The School of Communication at the University of Miami recently celebrated its 25th Anniversary. The history of the School is a chronicle of continuing development and accomplishment--from simple beginnings has emerged a multifaceted globally focused program for men and women who seek to lead the communication professions.
When the University of Miami opened its doors on October 15, 1926, a 2-credit Public Speaking course in the English Department was the only communication course available to students. Not unlike the description of the current Public Speaking course, this course emphasized the "Fundamentals of oral expression; a consideration of the principles of correctness, clearness, and effectiveness in speaking, with practice in the delivery of short original speeches."
A freshman recounted his first encounter with Associate Professor of Public Speaking and UM Regent Ruth Bryan Owen (inset) at the October 7, 1926 Country Club reception. "I got half my words twisted and stumbled over Mrs. Ruth Bryan Owen's foot. I'm sure I made an impression, at least on her foot." The Debating Society, the first incarnation of the Debate Team, was founded this first year. In 1927, the College of Liberal Arts introduced a Public Speaking major.
The student newspaper had its beginnings in November 1926 as a column called "University News" in the weekly Coral Gables newspaper, the Riviera Times. This turned into a 3-page publication (University News) that appeared briefly in 1927 but soon died out. It was born again as The Miami Hurricane on October 15, 1929. In 1929, the English Department offered the first two journalism courses: Newspaper Writing and News Editing and Copy Reading.
In 1932, a chapter of the Lead & Ink Society appeared on campus. Its purpose was "to recognize students who do outstanding work on school publications, whether in editorial, photographic, commercial or executive capacities; to promote interest in practical journalism."
By 1938, the university began offering a Journalism major in the College of Liberal Arts. Courses covered a wide range of subjects, from the History of Journalism to Copy Editing and Make-up to the Law of the Press. A class in Advertising Principles and Practice was also available.
For several years after the dawn of radio, the drama and speech departments presented various "Classroom of the Air" programs on WIOD radio, which would become the Radio Workshop course in 1940.
Some programs, coordinated by Drama faculty member Sydney Head (pictured second from left), included radio plays, choral reading, and interviews. Later in that year the faculty added Rolf Kaltenborn (far left), son of the famous radio commentator H.V. Kaltenborn, who gave his classes a national perspective on radio and more special projects in the laboratory.
By 1941, the university transmitted as many as three regular radio programs a week. The majority of the scripts were original, and almost all casts and production staff were composed of students in the workshop. Professor Paul Nagel, a UM graduate and faculty who taught broadcasting and film courses from 1950 to 1997, remembered well the radio era. "By 1948, radio programs were produced live in the Department's old North Campus and sent by special hook-ups to as many as eight different radio stations throughout the South Florida area."
In 1942, the Ibis, in a section of commentary on the school newspaper, deplored the existence of "Hurricanism, that largely involuntary malady whereby all sorts of strange things appear in the paper and all sorts of sensible things mysteriously remove themselves from view."
Perhaps due to these and other criticisms, in 1947, Hurricane editor-in-chief Lee Carpenter instituted training classes for new reporters on the staff. They seem to have been effective because later that year the newspaper won an All-American rating.
By 1947, the university completed the Memorial Classroom Building, which comprised the Beaumont Lecture Hall, the precursor of the Beaumont Cinema. Louis D. Beaumont, a prominent St. Louis merchant and Palm Beach retiree, had bequeathed $50,000 for the construction of the hall. In addition to serving as a classroom, the Beaumont Lecture Hall, and later on the Bill Cosford Cinema, has shown movies almost continuously since the 1950s.
Also in 1947, a chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists was established at the University of Miami "to promote the ideals of the national organization and give journalism students the opportunity to interact with people in their chosen profession."
In 1948, a major in Radio was finally introduced. The Radio Department, housed in the College of Liberal Arts and chaired by Sydney Head, had initially three faculty members. The following year, the department was renamed the Radio and Television Department and more than 200 students signed up for radio-video courses.
In less than a month after it went on the air on March 21, 1949, WTVJ and the Radio and Television Department began collaborating to telecast (live) student productions from the station's downtown studio facilities. Early productions included the UM Television Players featuring dramas and the UM Science Show Window featuring guests from the UM science departments. In December 1949, WTVJ and the department joined forces to broadcast the first stage play (The Comedy of Errors) and remote production from campus.
Tempo began in October 1949 as a magazine patterned after LIFE, with in-depth features and photo essays on university life. It was published until 1971. Pictured (right) are the Ibis, the Hurricane, Tempo, and the M-Book -- listing those winning varsity sports letters.
Alpha Epsilon Rho, the honorary arm of the National Broadcasting Society, came to campus in 1950.
Also in 1950, the Radio and Television Department added film courses and became the Department of Radio, Television, and Motion Picture, although a separate Motion Picture major would have to wait until 1974.
Initially, Motion Picture students used film for producing television news packages. In subsequent years, however, they developed a greater interest in cinema than in the journalistic use of the medium, as the department received more film equipment. In the mid-1950s, the Motion Picture program won the National Screen Producers Guild Annual Intercollegiate Film Award for a documentary about the University of Miami Library, called Books Alive. Interest in the UM Motion Picture program rose as the South Florida area became an increasingly popular venue for film production projects.
In 1954, the University of Miami debate team ranked the best in the country, winning almost every championship in the nation.
In May 1957, the University of Miami and the American Society of Magazine Photographers held the first Wilson Hicks International Conference on Visual Journalism, nicknamed "The Miami Conference." Co-founded by LIFE executive editor and UM faculty Wilson Hicks, this photojournalism conference dealt with "problems confronting the photographer, the writer and the editor in taking and making use of the photograph which, next to the word, is the most important instrument of communication in today's world." For three days, editors, writers, and photographers exchanged ideas about creative techniques and processes during panel discussions.
From 1957 to the mid-1970s and again from 1995 to 1997, "The Miami Conference" became a major rendezvous for visual communicators. Countless renowned speakers participated over the years, including Magnum Photos' Ernst Haas, author-photographer David Douglas Duncan, LIFE's Margaret Bourke-White, New York Times' Kathy Ryan, and National Geographic Magazine's Thomas Kennedy.
Until the establishment of the Frances L. Wolfson Building, there was no central location for the three communication-related departments of the time. Students took communication classes all over campus. Negotiation of space for classrooms and faculty offices often turned out to be a ferocious battle.
Up to the early 1960s, some courses were taught in the old Anastasia (North Campus) Building, located on University Drive, about 1 mile north of where the Coral Gables campus of the university is today. "It was a hastily completed hotel building," nicknamed the "Cardboard College" -- much to the chagrin of the administration. The Anastasia Building stood on the current site of the Coral Gables Youth Center and Public Library.
The stories about the decrepit state of Anastasia are legendary. By the 1950s, it was fair to say that rats and termites reigned over the building and often terrorized its residents. One day, as Dr. Head was teaching, a dog fell through the ceiling in the middle of the classroom. A fully composed Head went back to his office and called Physical Plant to report the incident. "Not a log, a dog," he retorted to the stupefied clerk. "Yes, the dog is fine."
The Radio, Television, and Motion Picture Department was one of the last departments to leave the building before its purchase and eventual demolition by the City of Coral Gables in 1968 (the red circle indicates the location of Paul Nagel [inset]'s bulldozed office).
In 1964, the Radio, Television, and Motion Picture Department moved on the Main campus into what is known today as the L-1 Building and surrounding shacks. At that time, the Journalism Department was housed in the Ashe Building, and the Speech Department had its quarters in what is now one of the apartment dorms.
In 1965, the Radio, Television, and Motion Picture Department changed its name to the Radio, Television, and Film Department.
In 1966, it merged with the Journalism Department to become the Department of Mass Communications and offered three sequences (News-Editorial, Radio-Television-Film, and Broadcast Journalism). Professor Simon Hochberger chaired the newly formed department. He began teaching journalism at UM in 1937 and retired in 1993.
The late 1960s also marked the beginning of WVUM ("Voice of the University of Miami")... as a clandestine radio station. Prior to 1967, a group of students in Mahoney Hall operated an illegal transmitter, which was promptly converted to a legal one after the Federal Communications Commission called the UM Director of Housing. In February 1968, WVUM received its official license to broadcast as a 10-watt noncommercial educational radio station on 90.5 FM.
In May 1968, under the supervision of the Men's Residence Hall Association, WVUM started broadcasting regular programming, such as folk music, a sports show, and announcements of campus activities. Interestingly, DJs were expected to follow "a specific and rigid format" and were prohibited from ad-libbing on the air to avoid making "fools of themselves." The student-operated radio station increased its power to 365 watts in 1981 and to 1,300 watts in 1993.
The 1970s ushered in an exciting decade for the Department of Mass Communications, filled with change and controversy. In 1973, The Miami Hurricane began an ambitious project. The editors asked Mrs. Marion Grabowski, the wife of a biology teacher and co-instructor with her husband of a class in human reproduction, to submit a weekly column in the paper answering anonymous questions from students about sex. The column was called "Across Mrs. G.'s Desk."
In her first column, she addressed the difference between normal and abnormal sex activity: "[Normal is] Anything with which both partners are comfortable and which does not hurt either one emotionally or physically.... There is also the matter of courtesy and good taste. The roof of Eaton Hall on Sunday morning seems to me to lack both." Her blend of common sense, compassion, and humor won her praise from all circles of university life.
Also in the 1970s, the Hurricane published several unsigned editorials each issue, in addition to regular columnists, under the motto, "Veracity does not consist in saying but in the intention of communicating the truth." In addition, after students complained about lack of service at the school cafeterias, the news editor volunteered to spend a day behind the hamburger grill, and his experiences with stress and rude students were published on the front page.
In 1974, Dr. Josephine Johnson became head of the newly-renamed (1973) Department of Communications (with an "s"), which now included five sequences (Broadcasting, Broadcast-Journalism, Journalism, Motion Picture, and Speech Communications). Enrollment in the department was up by 13 percent, and the administration was optimistic. "Our increase in enrollment is commensurate with the growing need and awareness of the importance of media in our lives," Dr. Johnson said soon after taking over the reins. By 1975, virtually all department faculty had moved into the L-1 Building and surrounding shacks.
In 1977, the department offered two additional majors: Public Relations and Photo-Communications.
Around 1980, some Department of Communication faculty moved to the first floor of the Merrick Building. With the expansion of the department, some Motion Picture faculty migrated from the L-1 Building to the first floor of Memorial Building in the mid-1980s. By the late 1980s, communication classes and faculty offices were held in the following buildings: Merrick Building (faculty offices), L-1 Building or "Shacks" (Motion Picture and photography), Memorial Building (Bill Cosford Cinema and Motion Picture), Cablevision Building (cable studios), and the Learning Center (faculty offices and classrooms).
In 1981, the Department of Communications changed its name to the Department of Communication, without an "s." It added a Master of Arts degree in Communication in 1982 and an undergraduate Advertising major in 1983.
The early 1980s also saw the beginning of new student groups at the university, including PRSSA for public relations students in 1981 and the appearance in 1983 of The Miami Tribune, a student-run, albeit short-lived, newspaper started by a former Hurricane columnist who wanted to present more prominently the conservative views of students on campus.
In December 1983, the Department of Communication sponsored the first Annual Intercultural Communication Conference on Latin America and the Caribbean.
Thanks to a $500,000 grant from Dynamic Cablevision, the Department of Communication was able to build a state-of-the-art television production facility (current Studio C) and operate a 24-hour local cable channel in the spring of 1984.
The cable channel, known as Channel 51 or U.M. Cable, was established through an agreement between the University of Miami and Dynamic. Now positioned as Channel 24 on the university cable line-up and as Channel 96 on the cable system in Coral Gables, it remains an important vehicle for UM student productions. U.M. Cable was renamed UMTV in the early 1990s.
During the summer of 1984, the department hosted its first Urban Journalism Workshop, now called the High School Journalism Workshop, for 15 minority students from Dade County high schools. Within 11 days, the students produced an 8-page tabloid newspaper as their final project. Today this program, named The Peace Sullivan and James Ansin High School Journalism Workshop continues to be a premiere summer training program that embraces a multimedia journalism experience for its students.
The biggest development in the mid-1980s was the achievement of school status. The idea of creating a School of Communication had been around since the mid-1970s, but it was not formalized until 1979 when the department first suggested the idea to the UM Faculty Senate. In early 1984, a visiting committee, set up by then-President Edward T. ("Tad") Foote II, recommended that a School of Communication be established as a free standing school outside of the College of Arts and Sciences and that Communication students be required to take a second major in Arts and Sciences.
In early November 1984, the Senate adopted a proposal to transform the Department of Communication into a school. On November 20, 1984, the University of Miami Board of Trustees approved "the establishment of a School of Communication effective June 1, 1985."
In the fall of 1985, there were 323 undergraduate students and 44 graduate students enrolled in the School.
In April 1986, Edward J. Pfister began his tenure as the first dean of the School of Communication. He expressed high hopes for the future of the School: "I think the School is poised to be one of the genuinely fine schools of communication in the country."
Also in 1986, the University of Miami received a $5 million grant from the Knight Foundation to endow four faculty chairs, including one in the School of Communication.
In September 1987, the Ad Group chapter, affiliated with the American Advertising Federation, was formed at the University of Miami.
In the summer of 1989, the Motion Picture program offered the first National Film-Art-Music Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) workshop in Prague. In the fall, the School of Communication began offering a Master of Fine Arts in Motion Picture.
Also in 1989, the Division of Communication Services, which, since 1961, had been a centralized audiovisual department for schools and departments under the Provost's office, and later under the College of Arts and Sciences, became a unit of the School of Communication. In its heyday, it had produced countless educational television programs in Natural Sciences, Humanities, and Social Sciences for large classes taught in the Whitten Learning Center. The title of Communication Services changed to CAMM (Center for the Advancement of Modern Media) in 1995.
The year 1991 saw the creation of the Miami News Service, led by Professor Tsitsi Wakhisi and housed in "the bunker" -- a small windowless room in the basement of the Learning Center. There, graduate and upperclass students worked on stories that were distributed to local and regional newspapers, such as The Miami Herald, the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Today, The Miami Times, and the South Dade News Leader.
In 1992, the School of Communication became accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC). Thanks to the hard work of then-Associate Dean Lem Schofield and the accreditation task force, the council called the school "well on its way to becoming a major national force in communication studies."
In September 1994, Cable Studio B was renovated and renamed the Robert Corley Groves Broadcast Journalism Studio, for a student and well-known alumnus who was killed in December 1988.
In October 1994, local public relations pioneer and UM graduate Hank Meyer donated the offices of Hank Meyer Associates to the university "for use as a working classroom." In 1995 and 1996, the School of Communication used the 5000-square-foot, two-story building, located on 2990 Biscayne Boulevard, to develop advertising and public relations campaigns for local not-for-profit clients. In March 1998, the university sold the building.
Also in the fall of 1994, Professor Sanjeev Chatterjee started the student-operated video Documentary Unit, which produced two documentaries in 1995, Profiles in Miami and Sharks: A Bimini Journal. At about the same time, the Center for the Advancement of Modern Media was born.
In 1995, the Beaumont Cinema underwent a $250,000 renovation to repair the seats, improve the sound system (Dolby Sound System), and update the projection screen and equipment (CinemaScope).
The theater was renamed the Bill Cosford Cinema in honor of Bill Cosford, who was a Miami Herald movie critic and beloved adjunct professor in the film program until he died suddenly in January 1994 at the age of 47. The newly-renovated independent movie house continued the tradition extolled in The Miami Herald in 1998 as "free of the economic squeeze that is driving Dade's remaining single-screen art houses out of business...free to touch up the cultural life in these hard times for film lovers." The 232-seat Cosford Cinema still shows independent films as well as blockbusters and student-produced films.
Under the leadership of then-Director of Graduate Studies Dr. Mitchell Shapiro and Dr. Don Stacks, the School of Communication drafted the first proposal for a Ph.D. program in Communication during the 1995-1996 academic year. After revisions, the Faculty Senate approved it in September 1999. The School now regular enrolls 15-20 doctoral students.
In October 1995, the School of Communication launched its first Web site.
In March 1996, the Hurricane went online to bring student work to a larger audience.
In 1999, the film sound stage (Studio A) was renovated. It is used to teach lighting techniques and as a studio for student films.
On Monday, December 7, 1999, 11:00 am, the School of Communication celebrated the groundbreaking of the $12-million Frances L. Wolfson Building.
In the fall of 2000, the School of Communication welcomed its first four Ph.D. students. At the same time, it began offering a new undergraduate major in Media Management.
But the most exciting development in the history of the School of Communication during the early part of this decade was the completion of the Frances L. Wolfson Building, which now houses all facilities and faculty under one roof. The new home of the School of Communication was dedicated on the sunny afternoon of May 26, 2001. An estimated 400 alumni, administrators, faculty, and students attended the ceremony.
In the fall of 2001, the undergraduate Communication major, which had replaced the Speech and Organizational Communication majors as a consolidated major in 1988, was revised and retitled Communication Studies.
In February 2002, the School dedicated the Marta S. Weeks Experimental Laboratory in the Frances L. Wolfson Building, room 2038. Created in 1998, this multimedia lab is designed to enable upper-level students and faculty to test new computing software and hardware for professional and curricular ends.
In April 2002, the Reading and Resource Room was renamed the Sydney & Dorothy Head Reading and Resource Room, in memory of the former UM broadcasting professor and his wife.
In December 2002, the School dedicated the Richard D. Buckley Audio Lab to teach about digital radio production and other forms of audio production.
In the fall of 2003, the School of Communication launched three new programs: a unique Master of Arts degree program in journalism, taught entirely in Spanish; a series of professional workshops in journalism, photography, video production, screenwriting, graphic design, and web design, also taught in Spanish; and a complementary research bureau that will examine changing trends in the U.S. Hispanic population and assist practicing journalists to better understand and address those trends.
In the fall of 2004, the photo program was reorganized to become the Visual Journalism/Photography major in the School of Communication's Journalism program. This change expands the scope and mission of the program to reflect the convergence of digital media. The Visual Journalism/ photography major combines photography, print design, web design, new media, and video into a program that exposes the power of visual storytelling.
In early November of 2004, President Shalala and Dean Pfister were among the many to take part in the ground breaking ceremony of a new Student Center for the School of Communication. Founding Dean Pfister stepped down in the spring of 2005.
In the fall of 2005, Sam L Grogg was named Dean of the School of Communication. Grogg, a scholar and a professional motion picture financier and producer, served most recently as Dean of the American Film Institute graduate Conservatory. Dean Grogg’s first challenge was to oversee the completion of the School’s new facility which was named the School of Communication International Building to reflect the School’s commitment to a global communication perspective in all of its aspects. The new building was opened in January of 2007.
Dean Grogg launched a multi-faceted effort to raise the profile of the School on the national and international scene, further upgrade the School’s technology to reflect that of the contemporary professions, inculcate a more diverse, multi-cultural and international learning experience, encourage more utilization of hands-on pedagogy, strengthen ties between the School and other aspects of the University, encourage more student involvement in the community, balance the largely teaching mission of the School with increased support of scholarship and research and develop a consistent strategic planning process to allow the School to adapt more quickly to necessary curriculum change and related needs of students and the realities of the professions.
Dean Grogg’s first official act was to name the School's Courtyard a "Common Ground" for the protection and expression of First Amendment Rights. “This central gathering place within the School is a constant reminder of the essential freedoms that insure communication in a free society,” stated Dean Grogg at an inaugural Courtyard event honoring author Salmon Rushdie.
The Common Ground has been the backdrop for a panorama of School, campus and public events and the central forum for the School’s annual Communication Week.
In the winter of 2007, the School hosted the international WeMedia Conference where Dean Grogg joined Alberto Ibarguen and President Shalala to announce a $10,000,000 grant to establish the Knight Center for International Media and to endow the Knight Chair in Cross Cultural Communication and the Knight Chair in Visual Journalism at UM. The Knight Center is one of many significant landmarks in the history of a School that is well on its way to making a difference through the higher education of communication professionals.
Committed to expanding the School’s primary research resources, Grogg acquired the Raymond J. Regis Motion Picture Collection and established the School of Communication Moving Image Archives. The archives currently holds nearly 2000 35mm original prints of classic and contemporary theatrical films as well as almost 3000 short films and videos.
Grogg and faculty member and documentary film producer, Sanjeev Chatterjee worked with the Knight Foundation to consolidate a number of School activities under the umbrella of a new Knight Center for International Media. The Center is dedicated to utilizing multimedia journalism in the development of innovative ways to communicate across borders in order to report underrepresented stories of global significance. Sanjeev Chatterjee was named the Center’s Executive Director in 2007. The Center has been at the heart of the School’s efforts to develop a global vision and to emphasize a multicultural, international approach to understanding all aspects of human communication.
In early 2008, Joseph B. Treaster was named Knight Chair for Cross Cultural Communication. A few months later, Richard Beckman was named Knight Chair for Visual Journalism. These two endowed chairs have led the School’s efforts to expand its international curriculum and to integrate new visual multimedia throughout the learning experience.
Also in early 2008, Sam Roberts stepped down as Frances L. Wolfson Chair in Broadcast Journalism. Veteran journalist and producer, Ellen Fleysher, was named Wolfson Chair in the fall of 2008. In the same year, the School unveiled a completely renovated all digital broadcast operation and revised its curriculum creating a newly named program in Electronic Media, Broadcast Journalism and Media Management. The School also renamed its program in Visual Communication, Visual Journalism, and greatly expanded its multimedia and new media curriculum.
The School ratified its new strategic plan in 2008 with the avowed purpose to “Advance the well established School of Communication to world class status and impact for the purpose of global well being.” The result has been an increasingly global adventure for the students and faculty who seek to use the power of professional communication to simply improve the quality of life for the planet and its people.
In July of 2011, the School of Communication welcomed Gregory J. Shepherd, a distinguished communication faculty member and administrator for nearly 30 years, as its new dean. Shepherd is the third dean in the school's history.
Under Shepherd's guidance, the School embarked on the largest reorganization in its 28-year history when in August of 2012 it went from seven individual programs to four departments, each headed by a department chair. The new departments: Cinema and Interactive Media, Communication Studies, Journalism and Media Management, and Strategic Communication, were created to streamline operations at the school and boost faculty involvement in decision-making.
Dean Shepherd leads the charge as the School reaffirms its vision to become the best school of communication in the country, as it carries out its mission of preparing students to be proficient in all forms of media while developing a global perspective so they can make a positive difference in their communities and around the world.
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