College name change reflects degree diversity, redefines role of new media

By Stephanie Gomes

There are no more students in the College of Communications or the Department of Speech Communication. But, the new College of Media and new Department of Communication just got a boost in enrollment.

The process for the Department of Speech Communication to change its name to Department of Communication is over, which resulted in the College of Communications changing its name to College of Media.

The new names were approved by the Board of Trustees on March 26.

“Most departments around the country have dropped the word ‘Speech’ in their name,” said Barbara Wilson, communication department head. “We are the last ones to do this.”

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    The term “speech” does not reflect the span of topics the department focuses on, Wilson said. Although the department offers courses in spoken communication, it is just a small fraction of what the program offers, including interpersonal and political communication, she added.

    During the past four years, discussions were held of a possible merger of the College of Media’s Institute of Communications Research and the Department of Speech Communication.

    The Media faculty voted against the merger in February 2007, but there was still a desire for the department’s name change, said Susan McKenna, director of publications of the College of Media. The College of Communications was then asked to change its name to avoid confusion, she added.

    “Dean Yates saw that as an opportunity for the college to redefine itself,” McKenna said.

    Yates created the Committee to Rename the College early last year, consisting of about 15 members of faculty and staff, who represented faculty, staff, alumni and students.

    More than 200 name suggestions were originally submitted, which the committee narrowed down to 20, she said. From there, faculty and staff narrowed those 20 down to five, and a survey was generated in summer 2007.

    McKenna said two separate online surveys were conducted: one for faculty and staff and one for alumni.

    Faculty and staff were invited to complete the survey through e-mail, and information about the survey was placed in Alumni News, which reaches about 11,000 alumni and donors.

    “We had more than 800 responses from alumni,” she said.

    The same name rose to the top in both surveys: The College of Media Arts and Sciences.

    Yates forwarded the name to the Office of the Provost which began the approval process, McKenna said. The name met opposition from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and a program in the College of Fine and Applied Arts.

    “They thought the names were too close,” she said. “We were asked to go back to the drawing board.”

    The second most popular name was chosen: College of Mass Media. Many alumni did not like the term “Mass,” and Yates shortened it to the College of Media.

    Katherine Skiba, member of the College of Media student advisory council, said the name change will be difficult to get used to.

    “It’s strange because I’ve been a part of the College of Communications for three years,” she said. “I do think the name College of Media is a better representation of the college.”

    The new name encompasses all aspects of the college, she added.

    McKenna and Wilson said the final stage that needs to take place for both name changes is an announcement of the names from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.