be the initial home page for anyone logging on to the UF wireless network in Weimer Hall.
I look forward to these meetings because of what I learn and how it benefits the students, including those future Gators who will call Weimer Hall home in the coming years. I also deeply value the relationships I’ve established with these outstanding young future leaders. I’m inspired by their intelligence and optimism and their passion for journalism and communications.
In my 29 years at the College, I’ve seen our students change and, at the same time, remain the same. They’re still bright, energetic, creative and fun, but they’re also increasingly mobile, eclectic in their interests and eager to learn across the communications disciplines.
Our students also continue to maintain and even elevate the exceptional professional reputation their predecessors have built over the decades. Wherever I travel, I hear glowing comments. Interns and graduates from our College, I’m told, enter newsrooms and advertising and public relations agencies ready to deliver. At one recent national conference a journalist from a respected paper said that one of our graduates “ran circles around us” in producing cross-platform news content.
The College has a storied tradition of turning out top professionals mainly because of our talented, devoted and hard-working faculty. The level of productivity is astonishing and their achievements are noticed and appreciated across the UF campus. Last spring, Journalism Assistant Professor Norm Lewis became the second faculty member in two years to be named Teacher of the Year for all of the University of Florida. Journalism Master Lecturer Mike Foley was the first. We congratulate this year’s Teacher of the Year in the College, Telecommunication Assistant Professor Tim Sorel.
In the past two years, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies Debbie Treise and Telecommunication Professor Lynda Kaid have won coveted UF Doctoral Mentoring Awards. Doctoral education is among the highest priorities in the College and at UF, and Debbie and Lynda are among the very best mentors in the College’s history. Journalism Associate Professor Cory Armstrong and Public Relations Associate Professor Juan Carlos Molleda have become the latest faculty members to be recognized for research excellence and named UF Research Foundation Professors.
We also congratulate Telecommunication faculty member Johanna Cleary who was granted tenure and promoted to the rank of associate professor and Spiro Kiousis, who was promoted to the rank of professor since our last Communigator. Spiro, who chairs the Department of Public Relations, also was appointed director of our distance education programs and Advertising Professor Mike Weigold has been appointed associate dean for undergraduate studies and enrollment management. I could write an entire column focusing only on our faculty’s achievements and awards. It’s an honor and pleasure to work with them and I am so thankful for all they do for our students.
My quest as dean is to push our standards even higher. Executive Associate Dean Linda Hon and I work together to find every possible means to facilitate and enhance faculty members’ teaching, research and creative activities and to refine, enhance and expand our academic programs. Recently, we used funds available due to the generosity of our alumni and friends to send seven faculty members to the Poynter Institute for critical multimedia training. The workshop enhanced their technical skills necessary to teach our students to more effectively tell stories across emerging media platforms. We remain determined to provide ahead-of-the-curve education and professional training for our students.
Certainly, the recession and state budget cuts have impacted us, but this has only emboldened us to reaffirm the pursuit of our educational mission more adamantly. This includes, of course, our unwavering commitment to the basic skills and values of our disciplines. We know that if our students fail to write at a high level or lack critical thinking skills or a firm understanding of the ethics and values of our professions, no amount of preparation for emerging media will suffice.
“[Students] are still bright, energetic, creative and fun, but they’re also increasingly mobile, eclectic in their interests and eager to learn across the communications disciplines.”
We’re building momentum. As you will read in this edition of Communigator, we have four fantastic new faculty members on board this year, Public Relations Professor Ann Christiano and Assistant Professors Sora Kim (public relations), Amy Zerba (journalism) and Lu Zheng (advertising). The Center for Media Innovation + Research’s 21st Century News Laboratory opened in the fall and is now home for courses and lab work that pushes the boundaries of journalism. Construction is beginning on our Digital Communication Laboratory.
Our new partnership with the University Athletic Association has moved all of UAA’s online operations (GatorZone.com and GatorVision), along with their highly talented personnel into the College.
We’ve developed a media and society specialization that includes courses from all four departments. Professor Kim Walsh-Childers has been appointed director of this program. Our new distance education program in global strategic communications, which combines concepts and practices in advertising and public relations, enrolls the first students from our partner institution, the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, this May. We’re busy designing other distance programs.
Our media properties are totally restructured to meet the demands of the digital era. Under the visionary leadership of our new executive director, Randy Wright, the properties are more fully involved in our educational mission than ever. In addition to the changes we made to the formats of our commercial radio stations WRUF AM&FM, we also shifted WUFT-FM’s HD2 signal to full-time classical music and arts programming. This opened the schedule on our main WUFT-FM signal to many more student professional opportunities – 24 hours a day of news, talk and public affairs programming. As we proceed, students will be investigating, researching, reporting and producing news at all times of the day and night and on weekends. The media properties also involve a growing number of advertising and public relations students.
Departmental curriculum revisions and faculty hires reflect our commitment to the students and to achieving our goal of becoming a world leader in digital-communications education and research.
What do the Dean’s Student Advisory Council members say about all of this?
They say it’s a good start.
As usual, they’re right.
- The Fab Four: Gator grads launch new all-sports format on WRUF-AM
- Gator grads head The Miami Herald newsroom
- John Spence: one of nation’s top 100 thought leaders
- Mike Neumeier: The Power of PR
- Melissa Lyttle named to association board
- Three College graduates honored at the Florida Heritage Awards
- 21st Century News Laboratory opens
- College plans digital communication laboratory
- Finding love at the CJC
Coming & going
- Christiano named to Karel Endowed Chair
- Wanta is new Journalism chair
- College welcomes three new faculty members
- New staff
- Harry Guscott retires after 39 years
- Advertising students receive national recognition
- Public Relations team wins international competition
- College restructures media properties
- College and UAA enter into partnership
- College broadcasts local high school game
- Jerry Davis
- Marion B. Brechner
- Mickie Newbill Edwardson