A new name, a new faculty member and a new outlook have made the past year a landmark one for the GW journalism department.
In February 1996, the GW Board of Trustees agreed to change the name of the National Center for Communication Studies to the School of Media and Public Affairs. Then, in the fall of 1996, Carl Stern, former director of public affairs at the U.S. Department of Justice, joined the journalism faculty.
“The name change was at the request of the NCCS faculty,” said NCCS Director Jarol Manheim in the Feb. 11, 1996 edition of The GW Hatchet. “The name does a better job of capturing what we do.
“A typical university `center’ is used for research and not teaching,” he added. “Teaching is a much broader mission, and (SMPA) captures the range of what we do.”
The old name was also considered misleading after the department of speech communication broke off from the Center in 1995.
“Communications people are interested in small group communication and inter-personal communication,” said Linda Salamon, former interim Vice President of Academic Affairs. “If they are off by themselves, you can hardly have a program in communications.”
SMPA will encompass the journalism, political communication and radio/television programs and will remain in the Columbian School of Arts and Sciences.
“Any faculty and staff at NCCS will tell you they want to make sure undergraduate students have a sound liberal arts education,” Salamon said. “This school will not be as separate as the Elliott School (of International Affairs).”
Stern joined the SMPA faculty in the fall, teaching courses in radio and television news reporting and press law.
This spring, he also has added a special topics course in interpreting Supreme Court cases to his schedule.
“He has a lot to offer, in terms of experience, contacts and, especially, ideas,” Manheim said of Stern.
In the March 11, 1996, issue of The Hatchet, journalism professor Charles Puffenbarger noted that Stern would be “a nice addition . and will add a new perspective. It will be nice to have somebody with broadcast journalism experience and knowledge of the law.”
Stern, who has been a professor of journalism for 34 years, taught as an adjunct professor at the University in 1992 and 1993.
“A large component of my decision (to return to GW) grows out of my respect for the work of (GW President Stephen Joel) Trachtenberg and Jarol Manheim,” Stern said. “They are both highly regarded.”
He added that “(GW is) an exciting and constructive place.”
University and SMPA officials see the name change and addition of faculty as small steps in the potential growth of the school.
Other steps include the planned construction of an academic building at 21st and H streets next to the 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue shopping center and the addition of a master’s degree in media and public affairs.