Communication Connection

Friends of Com Newsletter


Note from the Chair

Richard K. Olsen


COM just knows how to get it done.  That seems to be the theme of this newsletter.  This issue is full of examples of how we get it done in the classroom and outside the classroom through applied learning and research and more.  I hope you enjoy the articles written by students in our Strategic Writing class.  For many, this is their first effort at writing for publication and I want to thank Shannon Gentry for her efforts instructing these novice writers and Meghan Larson for final edits and assembling the newsletter.  Let me briefly share some of the good news not in the newsletter and then some challenges that you can help us meet.

First, it was a good year for gear!  As the North Carolina economy showed signs of recovery, funds were released late in the year for one time purchases, aka “stuff.”  That meant we were able to compete for funds and we were successful in getting funding for many significant upgrades in the TV studio including a new sound system for live performances, more LED lighting (very cool—literally!), mic kits so we can record more musical performances and more.  COM grad Trahern MacLean (2015) is our current tech manager for the department and he did an amazing job researching and installing the new gear.  We continue to upgrade the space not only to keep up with industry expectations, but to be able to be even more helpful to the clients we work with in the studio classes.  We were also able to purchase upgrades to our field cameras and get some equipment for some of our more intensive applied learning classes such as Pier601 Creative, WingSpan and PR II.  The PR II class will be recreating an “in-house” model of PR working with the College of Arts and Sciences Dean to promote key accomplishments across the twenty-two departments in CAS.  No pressure! 

But COM is more than cool gear.  It’s also about process and praxis.  One example not in this newsletter is Dr. Bruce McKinney’s work with local law enforcement and community leaders to facilitate dialogues that foster trust and help articulate common ground and community.  As is common in COM, he is collaborating with some others across campus, but will be the lead facilitator this Fall.  This summer we also held a workshop in integrated marketing communication (IMC) for area practitioners with a particular emphasis on not-for-profit organizations.  We again partnered across campus to spread the word and Dr. Persuit organized and facilitated a powerful workshop that will help area NPOs meet their mission.  I could go on and on with the good news.  Please read the articles for some highlights of the many good things happening in our classes and even with our alumni. 

So what are some of the challenges?  Even with the one-time funding for cool gear, we still are in need of ongoing support in our trust fund.  Money from the state is great for gear, but it can’t send a student to a conference or buy pizza for a focus group or do lots of other stuff that we need to do to be a great department.  Our students will be launching a giving program called COM, which stands for Continuing Our Major and it will be your chance to help out current and future COM students.  Please take a careful look at the messages you receive in the near future and feel free to offer feedback (it’s an applied learning activity for our students) and, if you are able, respond to the call.  I can promise you, it will make a difference. 

Another challenge we are facing is the ongoing desire to keep our curriculum fresh and current.  Some of what we teach is timeless, whether it is ethos, pathos, logos or “you need to white balance the camera first.”  Other aspects of our curriculum need to evolve to stay useful for us and our students.  We have a growing number of students interested in HR and Talent Development.  If you work in this area, feel free to send an email and let’s chat about what we might teach in COM that would help prepare folks for jobs in that field. 

In fact, no matter where you work, please send us your business card!  We requested cards a last year for a display and it was VERY helpful to show our students, parents, the new leadership at UNCW, and others the tremendous success and variety of occupations that COM graduates had gone on to secure. 

Seems like every newsletter I talk about the significant changes going on at UNCW and that is once again a theme.  In a big way!  Our still-new Chancellor has been in place just over a year and his points of emphasis are becoming clearer.  He is focusing on increasing the international experience at UNCW both.  He is focusing on connecting with Fortune 500 companies for everything from job fair attendance to long term partnerships.  He is also focusing on strategic graduate programs.  One of the programs he would like to launch is an online graduate program in IMC!  We have been asked to go through the proposal process for creating such a program.  One of the steps is to gather some data that demonstrates the need/desire for such a program.  So, here’s where you can help:  If you would be interested in pursuing an online MA in IMC, please email and express your interest. 

Please be sure to stay connected by signing up for any or all of the social media options below including our new LinkedIn group.  We are hoping to grow this group into a space where current students can connect with interested alumni for jobs, informal mentoring and more. 

As I finish up 10 years as chair and look to the year ahead I could not be prouder of our faculty, students, and graduates.  I hope you are filled with pride as you read the stories that follow. 

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