The world we live in is one of constant change, and few industries are changing faster than the communication industry. Faculty and staff in the Nido R. Qubein School of Communication are acutely aware of that fact, and make a conscious effort to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and provide a real-world education to students. Dr. Wilfred Tremblay, dean of the School of Communication, explains what the school is doing to prepare students for 21st century careers in broadcast, radio, electronic media, marketing, strategic communication and professional journalism.
How does the faculty keep up with all the changes in technology, social media and communication practices to make sure students are attractive to employers once they graduate?
Preparing students for the real-world is our first priority. After the school was re-designed in 2009, we had the advantage of attracting faculty with fabulous experience straight from the industry. They have a willingness to adapt their lesson plans to the changing world. We’re also encouraging our professors to get out and work with other professionals around the country, to keep their knowledge fresh and to inspire new ideas for their courses.
One great example is Charisse McGhee-Lazarou who served as Vice President of Primetime Programing at NBC. During that time she created and oversaw production of shows like “ER,” “Homicide: Life on the Streets,” “Sisters” and “For Your Love.” She also worked for three years as the Vice President of Scripted Programming at Lifetime Television.
Since coming to HPU, she oversees the Media Fellows Scholarship Program, which accepts the top 16 incoming communication students each year to work together on unique real-world projects; and has started the first campus chapter of the Hollywood Radio and Television Society (HRTS) which is giving our students unprecedented access to entertainment executives.
That’s not the only professional organization Communication students can join, correct?
We think professional organizations are extremely important, because they keep the students focused on their goals, provide networking opportunities and make the students feel like they are part of the industry. We currently have the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), the Sports Management Association (SMA) and HRTS.
In 2013 alone the organizations allowed students a wide variety of opportunities. Members of SPJ were able to report from the NCAA tournament during the Final Four; seniors in SMA traveled to the Sports Sales Combine in Pittsburgh where all four received job offers; and members of HRTS went to Hollywood over the summer to network with professionals in the entertainment industry.
You hear stories about how first jobs are never what you expect, especially in communication fields. How do you prepare students for what they will actually experience on the job?
Our professors make it a point to bring professionals into classes to talk to students on a regular basis.
Courses are designed to help students know what to expect at their first job, what it will take to get their dream job and even how much money they can expect to make after graduation.
In 2013, students met on campus with Daniel Grossman, a Pulitzer Center journalists; Jack Shaheen, a Hollywood consultant; David Neal, a 34-time Emmy award-winning producer, Coordinating Producer for Super Bowl XLVIII and one of the most decorated figures of sports television; and other regional professionals connected with our students throughout the year.
David Neal was recently named chairman of the School of Communication Advisory Board, along with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. How will these innovators and industry leaders help the students?
These are some of the most influential and brilliant minds in the industry today. Having them on our board ensures our students are getting the best advice and education possible.
Our program prides itself in providing real-world education. Mr. Neal’s extensive professional experience producing sports and other content at the network level will only help assure that we are delivering the highest quality education to our students.
In the case of Wozniak, having someone who holds such a historic place in the digital revolution to help mentor our students will ensure that our students continue to receive cutting-edge, world-class instruction.
Are you seeing any results from all these efforts?
Absolutely. We have more graduates moving into major markets like New York City and being hired by national television shows including “The X-Factor,” “Good Morning America” and “Sports Center” every year.
We started talking about how fast the industry is changing. Five years ago, social media wasn’t a big deal. Now companies are creating jobs specifically for social media, and we have graduates that are taking those jobs. One example is Megan Hennessey who is currently the Social Media Manager for the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.
Our graduates have really helped us grow our reputation, over the last few years of being a top communication school.