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Howard School of Communications restructured

By Karissa Braxton and Radiah Shabazz
On November 18, 2012

Three years ago, Vivian Nweze arrived at Howard University from Florida, with a degree in telecommunications management in mind. Nweze is a junior in the Department of Radio, Television and Film. But when she graduates in May2013, her major will be housed in a new department, Strategic, Legal, and Management Communications.

Another student, Megan Sims is a sophomore from Ohio, majoring in print journalism in the Department of Journalism. But, in 2013, her program, too, will move into a new department: the Department of Media, Journalism and Film.
The Howard University Board of Trustees approved last month, a plan designed to restructure programs in the School of Communications into two new undergraduates and a new doctoral program. The program reorganization is part of the University¹s academic renewal efforts. Besides aligning the University's academic programs with the latest trends in the field of communications, the changes aim to give Howard graduates the competitive advantages necessary to succeed and to lead in today's changing media landscape.
Effective in the fall of 2013, all incoming freshmen and transfers in the School of Communications will be admitted into these programs. Students already in the School will be grandfathered into the curricula in which they were admitted.
"The restructured School will give students more of an edge in the job market because the new programs seem to be pretty unique," said Nweze, one of the School of Communications representatives on the Howard University Student Association.
Nweze believes the changes will help students become more competitive in the changing job market. "So much is required of a journalist these days - writing, shooting, editing, and compiling - it requires each major to be more flexible," she added.
The mood in the School is upbeat as students and faculty prepare for the transformation that will go into effect in the fall 2013. "There is a lot of excitement surrounding the new programs," said Interim Dean Chuka Onwumechili.
The faculty worked for more than a year, led by Bishetta Merritt, chair of the Committee of the Future and professor and chair of the department of Radio, Television and Film, to develop the reorganization, Dean Onuwumechili said. The school also benefited from two off-campus groups - Compass, a strategic consulting organization and a Blue Ribbon panel of communication professionals and scholars convened under former dean Jannette L. Dates and funding by the McCormick Tribune Foundation.
The new undergraduate programs Department of Strategic, Legal and Management and the Department of Media, Journalism and Film. Within those departments, new concentrations will include digital communications, entrepreneurship, and international and intercultural communications.
Undergraduate students will also have the choice of creating an interdisciplinary option, drawing from courses across the school and University.
The Department of Strategic, Legal and Management Communications will prepare students for careers and advanced study in public relations, entrepreneurship, advertising and sales, non-profit and for-profit management, law and policy, government relations, human resources, and media management.
The Department of Media, Journalism and Film blends elements of five communications sequences in the School to prepare students for jobs in audio, video, and film production; scriptwriting and journalism in the traditional platforms of print, radio and television and the emerging digital, mobile and on-line platforms.
The doctoral program in communications, culture and media studies combines the strengths of faculty from across the school and many courses from the current mass communications and culture doctoral program. Doctoral students will be admitted to this new program also beginning in the fall of 2013.
Paula Matabane, a professor in the radio, television and film department agrees.
"What we¹re trying to do is give students a broader exposure to different types of skills," she said. "By bringing these departments together, students can cross feed."
Darius Thomas, a junior majoring in speech pathology, is executive president of the School of Communications Student Council. He describes the changes as "more strategic" and believes that they will work for students and employers of school interns and graduates.
"The two new undergraduate departments were created to better respond to where communications workplaces are going in the future," Thomas said. "The workplace is more converged."

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