Post Classifieds

Communication department wins national award of excellence

By Billy Davis
On October 10, 2008

Sitting in front of a PhD that has already strained your vocabulary, your knees chatter and your mind is skipping anxiously, thinking: "I don't want to speak!" Nearly all students will or have experienced this feeling in COM 111. But thankfully the professors of the Communications Studies department muscle them out of this shell if they pursue the major. The department has earned the Rex Mix Program of Excellence Award. This competitive level of prestige is awarded to only one small school a year by the National Communications Association, making the major an even greater value for Western students. But why Western? What makes this program so fantastic that the oldest national organization for the academic study of communications would recognize the pit-stop of Monmouth? The rationale given by Alice Araujo, Rex Mix Award Chair, stated that Western's communications department "solidly ground(ed) their programs in the theoretical foundations of the field while embracing new developments and advancing practical application in innovative ways." Araujo also said, "Diversity and depth permeate (the) program." However, her statements hardly cover the merits for this coveted decoration. The department offers open group discussions and simulations that engage communication students, allowing the chance to grapple with concepts and apply them to reality, as in the course Conflict Management. The department emphasizes community service-learning which builds empathy and empowerment simultaneously in courses like Contemporary American Public Address. The program exemplifies and inspires a passion for rhetoric in courses like Rhetoric of the Women's Movement, dissecting the past for future utilization and for our present struggles. Furthermore, Dr. Nick Backus highlighted the department's "genuine interest in (their) students." Dr. Claire Ferraris added that the professors "are there for each other with a generosity that creates a genuine team effort." In regard to sources of pride in students, there are "too many things to name," said Dr. Molly Mayhead. Dedicated to students and to each other, the faculty takes pride in their work, so it is the engagement of faculty that is noteworthy; advising is offered beyond office hours, diverse opportunities are organized outside of job requirements without compensation, and a relationship with students includes beating them at bowling or even texting. In Dr. Plec's eyes, "it is not our program that is the pearl among the jewels of our institution. (But rather the faculty are) mollusks, creating the conditions in which...students may grow and change and become shining pearls." The Communications department earned this distinguished award for excelling at this perception of duty, with the help of driven students responding to challenges. Dr. Plec will be accepting the Rex Mix Program of Excellence award at the National Communication Association convention in San Diego in November.

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