New Communication and Journalism Center enhances experiential learning
After more than a decade of planning, CJ students began using the new Communication and Journalism Center (CJC) during spring semester 2009. Several current students, alumni, friends and members of the local media helped officially open the CJC on April 23 in conjunction with the Devroy Forum. The facility will help students from all communication and journalism majors embrace emerging technology and the convergence of platforms in communication and journalism. It will also allow the department to advance further its efforts to have all CJ students learn through practical application.
The CJC is located on the first floor of Hibbard Hall and contains remodeled offices for The Spectator, WUEC and three faculty members, television and radio studios and control rooms, a photography studio, a visual communication lab and a broadcast newsroom. A classroom and general access computer lab were also remodeled as part of the project. The total cost of the project, allocated from UW System funds, was $1.8 million. Several faculty members also wrote small grants to help pay for equipment and software for some of the labs.
Nearly all of the equipment and computers in the facility are also new. Associate professor Jack Kapfer said that while students may be awed at first by the scope of the new broadcasting equipment, they will eventually have fun with it and come to enjoy using it. One advantage of the new facility is that all CJ labs and faculty offices are now located in a single building, meaning broadcast students will no longer need to brave the bridge during the winter.
The CJC offers new learning opportunities for nearly every CJ major, and will help prepare students for employment in the rapidly-changing fields of communication and journalism.
“Students need to be proficient across different platforms” said associate professor of journalism Jan Larson. “It is also important that they will take their understanding of news and journalistic integrity to put to any product whether it is content, video or slide shows.”
Students majoring in advertising, public relations and organizational communication will have access to improved facilities for visual design, digital photography and video and Web design. Since nearly all organizations have a Web presence, it is important for students to have the skills to build and maintain those pages.
Department chair Mary Hoffman who started her term as construction began said it was rewarding to see the facility come together, but that she was most pleased when student work was hung on the walls and student voices were heard in the labs. “Once that happened” said Hoffman, “it really came to life.”
Forthcoming curriculum revision to capitalize on resources of CJC, address changing industry
Over the next two years, members of the faculty, in consultation with the CJ Advisory Board, other professionals and alumni, will revise the curriculum in all six CJ majors. The goal of the revision is to maintain the core values, knowledge and skills that have always been key in communication and journalism while also offering students an opportunity to consider both practical and ethical issues emerging as the industries change. No matter how the curriculum may change though, students will continue to have opportunities to practice what they learn.
One change, already in the pilot stage is to construct a news portal as an outlet for student work. Larson, assistant professor Ellen Mahaffy and several students have received a grant from UW-Eau Claire's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to develop the site. Students will have the opportunity to post work to the site which will be available on campus and in the community, and may also serve as editors for the site.
Long tradition of experiential learning in CJ
Although the CJC is new, CJ majors have long taken advantage of opportunities to put what they learn in class into practice. This year CJ students worked on a wide variety of projects that allowed them to use their skills on campus and in the larger community:
- Students in the introductory organizational communication class completed communication audits in community businesses or other organizations.
- Small group communication students used their communication and research skills to study community problems and recommend solutions. They presented their findings at the university's Research Day in April.
- Students in the Radio-Television News Editing class produced two broadcasts of Update News each week during fall semester.
- Students in the training and development course developed and delivered training programs for several campus and community organizations.
- Students in the capstone course in journalism developed in-depth projects for print, broadcast and internet distribution.
- Students in the advertising campaigns class developed advertising campaigns aimed at reducing the amount of binge drinking on campuses.
- Students in the public relations capstone prepared public relations campaigns designed to increase enrollment of underrepresented groups as CJ majors.
- Students in the communication capstone completed communication research projects and presented their findings at Research Day in April.
- Students in the events planning course planned and executed the annual meeting of the Chippewa Valley School Press Association in the fall, and Grandparents University in the summer.
- CJ majors also completed internships, participated in service learning projects and studied abroad in a variety of countries.