aims for top 10 with five-year plan
by Jonathan Dozier
Leading the drive to top-10 national ranking for the School of
Journalism and Mass Communications won’t be easy – but
the destination isn’t necessarily too far away, says Dr. Shirley
Staples Carter, the school’s new director.
advertising and PR programs are already ranked in the top 12,”
said Carter, who ran the Elliott School of Communications at Wichita
State University in Kansas before arriving at USC in July.
She said the school currently has a five-year plan to reach this
goal, coinciding with her term as director, which is also five years.
“We are probably among the top 20 journalism and mass communication
programs in the country,” she added. “That’s in
terms of the size of the program as well as the quality of the program.”
Carter says raising the school’s research profile and attracting
funding for endowed chairs will be important milestones on the way
to breaking into the ranks of communications programs.
Another landmark achievement that benefits the school is Newsplex,
a $2 million multimedia newsroom completed last fall by Ifra, the
global news publishing in partnership with the College of Mass Communications
and Information Studies. Carter says the school will build a reputation
at Newsplex for training journalists of the future,both professionals
and students, in the techniques and strategies of convergence.
Students, of course, are central to the school’s fortunes.
“Continuing to attract top-quality students,continuing to
produce highly sought-after graduates” are also how the professional
and academic communities judge the school, she said.
Record enrollment –
But according to the September issue of Editor & Publisher magazine,
public funding for journalism education is spiraling downward even
as more top students are considering journalism as a career.
Carter says that because USC’s journalism program is “enormously
good,” it faces a need to cap admissions in the face of rising
student demand. About 1,500 undergraduates are enrolled in the public
relations, advertising and journalism sequences, a level where Carter
would like to stabilize enrollment.
The school is seeking to hire four faculty members, three in advertising
and public relations and one in electronic journalism. Two will
be for new positions and the other two for vacancies, including
the spot to be left by departing associate professor Lynn M. Zoch.
Mass Communications Week –
Carter has also announced Mass Communications Week to promote visibility
of the school on campus and in the community next spring. Tentatively
scheduled for the first week of April, the seminars, workshops and
panel discussions will highlight student and alumni achievement
and faculty research. Associate professor Jon P. Wardrip is leading
All these changes will unfold as the school prepares for an accreditation
site visit during the spring 2005 semester, which Carter says is
both “a huge deal” and nothing to have serious worries
“Our last site visit was six years ago,” Carter said.
At that time, the school was given a clean bill from the Accrediting
Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.
The endorsement is a credential deemed vital among most top journalism
“We do have to prepare for it, and there are always concerns,”
said Carter, who led the Norfolk State University program to its
first-ever accreditation four years ago and currently sits on the
“But as far as the quality of the education we provide our
students, it’s still excellent.”
In general, most of the strategies and programs in the offing
are simply considered best practices among to prated mass communications
programs, she said. All the school has to do, in theory, is follow
the plan – a road map to the top 10.
It won’t happen in a day or a year, and Carter places state
budget cuts at the top of her list of challenges in following the
plan. But she rates the school’s chances as very good at getting
where it wants to go when students, faculty and alumni are given
“I think there’s lots to be excited about,”
she said. “I’m anxious to get out there and meet new
alums and find out more about this great state.”
Go to Page 2 - Intercom