Connecting the Dots: Preparing Students for the Fast-Paced Communication Industry

This story is featured in the Winter 2016 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how the Nido R. Qubein School of Communication prepares students to connect and create in a fast-paced industry.


HPU TV Studio 1David Neal remembers when Michael Phelps won the 100-meter butterfly by what must have been an eighth of an inch.

He was there at the London 2012 Olympics. He had directed a cameraman to stay glued to Phelps’ mother, Debbie, when she held her breath and turned to the scoreboard to see if her son had won.

She was expressive — a single mom who had always been there to cheer on her son at competitions. And her reaction was all Neal had hoped it would be.

“She was holding her hands out when she saw the score,” says Neal, a 34-time Emmy Award-winner who has produced almost every major sporting event including the Olympics, Super Bowls, NBA Finals, MLB World Series and the 2015 World Cup — the most-watched World Cup in history.

“You could see it hit her when she realized he had won. She was so stunned that she literally sank out of the frame and down into her seat while the crowd went wild all around her. “It was tremendous television. Unscripted drama is compelling TV. And live sports is where it’s at.”

Neal recalled that moment for a packed audience of students in the Nido R. Qubein School of Communication. He chairs the school’s advisory board and serves alongside other seasoned board professionals.

His expertise, the advisory board on which he serves and the university’s commitment to real-world relevance are the reasons why the HPU curriculum is evolving and growing as quickly as the communication industry itself.


HPU Gaming LabCurriculum Ahead of the Curve

HPU’s communication major was overhauled in 2009 to reflect the nature of a changing industry. It was redesigned to focus on specific tracks of studyelectronic media production, journalism, game and interactive media design, media and popular culture studies, and strategic communication.

“Preparing students for the real world has always been our top priority,” says Dr. Wilfred Tremblay, dean of the school.

That’s why communication students are immersed in state-of-the-art technology as soon as they step foot into a classroom. They learn to use equipment that’s found in the world’s top video, audio, television and gaming production studios.

That’s also why the school introduced this year a new major and two new concentrations to keep up with the growing demands of sports broadcast and the communication industry as a whole.

A new sport communication sequence trains students in reporting, broadcast performance, multimedia production and strategic communication. It prepares graduates for work in industries Neal says are thriving.

“Sports television is one of the few things left that most viewers want to consume live,” Neal tells students. “It’s a reason why sports is going to be out there like an island on its own — as a viable product you can’t get anywhere else.”

A new sport and event management concentration exposes students to the business side of the industry. The new documentary media major teaches them video-storytelling skills.

And a new graduate program track prepares students to work in political communication.

It all comes back to HPU’s mission to prepare students not for the world as it is, but for the world as it’s going to be.


Dedicated Leadership

But where would these students be without the stellar faculty and advisors who lead them into the world of communication?

Take Joe Michaels, for example. He’s a seven-time Emmy Award winner and former 23-year director of NBC’s “Today” show.

Michaels recently joined the School of Communication as HPU’s artist-in-residence. Prior to HPU, millions of fans watched his work on The World Series, The Super Bowl, Wimbledon Tennis, the Olympics, the Orange Bowl and more.

“It has always been a dream of mine to help to develop world-class leaders in the media space,” says Michaels. “The opportunity to work with such a diverse group of students and professionals makes this challenge a perfect fit. In my own career, I have always reached for total excellence, and High Point University is an institution devoted to being extraordinary.”

Or take Charisse McGhee-Lazarou, assistant professor of communication. Before HPU, McGhee-Lazarou served as vice president of Primetime Programming at NBC, where she created and oversaw production for shows like “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “ER” and “For Your Love.” She also served three years as vice president of Scripted Programs at Lifetime Television.

“Thousands of communication students graduate from colleges all over the country, and the vast majority have no clue how ‘the biz’ actually works,” says McGhee-Lazarou. “Our graduates know who the key players are, what the jobs are and what’s on the bleeding edge.”


Advisory Council

In addition to inspiring faculty, an advisory council helps guide the School of Communication. Led by Neal, members include Steve Mitchem, publisher of US Airways Magazine; Dave Goren, executive director of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association; Pamela Brown, CNN correspondent; and other leaders of award-winning broadcasting companies, public relations agencies, television stations, consulting firms and more. Many of these appointments stemmed from Dr. Qubein’s personal connections in the world of communication, consulting and public speaking. The council exists to guide the curriculum, exemplify industry best practices and provide input on how HPU can continue to offer an innovative communication program.

HPU TV Studio 2In addition to influencing the curriculum, they, like Neal, come to campus to work one-on-one with students and share wisdom that can’t be found elsewhere.

The way we communicate is changing as we know it. It’s moving toward portable media consumed on demand. Toward urgent news that makes your phone buzz the moment it happens. Toward digital content you can access anywhere.

“You decide what you want to watch and when you want to watch it,” says Neal. “Live sports and live events are the one thing that can break that equation. You’re not going to be watching the Super Bowl on Netflix. Live TV will grow in a premium nature. That’s where the future is.”

As the second most popular major at HPU, the Nido R. Qubein School of Communication exists to help students adapt to these changes and connect the dots in the ever-changing, ever-booming world of communication.

And when they leave HPU to launch their professional careers, that’s what they do.


View this story and more in the Winter 2016 edition of the HPU Magazine:

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