School of Media, Department of Communication to merge

WKUs+School+of+Media+and+its+Department+of+Communication+are+to+be+housed+under+one+roof+in+Jody+Richards+Hall+after+a+vote+to+merge+the+two+units+passed+27-6.

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WKU’s School of Media and its Department of Communication are to be housed under one roof in Jody Richards Hall after a vote to merge the two units passed 27-6.

Michael Crimmins, Administration reporter

WKU’s School of Media and Department of Communication are to merge into one unit.

Twenty-seven members representing both programs voted in favor of the merger while six voted against in an anonymous vote.

Terrance Brown, dean of the Potter College of Arts and Letters, hopes to complete the process by July 1, 2023.

“His plan is for this to be settled by July of next year, ahead of the fall semester,” Ron DeMarse, director of the School of Media, said in an email. “So we have plenty of work to do – even this year – to be able to make that implementation date.”

DeMarse said the possibility of the merger had been an “open discussion since last spring.”

“Faculty members from both units spent their summer on a committee, working out the logistics and the potential benefits of a merger,” DeMarse said. “Quite a few of our alumni have weighed in on it too, most of them in favor of the move. And then, after plenty of discussion and feedback, both units voted – with strong majorities – to make it happen.”

The first order of business, Brown said, is to decide on a name for the merged unit. According to Brown, the name will need to be approved by the Board of Regents. At the time of publication, Brown has not met with the faculty to discuss potential names and hopes to announce a name soon.

“I’ve not had the meeting with the faculty to finalize the name,” Brown said. “Once we do, we will request board approval.

Rob Hale, associate provost for faculty and academic excellence, said WKU President Timothy Caboni would have the “final authority” regarding the merged unit’s name and location, according to the university’s policy on naming and relocation.

“While the policy doesn’t use the word merger, essentially, we would be relocating two departments so that they exist as one,” Hale said in an email. “The President would have the final approval on relocation and name change assuming that none of the degree programs are being eliminated or we are not adding programs as part of the relocation.”

Brown said DeMarse will serve as the director of the combined units. At this time, an assistant director has not been selected, but Brown said the assistant director will be a member of the Department of Communication.

“The merger will commence by appointing an assistant director from the Department of Communication faculty,” a release regarding the merger states. “With the support and supervision of PCAL Dean, Dr. Terrance Brown, the selection process will start soon.”

According to DeMarse, the selection process will likely start “within the next few weeks” with the possibility of an assistant director being named by January.

The combined unit will be housed in Jody Richards Hall, the current home of the School of Media.

“Communication and Media students sharing the space of Jody Richards Hall will help facilitate and forge new relationships and collaborations,” the release states.

Brown and DeMarse agreed it will likely be a long process to physically bring everyone under the same roof. DeMarse said that likely won’t happen “until the summer.” 

“Although I am sure there will be some growing pains, I believe, ultimately, the merged school will best serve the students and faculty of our many media and communication programs as well as the needs of the broader region,” Tony Harkins, interim department chair of communications, said in the release.

Administration reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]