By Jacie Sellars, Staff Writer
September 26, 2022
Ouachita’s Communications and Media department was recently ranked #1 in the state of Arkansas by Niche. Niche is a website that collects data from hundreds of colleges and ranks them. The Communications and Media department has around 100 student majors, along with many who chose Communications as part of a double major or a minor. In the last few years, the department has expanded to include different emphases that allow students to specialize in their field of interest. Students can choose to focus on Strategic Communications, Visual Media and Film, Multimedia Journalism, Sports Media, Communication Studies or Integrated Communications. Some students chose to pursue more than one emphasis in order to gain skills in several fields.
Ultimately, a degree in communications provides a wide variety of job opportunities. Dr. Jeff Root, the Dean of Humanities, believes that the program qualifies students for many different careers. “One of the great things about communications is that it’s a communications world out there, and we have opportunities to prepare people with a variety of skills so that they can go out and be successful,” Root said.
Along with excellent in-class education, the department highly prioritizes experiential learning. Root said, “We have a lot of opportunities for hands-on learning, and a lot of students who want to have that kind of learning. Everybody has the chance to practice what they want to do when they graduate.” Students have many ways to get involved, such as writing for the newspaper, designing the yearbook, photographing campus events, or producing livestreams. This provides students with real work experience that can help them find a job after graduating.
Department head Dr. Deborah Root loves that the smaller size of Ouachita allows students to gain work experience right away. “One of the advantages of our program is that students can come in and get involved during their freshman year,” Root said. “At larger schools students might have to wait in line until they are upperclassmen, but we have students that work with us in their first semester.” Students also have the opportunity to work in every area of communications, and they are encouraged to pursue multiple interests. “You can get work experience every semester you’re here, and you can get it in several different areas. We want you to move around and get as much practical experience as you can,” Root said.
The Communications and Media department is also known for its strong alumni network. Many of the faculty went to Ouachita, and other former graduates come to visit often. According to Deborah Root, “We have very strong alumni connections with our graduates. Several of our graduates are in high-profile jobs and own businesses related to communications. At Ouachita, you build relationships and continue them after graduation, and so our alumni are very willing to come back and speak in our classes. This allows our students to know about different careers in the communications field early on in their college years.”
The program’s #1 ranking is a great honor that is exciting to students and staff, including Communications professor Dr.Rebecca Jones. “It’s exciting to have this sort of recognition and I think it underscores the work that we are doing. The opportunities that we give our students for experiential learning is a key strength and I’m so glad that we are able to invite our students into our various fields of media from day one,” Jones said. The Communications and Media department is looking forward to serving more students in the future.