By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
This summer, West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism will have a new name to help strengthen its position in the future of media.
The name will officially change to the Reed College of Media on July 1 of this year, 75 years after the school was founded by Perley Isaac Reed, who was a journalism professor.
The idea of representing the school in a more comprehensive way — as a college of professional media communications — was presented in front of the WVU Board of Governors on Feb. 21.
Maryanne Reed, dean of the School of Journalism, who is not related to the founder, discussed this decision with reporters during a conference call hosted by the West Virginia Press Association last week.
More than 1,200 students are currently enrolled in the undergraduate and graduate programs of the school, housed in Martin Hall on WVU’s Downtown Campus.
She explained that over the past five years, the school has implemented a pretty significant change in its curriculum to ensure students are taught the fundamental skills to be strong journalists and communicators, as well as to produce content and interact with audiences on multiple platforms.
As part of this endeavor, the school went through the process of re-examining journalism education, the positions within it and where it is headed, Reed said. This process included revisiting the school’s name.
“The name Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism didn’t necessarily reflect the forward direction of the school, and also it didn’t encompass the breadth of our academic programs,” she said.
The strategic communications program encompasses advertising, public relations and integrated marketing communications, which have the most
students in the school and weren’t represented at all in the name.
During a two-year process, the school conducted a lot of research and engaged multiple constituency groups to figure out how to best demonstrate its relevance, Reed said.
“We feel that this is a name that will allow us to grow well into the future and will strengthen our position at the university and really within the larger journalism education landscape,” she said of the new name.
The school will also change to a college, which shows the growth of its programs.
Reed said all of the classes deal with the intersection of journalism with strategic communications and social media in some way, and this focus is embedded in everything the school does. The School of Journalism offers a new minor in strategic social media and is also developing a new minor with the College of Creative Arts in interactive media design.
This emphasis really prepares students to be cross platform communicators and be able to use media in a way that serves their audience, she said. The school is trying to bring in more students who are interested in careers in media.
“The message is clearer, and it’s more attractive to our high school grads,” West Virginia Press Association Executive Director Don Smith said during the recent conference call.
“Speaking with the association, I know that our papers are trying to hire people, and if we can get more people, a bigger percentage of younger people, excited about it and identifying with it and more parents saying this is worth my investment in a college education, that’s good for us.
“It puts more people into the field that we can recruit from, and it’s a difficult situation right now at times. Certainly if anyone can understand the changing thoughts about the industry or a name or what we do, the newspaper industry can.”
Along with the name change, the school is building a brand new Media Innovation Center on the Evansdale campus. This 10,000-square-foot center will be located in the new Evansdale Crossing building, which is being constructed near the Engineering PRT Station to link the upper and lower parts of the Evansdale Campus.
“It will be an extension of what we do,” Reed said of the Media Innovation Center. “It’s not replacing Martin Hall, but it’s going to be a very modern, highly flexible, technology-rich facility that will house our capstone projects, our upper-level courses, our student organizations and any kind of media product we do that goes out to the public. Also, it will be a place where we will be developing innovative solutions to challenges facing media, particularly in rural communities.”
She hopes this expansion will be helpful to future students as well as industry.
The students who finish their programs in May will graduate from the P.I. Reed School of Journalism, and all students afterward will be graduates of the Reed College of Media. Their degrees will still be the same, but they will just get those degrees from a different place, Reed said.
She said faculty and staff are getting mixed responses from students about the name change, and all the parties are striving for open communication.
“I think they are surprised more than anything else,” Reed said of the students. “This is their generation, and they understand that the media world has changed dramatically. The most positive response we’ve received, it’s from recent graduates who are out in the marketplace now and understand that it is a changing world and they have to position themselves to be successful in that world.”
Email Jessica Borders at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.