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School of Communication Reorganizes to Reflect Changes in the Industry

    • Frances L. Wolfson Building today

Responding to revolutionary changes in the communication industries, the University of Miami School of Communication is undertaking the largest reorganization in its 28-year history.

Students will notice significant differences when they arrive for classes this semester. Instead of seven programs – advertising, communication studies, electronic media, journalism, public relations, visual journalism and motion picture– there will be four departments, each headed by a department chair. The new departments will be:
- Cinema and Interactive Media, led by Associate Prof. Ed Talavera.
- Communication Studies, led by Associate Prof. Diane Millette.
- Journalism and Media Management, which incorporates every aspect of journalism (online, print, and broadcast) as well as the business aspects of today's mass media, led by Associate Prof. Terry Bloom.   
- Strategic Communication, which includes advertising and public relations, led by Associate Prof. Alyse Lancaster.

The change brings the school into the university’s academic structure and reflects convergent trends in the industry.

The new structure reflects a bureaucratic streamlining. Over time, many of the tasks that were done in the dean’s office will move to the individual departments, among them curricular decisions, budgeting and allocation of funds for projects, and class size, said Associate Prof. Sam Terilli, who led the task force of program directors that proposed the reorganization.

But the changes, which will effectively decentralize the school and boost faculty involvement in decision-making, go beyond the technical.
Dean Gregory Shepherd said departmentalizing is a key step in realizing the school’s potential.  “The breadth of study we offer in the School of Communication is nearly unmatched nationally, but we didn't have the structures in place that would allow us to best take advantage of such broad expertise,” he said.  “We now have four well-defined units around which we can build a robust core, and through which students can move.”

Shepherd said it would now be easier both to build a common identity for faculty and students, and to “build innovative and integrative areas of study within and between the new departments.”

Vice Dean Paul Driscoll, who teaches in the new department of journalism and media management, said the new structure provides opportunities to rethink how best to educate students in the communication disciplines. “It should lead to an organic development of new curricula and possibly even new majors,” he said.

Although for now the majors that students will pursue are not changing, they may fall under new departments under the reorganization. The transition to the new curriculum will be a multi-year project, Bloom said. She added that the new structure will allow the school to capitalize on the synergy between the various specialties.  “For example, journalism had been divided into three different programs,” she said. “The industry has changed and the new department will reflect the industry. Putting all journalism classes under one umbrella will really help us.”

The new department of journalism and media management will put more emphasis on technology, she said, including mobile, apps and new news platforms.

Added Driscoll: “All of our programs will accelerate their orientation toward the impact of new communication technologies and understanding the profound changes we’re witnessing in the world of communication, including the growing importance of an entrepreneurial perspective.”

The legislation authorizing the change was signed by UM President Donna Shalala in the spring.

*Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in the 2012 fall/winter edition of the Communique. It has been modified.

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