Letter from the dean

Fall 2016 Edition

Season’s greetings from Mount Oread! We are winding down the Fall 2016 semester and the entire year of 2016.  To say it’s been an eventful year is quite an understatement.

First, the good news. The School of Journalism was found in compliance on all nine standards for its reaccreditation visit in early November.  We are one of the originally accredited programs in journalism, which goes back to the 1947 academic year. I hope this gives our alumni a great deal of pride to know that we have been continuously accredited for 70 years. Few programs in the country can claim that. The accreditation team cited our talented and engaged students, stellar faculty and our ability to effectively manage our resources to stay focused on our priorities.  

In other good news, our credit-hour production continues to increase. Let me explain that a bit. When people ask me about enrollment, I often compare the school to one of the stores on Massachusetts Street. Enrollment is the number of students/customers while credit-hour production reflects how many hours of instruction students are purchasing. Although we care about both, it is student credit hours that translate into growth. Our growth this fall was mainly due to our new online master’s degree in Digital Content Strategy with certificates in Social Media Strategy and Data Interpretation and Communication. We have students from throughout the world enrolled in those classes.

Now, for a few challenges we are facing. Our accreditors cited concerns with our assessment data.  We are doing a lot in that area and need to do even more. They also wondered whether our technology is keeping pace with all the media changes. Probably not, but we are doing research right now to see how we can create a more effective learning environment that includes technology and focuses on the critical thinking needed to make the best use of our new tools for storytelling.  

Post-accreditation visit, we are experiencing the fallout from the election that is directed against the media. It’s hard to imagine that there is an entire industry devoted to generating “fake news” with its practitioners readily acknowledging that’s what they are doing. Here at the J-School, we are talking a lot about our future in a time where many are seeking not information, but affirmation. We’ve heard that we are in a “post-truth” era where information no longer requires verification. In our required class on research, “Infomania,” students examine how to aggregate information as well as use secondary sources and primary sources – all with the goals of verification, relevance and reliability of information.  Of course, those concerns are relevant to both the news and information track and the strategic communication track.

So we are asking ourselves, our students and all of you: What can we do to ensure the relevancy of journalism and mass communications today?  We would like to hear from you: send us your thoughts at jschool@ku.edu.

As 2016 draws to a close, we are left to ponder our affirmations and our challenges. I suspect many of you are in the same situation. The good news is that we are all in this together and can support one another to find ways to meet our challenges and celebrate our successes.

Have a wonderful holiday and best wishes for the new year.  

Rock Chalk!


Ann M. Brill