When asked to describe their program, Lander University's mass communications faculty will all respond with the same phrase: "hands-on."
Paul Crutcher, lecturer of media and general manager of Lander's student radio station, XLR, remembers an instance where one of his earlier students dropped the microphone during an interview his very first week of class.
"He's now soaring in his career," said Crutcher.
That's just how learning works at Lander. While similar programs at other institutions require that students wait until their junior or senior year before participating in student media, Lander's students can begin receiving that hands-on experience as early as their freshman year. It's something that Crutcher, who founded XLR in 2009, and the rest of Lander's highly credentialed mass communications faculty take a lot of pride in.
In addition to radio experience, the program provides several other outstanding student media opportunities for mass communications students, as well as students of other majors. Cory Carpenter, assistant professor of digital media, serves as the general manager of LUX Studios, which provides students with the technology and studio space to create content and collaborate with other students on larger projects. Meanwhile, Dr. Robert Stevenson, professor of journalism, serves as faculty advisor to The Forum, Lander's student-produced newspaper.
And each year, the department hosts the annual Lander University Film Festival, which celebrated its 10th year in April. The festival includes a two-week short film competition, and requires film directors to use a unique line of dialogue, written by Hollywood writers and directors. It's the only student film festival in the entire country that requires lines of dialogue provided by industry professionals.
"We take a real-world approach to education," said Laura Hester, associate professor of mass communications and department chair, noting that while other academic disciplines may focus on learning done inside the classroom, Lander's mass communications program focuses on experiential learning that is done outside of the traditional classroom setting.
Hester also emphasized the program's comprehensive course structure. Students are required to take courses in oral, visual and written communication, in addition to coursework in communication through media technologies such as print, radio, television and web. Hester believes the well-rounded program helps produce skilled candidates who are ready for a plethora of job opportunities after graduation.
If you visit the Department of Mass Communications yourself, you would first be greeted by a wall proudly displaying dozens of success stories. Recent alumni have gone on to work for Radio Disney, Fox and NBC TV news affiliates, regional newspapers and theatres, and in marketing and public relations for non-profits, corporations and health care systems. "We love hearing from our graduates, and being able to keep up with what they're doing in life after Lander," said Hester, who updates the alumni wall regularly.
Not every graduate, however, ends up working in a traditional mass communications field. Yet, Crutcher insists that is just another sign of the success of Lander's program. "The principles that we teach can be utilized in any field," said Crutcher. "If I can communicate more effectively, it makes me a better employee."
Lander University's Department of Mass Communications is the official home to the LU Forum, Lander's student newspaper. Run primarily by students under the advisement of Dr. Robert Stevenson, professor of journalism at Lander, the Forum posts articles regularly on its online format, which can be found at www.luforum.com. In the spring of 2018, the Forum relaunched its monthly print edition thanks to the support of Greenwood's Index-Journal, which generously offers its press operations to Lander for 2,500 issues that are distributed to students on campus, as well as alumni and friends of the university, and the university's Board of Trustees.
After receiving the encouragement of President Cosentino, a campus survey was conducted which found that, contrary to popular belief, students still enjoy reading the printed version of the LU Forum as much as they do the online format. New copies of the paper can be picked up each month at several locations around Lander's main campus.
This story is featured in the Fall 2019 edition of Lander Magazine. Read more at www.lander.edu/magazine.