Preparing Students for the Digital Age

July 09, 2018

The year 2008, to many of us, does not feel that long ago.

Yet how we communicate with one another has changed dramatically in one short decade. During that time, Facebook and Twitter were both less than five years old and smartphones in America had not hit their first full year on the market. Communications professionals have had to adapt to, and master, these new technologies as quickly as possible to be successful. 

As more students who enroll at Mount Union are Generation Z digital natives, innovative uses of technology are becoming more ubiquitous throughout not only our society, but on campus as well. Recruiting giant Monster reported that social media literacy was one of the seven most marketable skills for employers in 2018. The faculty of the Department of Communication at Mount Union are cognizant of the changes taking place in the world of communication and are finding unique ways to make sure students are fully prepared for life after college.

Kelby Smith video boardRaider Student Media
In response to the growth of social media and the change in traditional media markets, the Department of Communication has restructured The Dynamo and WRMU 91.1 FM into an overarching endeavor known as Raider Student Media (RSM). In its second year on campus, RSM has become so successful that Lynn Riggle, WRMU coordinator, and Dr. Len Cooper, associate professor of communication and program director of integrated media, have been asked to present on converging student media at a national conference.

“Companies aren’t looking for people who can just shoot video, just write articles, or just edit; they are looking for professionals that can do all three,” Cooper said.

WRMU has undergone a transformational change in programming in recent years. Pop and alternative music from the 1980s through current hits reverberate through the airwaves, taking the place of the former smooth jazz platform. Students still have the opportunity to DJ their own shows after taking a certain collection of prerequisites, giving them an experience not found at larger institutions.

“We benefit by not having to choose whether we work at the radio station or for the newspaper — we can do both,” said Mallory Glenn ’19, a writing major and news director of RSM, of Bowling Green, Ohio. “This flexibility allows us to become multifaceted, well-rounded individuals who possess a wide range of talents.”

Prepared PR Pros
The field of public relations in a growing one, which is reflected by the growth of the public relations major at Mount Union. Before the 2015-2016 Academic Year, the department retooled the curriculum in the major to be more closely aligned with the ideals of the Public Relations Society of America and the University’s student-run chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Focusing on the discipline as a strategic process brought forth courses in applied research, audience segmentation, and integrated marketing communication, among many others.

“After taking my Introduction to Communication class and Introduction to Public Relations class, I saw all the opportunities this major held,” said Brandon Lucas ’18, a public relations major of Garfield Heights, Ohio. “Whether planning an event or writing a press release, utilizing necessary skills is how one becomes successful, and I enjoy the challenges that public relations specialists face.” 

Andrea Ferraro

Lucas is one of several students in the department who have taken advantage of internship opportunities throughout their undergraduate careers. During the summer of 2017, he earned the unique opportunity to work for Destination Cleveland, Cleveland’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. 

Diversity in Communication
One of the most versatile majors at Mount Union is communication studies. Students can pair this major with a number of others to become more well-rounded individuals upon graduation. Current Mount Union students have to complete a Written and Oral Communication (WOC) Portfolio to graduate as part of the Integrative Core, which illustrates the University’s dedication to preparing students to be effective communicators upon entering the workforce. 

The communication studies major also requires its students to take a course on human diversity to enrich the cultural knowledge of its students. Dr. Jamie Capuzza ’85, professor and chair of the Department of Communication and director of the gender studies minor, is a champion for diversity efforts on campus. Capuzza has earned numerous awards for her research in gender equity. Recently, she was named Gender Scholar of the Year for 2018 by the Southern States Communication Association and earned the 2017 Top Book Award from the LGBTQ division of the National Communication Association for her book Transgender Communication: History, Trends, and Trajectories, which was co-edited by Dr. Leland Spencer ’07. 

Jamie Capuzza

“The humanities classes I’ve taken at Mount Union have helped me learn about other cultures and values in the world,” said Joe Mertens ’19, an integrated media and sport business double major of Cleveland, Ohio. “I took an Africana studies class my freshman year that showed me new cultures and beliefs. I also took a gender studies class that pointed out the stereotypes placed on society. I would say these classes helped me gain more knowledge on cultures and beliefs and added to my repertoire for my majors.” 

Greek philosopher Heraclitus is attributed with saying what is often translated into, “The only constant in life is change.” Though that was around 500 BC, his statement is still applicable today. With communication professionals, adaptation is one of the most important skills in a frequently-evolving field. With the implementation of new curricula and the restructuring of student organizations, the forward-thinking faculty at Mount Union are making sure students continue to be at the forefront of communication leadership.

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