Communication program earns department status


Daniel Yun

Chuck Haga, a lecturer in the Communications department at UND, teaches a course on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. Photo by Daniel Yun/Dakota Student

Jacob Notermann, Staff Writer

Communication has achieved department status at UND. The change was brought on by students claiming employers favored degrees from academic departments rather than an academic program. Departments are cited for having a better grasp on “academic and professional prestige.”

Although the upgrade is not expected to change the structure of the curriculum or the courses in the new department, student opportunities are expected to increase.

Tim Pasch, Chair of the Communication Program, made the announcement via email.

“The fact that we are entering into this move in a position of academic strength as a department, enables far more dynamic opportunities towards enriching the student experience in the department of communication,” Pasch said.

Department status is expected to assist the recruitment efforts for communication degree-seeking students for both the graduate and undergraduate programs.

For faculty, the change allows the university to upgrade tenured positions.

The program will not only change its title, but it will also change real estate. The department is expected to move from O’Kelly Hall into the old School of Medicine building this coming summer.

“I am deeply enthusiastic that the expanded infrastructure that this opportunity will provide, coupled with formalized departmental status, will spur positive innovation, enhanced student enrollment, University-wide collaboration, and generate opportunities to even better contribute to the campus community,” Pasch said.

Part of the move includes renovations of the building. This includes the library space on the second floor to be transformed into a “cutting-edge, highly innovative instructional, research and teaching environment highly focused on digital innovation.”

The process of reaching department status is a lengthy one.

“This [transition] is highly significant for our academic unit, and represents the culmination of a concerted and dedicated series of steps that have taken place over the past eight years,” Pasch wrote.

The mentioned eight years is in reference to 2008, when communication transitioned from the school of communication to the communication program.

Since then, the program underwent new bylaws and assessment plans, waves of new faculty members, a new graduate program and documentation for the process to go through.

The communication program’s proposal for department status was submitted at about this time last year.

“We have [been] transforming the culture of the unit, as well as increasing professionalism, ensuring compliance with administrative requirements (including fiscal), generating comprehensive reform in process and procedure, and enhancing the quality of teaching, research, collaboration and service emanating from the unit,” Pasch said.

Debbie Storrs, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences since 2013, had been a key player in the transformation for communications.

“I am impressed with the collaborative work of the communications faculty and staff as you have revised curriculum, revitalized the graduate program and developed TRP guidelines,” Storrs wrote in a letter to the College of Arts and Sciences. “You have recruited excellent faculty to the program… shar(ing) commitment to student success with strong numbers of majors and significant total student credit hours.”

The common threads in all of this have been the strive for enhancing the quality of the curriculum as well as the ability to offer an environment for innovative collaboration.

The field communications covers is one that includes the ever-changing trends and the utilization of technology in a world that continues to move faster. The prospective renovation on the old med building is meant to be the place for students and teachers to research the digital platforms of tomorrow.

While the structure of the courses has not changed, department status and the environment being created allows communications to stack up with other colleges. Opportunities for students and faculty increase thanks to a title change many students may not have noticed.

Jacob Notermann is a staff writer for the Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]