Tuesday, February 23, 2010

College of Comm: A Good Marriage

Tonight, a town hall meeting – made up largely of faculty and some students – gathered to discuss the creation of a sixth college at Butler – the College of Communications.

It would encompass the Media Arts and Journalism programs, as well as Communication Studies and Communication Disorders. I will admit – it’s a big decision for such a small school. But it's a concern I've raised in the past, and it hasn't gone away.

I got to speak at the Town Hall – in front of a room of about 60 or so faculty – to make my case for a College of Communications.

Why the decision to mix things up a bit? As a student of both Media Arts and Journalism, I can give you a bit of insight:

  • There is an overlap in curriculum. I have taken an ethics course and media law course in both departments.
  • Other institutions have taken the step to converge these programs.
  • Students in both departments should have equal access to camera equipment and software.

In the “glory days” Butler University used to have a renowned radio and television program. Today, the revised Media Arts department focuses on dynamic areas such as digital media production, recording industries, and broadcast journalism. It is a fairly small department, but also lacks a traditional communication foundation (i.e. writing).

Journalism is an altogether separate department, largely funded by newspaper giant Eugene S. Pulliam (hence, the name of the j-school) and it's part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It boasts a strong internship program, and solid reporting classes needed to work as a traditional journalist.

The only problem is that both departments fall under two different colleges. Media Arts is aptly named the “step-child” of the Jordan College of Fine Arts. We’re chalked up next to the ballerinas and musicians – while Journalism falls under the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences – by far the largest of Butler’s five schools.

The proposed College of Communications would:

- Include accreditation

- The three current departments would develop into 6 programs

  • Journalism
  • Strategic Communication
  • Digital Media/RIS
  • Organizational Communication
  • Critical media/rhetoric
  • Communication Disorders

Even though professors in the liberal arts school are concerned about journalism breaking away from LAS, in reality, a converged curriculum would allow those students time to take additional classes in the College of LAS. Problem solved.

I was most impressed by one of my journalism professors, Dr. Anokwa. He stayed quiet for most of the conversation, then offered his thoughts, with an excellent analogy: “[Journalism with the Liberal Arts] is a bad marriage and our children are suffering.” (PS - I am one of those "children.") He added that he wished his colleagues would be more supportive. He comes from broadcast background, having grown up and worked as a broadcaster in Ghana. But he couldn’t teach broadcast and print journalism – he had to pick. This is just one of the many challenges the faculty face - not being able to fully practice their area of study. Most of the room clapped at the end of his comment, including me.

The case of a College of Comm. has even been attempted in the past. In fact, both departments are already housed in the same building – Fairbanks!

Other perks of a new college: a college-wide internship program, and potentially a graduate program in the future.

The decision is far from being made. On March 2, there will be a Faculty Senate meeting, and then two additional meetings in April. Ideally, we’ll know sometime before the semester ends.

Here’s what I concluded: After a two-hour presentation and lively discussion, it’s clear that the faculty, staff and administrators care about Butler. They care about it as an institution, they care about the students. They care about its future. They cared enough to show up and duke it out. That alone gives me hope.

A College of Communications would break down barriers between departments and work in the best interest of students – to prepare them for real-world, multi-platform media experiences.

It was a beautiful thing to see professors from both departments work together on this proposal - better yet, to see them in the same room together! Last month I had to decide which program to sit with at graduation. Journalism? Media Arts? Like the child of bad marriage, I could not decided which 'parent' I liked better. I'm hoping for a better marriage for future students.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I'm a Guest Blogger

I got my first gig as a "guest blogger" this month. My picture is even featured right next to my favorite mascot, Blue II. Below is the piece I wrote for Butler University admissions' "Go Butler" Web site:

When I came to Butler in 2006, Facebook was new and everybody who was anybody had an account. I started by adding Butler students who were also in the Media Arts program. During Welcome Week, I was at an ice cream social and recognized a girl from Facebook. We hugged each other the first time we met because we felt like we were already acquainted! She and I had a bunch of classes together, and today she’s a really great friend of mine.

Online transparency is key. Students and parents can turn to Butler’s social network accounts to get a more personal perspective of life at Butler. I think I’m most impressed with Butler’s chief of police, Ben Hunter who recently started his own
Twitter account. Butler has taken the steps to meet students where they are: online. Last week, I logged on to Twitter and found out that Butler was closed because of the heavy snowfall. In that sense, these sites are helpful not only in keeping up with friends, but also in staying updated on important university messages.

While social media has connected me to people I wouldn’t have otherwise known, it has also flowed over into my academics. One of my professors,
Dr. Geertsema, requires her students to extend our classroom discussions to Facebook. Just last week, I posted an article and discussion question to the class Facebook group. That, to me, is the beauty of social interaction and a critically-thinking institution.

Recently, I’ve seen social media help me out of a jam or two. This past December, I was getting ready leave Washington, D.C. – where I interned at National Public Radio. The weekend I planned to leave, my flight got rescheduled but I had no transportation to get to the airport. I posted a call out for help via
Twitter. I didn’t have to wait long to get a response. A friend I’d met at a conference in D.C. was headed to the airport, too. He picked me up and we drove the airport so we could catch our flights out of the city. If he hadn’t responded and offered his help, I’d probably still be stuck in D.C.! I know a lot of people who have a social media success story, whether used for research or in the event of breaking news, like the Haiti earthquake or the Iranian protests.

In another instance, I called on my Facebook and
Twitter networks for research topics ideas and got a lot of great suggestions - nearly 10 different ideas!

The best thing incoming students can do is to get plugged in on social networks. Facebook is already a favorite among high schoolers, but Twitter has really practical purposes that extend beyond just updating a status. Use
www.search.twitter.com to find interesting articles about college applications. Find out which schools have Twitter accounts, and follow them. Join fan pages. Ask the questions you have about campus tours or the size of a dorm room. Utilize the tools that are out there.

Online presence says a lot about a university. It says they care about reaching out to students in a personal and meaningful way. Social media brings you that much closer to the university. If you want a university that’s progressive, look to how they utilize their online presence.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Missionary

One of my missionary friends, Helena, arrived in the Dominican Republic just minutes ago. I wrote about her last summer as she embarked one of several short-term mission trips. Even though it's not summer, and she's in the middle of pharmacy classes, she still decided to do some traveling!

She'll spend the week in "the D.R." acting as a pharmacist for a variety of clinics. She'll likely treat several patients who experienced the Haiti earthquake as well. A few weeks later, she'll be working in Nicaragua!

Keep her in your prayers this week as she takes on the responsibility of a healthcare professional and that she may be a light in the darkness.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

One of my assignments tonight is to read "Love," an essay by Amy Laura Hall (she's a theological ethics prof at Duke University). It's part of a three-part essay discussion for my theology class on Tuesday. That said, each essay is title "Faith," "Hope," and "Love" respectively.

How appropriate to be reading on St. Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Re-Entering the Butler Bubble

(via Luciano Joaquin/Flickr)

This semester is different from everything else I've experienced at Butler.

I'm living in my sorority house for the first time, which is a bigger adjustment than you might think. My closet is in a completely separate place from desk, which is also in a completely separate place from my bed. I don't have my own kitchen, but it does mean I don't have to do the dishes (ftw!).

Until now, Butler has spoiled me: I lived in the residence halls for two years as a RA, so I got a lot of personal space. Even in when I lived in D.C. I only had one roommate, and she was pretty swell. But now, I share my study space with three other girls.

Living in the Capital opened my eyes a more diverse group of people. I have a new respect for work ethic, and for socializing - that includes being flexible and being open to meeting new people all the time (which happens every day in D.C.!)

Professionally, I know it's time to prepare for the real world. But my schedule - 5 classes (three are nightside) and interning 15 hours a week - makes it hard to separate academic pressures from finding time to relax and reflect, let alone apply for jobs.

My personal time with God has suffered. I'm working on finding my quiet time, personal space to spend with him.

Today I hosted a group discussion at the Blue House, where I'm an intern. It was called "How Do I Re-Enter the Butler Bubble?" Ironically, it not only helped other students unpack their out-of-Butler experiences - it was therapeutic for me, too!

I think one of the Butler students explained her experiences best (and this is paraphrasing): It's good to have those experiences to learn who you are when you're by yourself. If you live your life filled with too many activities, all the noise blocks out the quiet time. If you don't have the quiet time, you can't listen to that voice (I call it God) inspire you.

For now, I'm still adjusting to this lifestyle - the syllabi, the disjointed class schedule, the chaos and sisterhood of my sorority house. All of it.