by Taylor Bryant
The Department of Mass Communications at the University of West Georgia has won the 2016 Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award in the Department/Program category. The University System of Georgia Regents’ award recognizes excellence in a department that displays strong commitment to teaching and student success. The award will be formally presented in May at the Board of Regents meeting.
“We are humbled, honored and elated to receive the Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award,” said Mass Communications Department Chair Dr. Camilla Gant. “Since becoming an independent department in spring 2011, we have worked diligently to meet and exceed success benchmarks, particularly in regard to faculty and student engagement, professional values and competencies, experiential learning, and scholastic achievement.”
The focus on faculty involvement and collaboration was what most impressed the committee when evaluating the department, according to the official award letter.
“The committee felt that the planning and delivery of the program managed to include active learning strategies including hands-on, experiential learning, a strong commitment to student advising and a comprehensive approach to program assessment,” read the letter.
The department has accomplished a significant amount in a short time. From student success initiatives and improved advising methods to experiential learning opportunities and career readiness programs, the strategic efforts of the faculty and staff aim to equip students for success.
“The Department of Mass Communications is a collegial team dedicated to educating and training students for successful integration into the global community as industry professionals, leaders and thinkers in the fields of convergence journalism, digital media and telecommunication, film and video production, and public relations,” said Gant.
Each year, approximately 70 juniors and seniors complete off-campus internships with companies such as CNN, Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, WSB-TV, and Southwire.
“Under Gant's leadership over the past five years, Mass Communications has become the second most popular major at the University,” said Dr. N. Jane McCandless, dean of the College of Social Sciences. “The department's integration of experiential learning (through WUTV, ‘The WOLF’ Internet Radio, the West Georgian newspaper, and Bluestone Public Relations student firm) combined with its focus on community and industry partnerships creates vibrant and cutting-edge educational experiences for UWG students.”
As a result of curricular reforms, the department has seen a 28 percent increase in students declaring Mass Communications as their major. There has also been an increase in first- to second-year retention rates for new undergraduate students from 43 percent in 2012 to 73 percent in 2014.
“We are pleased that the outstanding work being done within the Department of Mass Communications is also now being recognized at the USG system level,” said McCandless.