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College of Communication and Information Sciences

HISTORY AND OBJECTIVES

The former School of Communication became the College of Communication on September 9, 1988, by action of the Board of Trustees of The University of Alabama in recognition of the school’s expanded role and scope. The College is the only communication unit in the state offering the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

The School of Communication had been created on July 1, 1973, by combining the existing Department of Journalism and Department of Broadcast and Film Communication with University of Alabama Television Services in a single administrative unit. During its first year, the School of Communication created an additional department, the Department of Advertising and Public Relations, from course sequences that had been part of the program in journalism. University Radio Services was established in 1980, as was the Communication Research and Service Center (now the Institute for Communication Research). On May 16, 1981, the Department of Speech Communication (now Communication Studies) moved from the College of Arts and Sciences to the School of Communication. On July 1, 1997, the College of Communication and the School of Library and Information Studies merged to form the College of Communication and Information Sciences. The School of Library and Information Studies began to offer its first undergraduate courses in information sciences in 1999 and a minor in fall 2000.

Advertising and Public Relations

Advertising and public relations are the disciplines that organizations use to communicate with their constituencies: customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, public-interest groups, voters, and the general public. The mission of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations is to serve as a leader in the generation and dissemination of innovative concepts and methods to solve advertising and public relations problems, and to provide innovative, high-quality instruction for students.

The curriculum provides an analytical and conceptual approach to understanding and practicing advertising and public relations. Students also gain an appreciation of the role of these disciplines in society. This is not a narrow tool or method orientation. Rather, courses blend theoretical and conceptual thinking with instruction in the latest business practices. The faculty seeks to educate highly competent, focused students who will be recognized for their leadership qualities—their abilities to discern issues relating to both the practice of their profession and its role in society, to develop and execute successful communication programs, and to lead others effectively.

Communication Studies

Since its founding in 1932, the Department of Communication Studies (formerly Speech Communication) at The University of Alabama has offered liberal-arts-oriented courses focused on the most fundamental and pervasive of human activities. Whether developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships, providing leadership for groups and organizations, or fulfilling the responsibilities of public citizenship and service, communication competence is central to a rewarding personal, civic, and professional life. The mission of the department is to prepare students to be competent communicators in whatever careers they choose by fostering their abilities to think critically, to express and to advocate ideas effectively, and to understand and appreciate the diversity of human communication practices.

The department traces its disciplinary origins to the rhetorical traditions of ancient Greece and Rome. In 20th-century programs in the United States, this academic discipline developed into an interdisciplinary field of study, encompassing both humanistic and social scientific approaches to human communication issues and practices in a broad range of public, interpersonal, and cultural contexts. Departmental courses emphasize the connections between thought, action, and public participation, studying theory and practice in the areas of rhetoric, persuasion, political communication, relational communication, organizational communication, leadership, and culture.

Communication studies majors may choose to focus in one of the following areas of study (though no tracking system exists): rhetoric and public discourse (pre-law emphasis), communication and culture, or organizational and interpersonal communication. With a degree in communication studies, graduates pursue an array of professions, such as the ministry, teaching, lobbying, human resources, sales, social work, special events planning, or speech writing, or advance to graduate study in such fields as communication, education, management, or law.

School of Library and Information Studies

The history of the School of Library and Information Studies began in 1929 when the University instituted an academic program in school librarianship within the College of Education. An Alabama Senate joint resolution in 1969 authorized The Board of Trustees of The University of Alabama to establish the Graduate School of Library Service. Since that time, the School has pursued a mission to provide students with the skills and knowledge required to meet the information needs of a diverse population. It has also grown substantially. The School has offered the master of fine arts (MFA) degree in book arts since 1985 and the PhD since 1988. In 1989, the School was renamed the School of Library and Information Studies, reflecting increasing academic and professional emphasis on emerging information technologies. In 1997, the School of Library and Information Studies merged with the College of Communication to form the College of Communication and Information Sciences. The School offered undergraduate courses beginning in 1999.

Journalism

Instruction in journalism at The University of Alabama began in 1925 with one course taught in the Department of English. The Department of Journalism was formed the next year, and 10 courses (taught by two faculty members) were listed in the University catalog. In 1930–31, journalism was first offered as a major, in combination with English or one of the social sciences; 24 hours of journalism were required. Courses in advertising and public relations were added to the curriculum in 1947. Graduate instruction leading to the Master of Arts degree began in 1950.

Information is at the heart of the program in journalism. The functioning of an open society requires an informed public. As a field of study, journalism emphasizes the gathering, assessment, and subsequent communication of information to both general and specific audiences. The student who studies journalism will be knowledgeable about the principles, structures, and techniques of modern news and information industries necessary to achieve the goal of an informed public. Students gain knowledge in the areas of writing, editing, design, photojournalism, multimedia production, history, law, ethics, and media management.

We live in an information age, but the volume of information is often overwhelming and its quality limited. It is the journalist — writing for newspapers, newsletters, magazines, radio, television, online outlets, and other media — who handles information so that the public has access to news that is accurately written. The mix of communication skills and liberal arts courses taken by journalism majors is excellent preparation for careers in other professions and for effective citizenship in the community.

Telecommunication and Film

In September 1940, the University established a Department of Radio Arts in the College of Arts and Sciences and a Division of Radio Services in the Extension Division, appointing a director to supervise both units. In 1946, the two units were separated, and the department became an exclusively academic area, charged with educating students in broadcasting. A graduate program leading to the master of arts degree was established in 1950, at which time the department’s name was changed to the Department of Radio and Television Arts.

In 1966, the department’s educational role was broadened to include film studies, and its name was changed to the Department of Broadcast and Film Communication. The current name was adopted in 1989, reflecting the advent of satellites, cable systems, fiber optics, and other electronic technologies. In addition to its other programs, the department participates in the College’s doctoral program in mass communication.

Electronic and cinematic mass media reflect, influence, and interact with all levels of contemporary society. Because of this, the Department of Telecommunication and Film provides an undergraduate degree program that develops discriminating consumers of the media in addition to potential professionals whose technical skill, managerial competence, reasoning ability, and ethical judgment enable them to offer media leadership. The media are considered as cultural, aesthetic, and social phenomena as well as sources of career opportunities. Telecommunication and film courses thus reflect a liberal arts and sciences orientation, with a professional focus.

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