Staff Editorial: SMPA reevaluation

As part of the University’s overall strategic plan to improve school-wide academics, a task force is assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the School of Media and Public Affairs. At this point in the school’s 13-year history (from 1990 to 1995 the school was named the National Center of Communication Studies), it is appropriate to reevaluate the school’s purpose and direction.

SMPA has made a lot of progress and gained relatively high levels of recognition in its short history, but improvements are possible, and the University recognizes this.

One committee member said the group is “studying the external environment to make sure that SMPA will prepare students well for their future careers.” We wish to offer some suggestions.

With an overflow of journalism graduates pouring out of colleges across the country, there are more graduates than positions available. The committee should look for ways to help GW graduates stand out from the crowd. SMPA has taken a step by creating the unique political communication major – the first of its kind. Some students in the political communication and electronic media majors, however, have said it would help to have classes that focus less on theory and more on practical matters, especially in instances when multiple classes focus on the same theories. Practical skills such as production, video editing, field work and advanced political campaign work will improve GW students’ chances in the job market.

The school can further improve the standing of its graduates by looking into the plausibility of accreditation for the journalism program. American University’s journalism school is accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and GW’s is not, a clear disadvantage to GW journalism graduates when looking for work.

With the facilities on hand, a comprehensive, functional broadcast journalism option would also be beneficial to current students and attractive to incoming students. The committee should determine whether the SMPA is adequately utilizing the high-tech facilities available. It is important that the committee looks at all options to find a way to help SMPA reach its potential.

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