University to establish a School of Journalism and Mass Communications

The Department of Mass Communications at Jackson State University will be transformed into a School of Journalism and Mass Communications, James C. Renick, the university’s provost and vice president for student affairs, announced today.

“This will allow us to leverage our many assets – such as the TV station, radio stations and Weathervision,” Renick said.

In making the announcement, Renick cited a recent challenge from six prominent foundations which said journalism education is not keeping pace with new career opportunities for journalists. The letter challenges university presidents and provosts to reform journalism and mass communication education.

“We are embracing this challenge,” said Deborah Barnes, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “This is an opportunity to do something special.”

Eric D. Stringfellow

Eric D. Stringfellow

This starts with a change in departmental leadership. Eric D. Stringfellow, an award-winning journalist and journalism educator, will serve as interim chair. Stringfellow, who will continue to serve as executive director of University Communications, has been charged with developing an intensive collaboration between the department and University Communications to create more internship opportunities for students and assist with the transition from department status to school.

Stringfellow, the founding chair of the Tougaloo College Department of Mass Communication, has worked at three different newspapers across the country. He also has hosted and produced programs at WJSU and JSUTV.

“I am humbled by the opportunity and the challenge but highly motivated by what’s best for our students,” Stringfellow said.

The University plans to convene a panel of distinguished media professionals and mass communications faculty and students to help identify leadership that will assist in driving the program’s future. The university also will recruit four new faculty for the new school.

The decision to establish a new School of Journalism and Mass Communications means postponing plans to seek re-accreditation by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).

In the short term JSU is following the example of numerous other schools regarding ACEJMC. Its accrediting standards, for example, actually limit the number of communications courses students may take and the amount of internship credits students may earn.

In recent years institutions like Texas Tech University and the University of South Florida declined to seek re-accreditation. Other schools without ACEJMC accreditation are the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin, Rutgers University and Florida State University.

Renick said the plan at Jackson State, however, is to remake the Department of Mass Communications into a world-class School of Journalism and Mass Communications and then seek ACEJMC accreditation. All classes scheduled for this fall will be taught.

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