URI forms School of Communication

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KINGSTON, R.I. –-January 29, 2008—The University of Rhode Island has formed a School of Communication, uniting the strengths of five academic units within the College of Arts and Sciences. The Board of Governors for Higher Education approved the School at its meeting last night.

The goal is to create national distinction, attract investment, enroll and retain gifted students, help recruit and retain talented faculty, and enhance the visibility and quality of the School’s programs.

The units are the College Writing Program, Department of Communication Studies, Department of Journalism, Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, and the Program in Film Media.

“Among the world’s greatest challenges is the need to communicate effectively the extraordinary change now under way,” says URI President Robert L. Carothers. “Today, communication creates communities, some of which are vastly different than the traditional ones we grew up with. Our students want to be in leadership roles in these communities, and URI’s School of Communication will expand our strengths in interdisciplinary interaction, foster creativity in media, and respond quickly to the evolving communication needs of our people.”

“The whole will be greater than the sum of its parts,” said Winifred Brownell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We are integrating a unique combination of programs in the school giving us a national distinction. The school will unite faculty and disciplinary strengths in the study of communication and new technologies that transform the rapidly changing ways we receive, process, mediate, archive, and transmit information.”

For now, the units will remain in their current locations until a new or newly renovated building can be provided. A national search will be conducted for a director.

“Major donors have expressed considerable interest in the school,” said Brownell, noting that the naming of the school as well as endowments for the directorship, professorships, programs, undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships are being discussed.

The units of the new School have already attracted more than $1 million in endowed gifts, with more pledge payments forthcoming, to support faculty and student development, as well as a film festival and lecture series.

“The School will allow us to offer students an expanding number of opportunities, preparing them for future workforce needs and enhancing the value of the degrees they earn,” says the dean.

By centralizing the programs, URI can take advantage of the compelling synergy that emerges from such interdisciplinary interaction, which fosters curricular innovations and can respond to market trends and workforce development needs.

“A School of Communication provides URI with a platform to become distinctive and recruit top educators and students to build a niche in the marketplace,” says Robert Beagle, vice president for University Advancement, citing the Annenberg Schools for Communication and Syracuse University as examples.

“URI is bringing together print and broadcast journalism, film, public relations, writing, and communications in new and exciting ways. The cross pollination of disciplines, coupled with the University’s entrepreneurial spirit, will bring innovation and recognition,” adds Beagle whose division is responsible for marketing and communication.

Faculty members, for example, are already engaged in discussions of new courses and program tracks for new communication and information technologies, web-based communications, sports writing, media and communications, visual literacy, and international communications with a particular interest in China.

The School will continue to offer two graduate degrees: a master of library science and a master of arts in communication studies—and five bachelor of arts undergraduate degrees: in communication studies, film media, journalism, public relations, and writing and rhetoric.

The School will enhance areas where there is already strong student demand. For example, Communication Studies continues to be one of the largest undergraduate majors at the University while the program in Library and Information Studies is the largest graduate program. URI anticipates that the School will generate the University’s largest number of students. Currently there are about 1,200 undergraduate and about 300 graduate students majoring in the programs.