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Released August 9, 2002
MUW communication curriculum to prepare students for multimedia journalism
COLUMBUS, Miss. -- Since graduating from Mississippi University for Women with a degree in public relations two years ago, Misty McDermitt has worked as a newspaper writer, a television reporter and a television producer.
McDermitt is part of a growing trend where journalists are moving from one medium to another as professions are converging.
To better prepare students for this industry-wide trend, MUW has modified its existing curriculum in communication that will be offered this fall.
Dr. Marty Hatton, program coordinator, said, "The market dictated this. We followed the trends of the market."
Before the curriculum modification, students were provided two degree options (bachelor of arts or bachelor of science) with three choices in concentration (broadcast, journalism or public relations).
The revised communication curriculum includes two new courses, renaming and renumbering several of the existing courses and the reactivation of one course.
According to the proposal to modify the curriculum, "This revision of the major in communication is designed to provide the student with the necessary background in theory and applied courses to be better prepared for professional careers in advertising, corporate communication, news, writing and editing, management and sales in the traditional media and in emerging and converged media markets, and graduate study in any concentration of communication."
"With the curriculum modification, students are given an opportunity to participate in these activities earlier. They are not limited in what they can do," Hatton said.
Debbie Montgomery, MUW adjunct communication instructor and alumna, added, "Students will have an opportunity to work on The Spectator (the campus newspaper) as a freshman."
Montgomery, who recently joined the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo as news editor, also noted continued partnerships with area media and internship opportunities for students.
Dr. James K. Gentry, a leading expert on media convergence--producing news for print, audio, video and online, served as a consultant for MUW's curriculum implementation. He is the dean for the School of Journalism at the University of Kansas.
"It is increasingly common for graduates to move from one medium to another or one journalistic field to another. For example, newspapers to television or newspapers to public relations," he said. "It's increasingly common to find companies going to integrated marketing communication rather than just doing advertising or public relations. And on the news side, it's increasingly common to find newspapers and television stations in partnerships where some reporters find themselves working cross platform."
After graduating from MUW in 2000, McDermitt took her first job as reporter for The Vicksburg Post where she wrote features and covered the education beat. Currently, she is a producer and reporter at WDAM-TV7 in Hattiesburg.
"I guess I'm sort of the poster child for diversity. I came out of college with a degree in public relations. I believe the education that I received at The W has allowed me to excel in a workplace that, now, more than ever, requires you to be able to wear many different hats," she said. "The W's communication professors come from all different professions--broadcast, print, public relations--an they've got `real world' experience to back up what they're saying in the classroom. That's what sets The W's communication curriculum apart from the rest."
A 1998 graduate of MUW, Wesley Ellis works as photographer for the Office of the Governor. When Ellis joined the staff his first assignment was to design a new web site for the governor.
He also has worked for The Commercial Dispatch in Columbus, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal and The Natchez Democrat.
"The W gave me the opportunity to be more than just a student. Solid classroom instruction and opportunity for practical experience combined for a strong foundation on which I have built my career as a photojournalist and web manager. From the third smallest to the third largest newspapers in Mississippi to the State Capitol, I have depended on the foundation The W’s communication department gave me," Ellis said.
Angela Richardson, who is office manager at Leigh Mall, graduated from MUW in 1993 with a degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations.
"I feel that media convergence is beneficial in that it will provide more options for the students. Times have changed and jobs are more multi-tasked oriented and students need to be able to perform numerous tasks. I feel this will enable them to do so," she said. "I am an office manager but there are times when I have to write press releases and public service announcements. That is just one area where my degree has come into play."
Before joining Leigh Mall in Columbus, Richardson worked as Lifestyles editor at The Commercial Dispatch.
Hatton said, "The communication generalist will have many advantages during this time of technological and industry-based flux. It is our goal that MUW communication students should enter the marketplace with a greater appreciation for these changes and the complex nature of communication. Students must consider their professional work less in terms of discrete trades and more as essential elements within a highly interdependent process."
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