A Letter From the Department Head
I’m glad to know of your interest in the JCOM department at Utah State. Here’s a little information about the program now as we move forward in 2010-2011.
The Journalism & Communication Department at USU has about 375 declared premajors and majors, who focus in writing, video/multimedia, public relations or—increasingly—some combination of mass media skills and expertise. Incoming freshmen declare as premajors, which means that they are part of the “family” and giving them a campus home. They get a JCOM faculty adviser and launch into the preliminary JCOM premajor coursework (JCOM 1130: Beginning Newswriting; JCOM 1500: Intro to Mass Communication; JCOM 2010: Media Smarts; and JCOM 2020: Communication Research Methods), while settling in at USU and starting on required General Education classes. In addition to a JCOM faculty adviser, students also meet regularly with Amanda Adison in the college Advising Center.
Typically, new students take one or two of the four required premajor courses per semester while working on GenEd and exploring other course options across campus. When they have completed GenEd and the four JCOM classes (with a C+ average or better), typically by the end of their sophomore year, they apply for major status and get started on the more advanced JCOM coursework. We also require at least a minor in some other discipline (many JCOM students double-major in other fields, depending on their interests), which gives them an expertise area in addition to the communications skills they gain in the JCOM major. Our students apply these interests in internships—both in Utah and in places like New York, DC, and the West Coast.
Although we have traditionally asked students to focus on one of three concentration areas (broadcast/video journalism, print journalism or public relations), a new (in 2012) multimedia core requirement for majors expands options for all our students to take courses from across our curriculum—with adviser approval. What we’re doing is to provide students with essential tools, whether they head toward careers in "backpack journalism" on the Web or elsewhere, or into business communication careers like PR or integrated marketing communications.
Our students publish an online news"paper," the Hard News Café (http://hardnewscafe.usu.edu/), which is part of the practical orientation of our department. The current version is pretty much based on traditional text elements—news stories and photos generated by our Public Affairs Reporting and advanced reporting classes—but the plan is to merge our Aggie TV newscast into this website to create a multimedia news product incorporating text, photos, video and audio clips on the Web. The ATV News program is a half-hour newscast that airs once a week. These shows run on campus cable to the residence halls and campus buildings, as well as on the Cache Valley cable access channel and on YouTube. Public relations students get practice experience through an active Pubic Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, and its allied student-run PR agency, True Blue Communications.
I'll stop with the hard-sell, and let you look at some Web sites on your own.
I have taught all three of the pre-major core requirements online, so you can look at those syllabi on their blogs:
• JCOM 1500—Intro to Mass Comm: http://masscomm1500.blogspot.com/2009/11/jcom-1500-syllabus.html
• JCOM 1130—Beginning Newswriting: http://newshoundsonline.blogspot.com/2008/12/syllabus-s09.html
• JCOM 2010: Media Smarts (a media literacy course): http://mediasmarts2010.blogspot.com/2009/08/syllabusjcom-2010-media-smarts.html
And here are some great YouTube videos about USU, produced by the USU PR/Marketing office, but specifically created by a few of our graduates, working with a number of our current students. This is the kind of stuff we want any of our students to be able to create.
There are a lot more linked on any of those YouTube pages.
I hope that helps. Feel free to email or call me directly if you have any questions.
Professor & JCOM Department Head