Looking to sort out a far-reaching department and regain accreditation lost by one of its programs last year, East Tennessee State University officials plan to split the Department of Communication into two separate departments starting July 1.
Dr. Gordon Anderson, dean of the university’s College of Arts & Sciences, confirmed Tuesday that the Tennessee Board of Regents gave the green light last month to ETSU’s intentions to divide the department into the Department of Mass Communication and the Department of Communication and Performance.
The former will include undergraduate degree programs for radio, television and film, journalism, public relations and advertising, while the latter will offer majors in speech and theater and minors in dance and storytelling.
The Masters of Arts in Professional Communication will continue to be offered jointly by the two new departments, Anderson said.
“Mass Communication is an area where we feel we can grow,” Anderson said. “It’s been somewhat hidden among the other programs traditionally, but we feel by separating it out, we can grow that and focus more on recruiting and marketing for its programs.”
With a greater focus in the arts, the dean said the Communication and Performance Department is expected to likewise thrive after the separation, making the department less unwieldy.
The Mass Communication Department’s offices will remain in Warf-Pickel Hall, where the radio and broadcast television studios and the computer labs for the journalism, public relations and advertising classes are already located.
Communication and Performance will be headquartered in the Campus Center Building — the former College of Medicine — after renovations to move Storytelling program staff there.
Anderson said the cost to establish the new department will be minimal — the renovations in the Campus Center will be finished before classes begin for the fall semester, and a department chair will be chosen from among the Mass Communications program to receive a slight increase in salary for the expanded duties.
Amber Kinser, the current chair of the Department of Communication, will be named the chair of the new Communication and Performance Department.
One major benefit to ETSU by affecting the split is that the Mass Communication program will again be eligible for accreditation by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication after an evaluation next year.
The body pulled the program’s accreditation last year, citing the need for an independent department, a lack of diversity among the program’s faculty and faults in the documentation of students’ outcomes.
Anderson said the new department should have little trouble regaining accreditation after the required two-year waiting period.
“They wanted the Mass Communication program to have its own leadership and budget, and this will do that,” he said. “This will allow us at least a year functioning as a separate unit. Our intent is to apply for re-accreditation, and we’re fully expecting to get it.”
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