SMPA Director to form student council

New School of Media and Public Affairs Director Lee Huebner is forming a Director’s Advisory Council in an effort to hear more student feedback about the school.

Huebner, who began his term as SMPA director in July 2006 after a nearly two-year search process for a director, said the council is still in the planning stages. He added that he envisions an informal meeting with the students, the SMPA assistant directors and himself.

“This is a way for us to hear student voices and create a sounding board to communicate with the student body,” Huebner said. He noted that, though professors often have strong relationships with students, it is harder for him to always know what students are thinking.

Huebner said these meetings may be especially important because both GW and the media industry is changing. Students are often more comfortable with new kinds of media than faculty, and this can give them a unique perspective, Huebner said.

Over the last four years, SMPA has experienced several changes. In addition to a search for a new director, the school also consolidated the number of majors offered from three to two. The electronic media major was phased out and a greater emphasis on modern media training was incorporated into the other majors – political communication and journalism.

A committee headed by Donald Lehman, executive vice president for Academic Affairs, recommended the changes to stay updated to new media trends.

“I’d want the students to feel they can talk freely about anything; it’s sort of a student-focused thing,” Huebner said. He also said that the meetings will most likely be monthly, but it is possible they will have them more frequently.

The director said that he has already received positive feedback from both alumni and faculty. He has seen these kinds of advisory councils at other universities, including Northwestern University, where he served as a professor of communications of journalism prior to taking the top post at SMPA.

“The dean (at Northwestern) always found it helpful and useful as a channel of communication,” Huebner said, adding that the initiative is similar to the communication efforts of University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg to meet with students through his office hours.

Huebner said he has received more than a few dozen applications, and he is still in the process of reviewing them. He does not have a specific number in mind, but said he thinks there will be at least two dozen students on the council. Huebner said that he will be taking students from all four undergraduate years, as well as finding a balance between the two majors SMPA offers.

In an e-mail Huebner sent to all SMPA students earlier this month, he asked all interested students to write a letter to him that includes their reason for wanting to serve on the council and thoughts they have about the school. Huebner said he plans to finish reviewing applications this week and announcing names of the selected students sometime shortly after that.

-Brandon Butler contributed to this report.

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