Murrow shuns department structure

Edward R. Murrow is credited with using a new medium — at that time, television — to inspire, inform and educate millions. Now, the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication is working to emulate its namesake by exploiting the strengths of emerging technologies — as well as the strengths of its faculty.

This month the school, with the blessing of Provost Robert Bates and President Elson S. Floyd, will present the Faculty Senate with a proposal to move the school to college status.

“It’s charting new territory,” said Erica Austin, interim director of the school.

Collaboration easier
Most schools of communication focus primarily on the professional disciplines of mass communication, including journalism, broadcasting, public relations and advertising. But WSU’s proposed college would continue to eschew departmental structures and instead function as a single academic unit that combines both communication studies (intercultural communications, organizational communications and general communications) and mass communication (broadcast, journalism, public relations and advertising).

“The fact that we don’t have departmental structures, so we don’t have silos, is extremely beneficial,” Austin said. “There are some real powerful things we can do because we have everything right here.”

For instance, faculty in broadcast production could collaborate with faculty in intercultural communications to create a research project that neither could accomplish independently.

Funded research already is a strength of the school (few schools of communication are able to generate much funded research), but Austin believes that with college status and additional resources, WSU’s research program will grow significantly.

The move to college status will position the school structurally and financially to serve the student body more effectively. 

“The primary changes in phase one will be to increase student services, faculty and our development efforts,”  she said.

Research center
Phase two of the Murrow school’s vision includes the creation of a Murrow Research Center, where the school’s cutting-edge research facilities can be more fully utilized by school faculty as well as client organizations.
The school offers 10 undergraduate “sequences” in advertising, applied intercultural communication, broadcast news, broadcast management, broadcast production, communication studies, general communication, journalism, organizational communication and public relations.

In addition to serving more than 600 certified communication majors, 800 premajors and hundreds of general education students, the school also has 50 graduate students.

“In the last 10 years we’ve had a 71 percent increase in majors, but only a 15 percent increase in faculty,” Austin said, adding that the school is teaching at 139 percent of capacity.