Faculty will meet to discuss proposed School of Communication and the Arts
Dean Michael Zavada of the College of Arts and Sciences has called the faculty of the College to a special meeting set for Feb. 6 to evaluate a proposal for the creation of a new School of Communication and the Arts. The existing Department of Communication and the Arts–one of the largest departments in the University–will provide details on a proposal to establish a new school.
The department will outline the data it has gathered over the course of several months, along with information about similar initiatives at other universities. The presentation will be preceded by comments from Dean Zavada. When the department’s presentation is complete, the floor will be open for discussion. Two information sessions have already been held to give an overview of ideas, discuss how the proposed school would play out and to weigh the pros and cons of the proposed school, according to Deirdre Yates, a professor of theater and current chairwoman of the department.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a department that has branched off into an independent college before so it’s unprecedented,” Yates said.
The main point of the change is to position the department for growth.
Yates said, “A huge thrust for us is highlighting the arts, and showcasing the arts, which are such a vitally important part, not only of our department but of the cultural integrity of the University.”
“We’ve reached capacity as a department, we really can’t move beyond what we are right now,” said Thomas Rondinella, a professor of communication and former chairman of the Department of Communication and the Arts.
“The University seems interested for the first time as well,” Rondinella said.
Yates explained that this interest derives from trends in the job market as well as in the disciplines. Fields such as communications, public relations, digital media and social media have all increased in popularity.
“I think that the momentum is now and I think that a lot of people will recognize that,” she said.
She added that this would not be a pre-professional school in any way, but rather a school rooted in the liberal arts. According to Rondinella, the first proposal to create a separate school of communication was submitted in 2002, but it never got far.
“We had a proposal when I first became chair,” said Rondinella, who led the department from 2010 to 2013.
When the department merged with the Department of Music and Art in 2010, a potential separate college or school was seen as an integral part of the plan. Rondinella said one of the reasons he took on the position of chairman of the department was that he felt he could push the process of creating a school in the right direction.
“In just this past year or last two years was the administration finally receptive to the idea of exploring it, and that’s really all we’re doing right now is we’re just exploring it, and the possibility,” Rondinella said.
In 2014 the department was awarded Center of Excellence status, giving the initiative added momentum. Yates said that this proposal is really aimed at a “restructure” within the College of Arts and Sciences.
“We are branching off from the College of Arts and Sciences, meaning the Department of Communication and the Arts is branching off from the College of Arts and Sciences.”
The meeting next Friday will be the first full airing of the proposal to the entire faculty of Arts and Sciences.
“It’s sort of all new,” Rondinella said. “And so we’re following the procedures that we feel are the ones that closely align to the way it’s supposed to be done.”
Yates added, “bottom line is that we are excited for the opportunity for growth, and we’re just dedicated to all of our disciplines, particularly arts, and positioning them in the best way that we possibly can to recruit students.”
Mary Marshall can be reached at mary. firstname.lastname@example.org.