Southeast’s Mass Communication Program Awarded ACEJMC Accreditation



May 13, 2005 – The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) voted May 6 to award initial five-year accreditation to Southeast Missouri State University’s mass communication program.

Five professional-track options in mass communications – journalism, advertising, public relations, radio and video production — were accredited following a meeting last week of the ACEJMC in Portland, Ore.

Dr. Susan Gonders, professor of mass communication at Southeast, said the stamp of approval from ACEJMC is currently held by only 106 universities in the United States, and less than 20 nationwide are accredited in all five of the fields for which Southeast has been accredited. The only other accredited school in the state is the University of Missouri, she said.

Southeast’s program was reviewed by 51 of the nation’s leading academicians and professionals in mass communication. The program was found to be in full compliance on all of the accrediting standards and meritorious of full accreditation.

Southeast and one other university, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (SIU-E), were granted  initial accreditation this year. Since SIU-E previously held accreditation but was denied reaccreditation in the late 1980s, Southeast is the only program accredited this year for the first time.

“Students majoring in mass communication at Southeast will get a positive assist in their job searches upon graduation from an accredited program,” said Tom Draper, interim chair of the Department of Communication at Southeast. “The Department is pleased to have the excellence of its programs evaluated and approved by this national organization.”

The four-step accreditation review process began with documenting the program’s previous five to six years in a comprehensive written self-study, which was submitted to the Accrediting Council prior to the arrival of a site visit team to Southeast last fall.

When the late Dr. R. Ferrell Ervin was selected to chair what was then the Department of Mass Communication at Southeast in 1987, he was given the mission of achieving ACEJMC accreditation. Through his guidance, the program was developed in accord with the challenging accrediting standards. Ervin died Oct. 22, nine days before the site visit team arrived on campus, but, over the preceding summer, he directed the writing of the self-study in collaboration with Dr. Martin Jones, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and Gonders.

Dr. Dan Lattimore, dean at the University of Memphis, chaired the team conducting the rigorous on-site review at Southeast along with Dr. Patricia Curtin, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Dr. Nancy Mitchell, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Dr. Bruce Smith, Texas State University; and, representing the nonacademic professions, journalist Tom Rawlins, previously a reporter and editor in Jackson, Miss., and in St. Petersburg, Fla., who currently resides in Colorado.

After visiting classrooms, reviewing all records, and interviewing administrators, faculty, students and other people at the University, the site team found Southeast to be in full compliance with the high accrediting standards of ACEJMC. Accrediting standards apply to mission, governance and administration, budget, facilities and equipment, faculty teaching and scholarship, professional and public service, student services and advising, curriculum and instruction, assessment of learning outcomes, and diversity in the student population, faculty and curriculum.

Members of the review team finalized a detailed report that was forwarded to the ACEJMC Accrediting Committee, which met in April in Chicago, to verify that the review process was conducted properly and reached an appropriate recommendation.

Lattimore said the visit to Southeast was the “smoothest,” “easiest” and “best organized” of the 19 site visits in which he has participated in the last decade. “If anything,” he concluded, “they are in over-compliance.”

Accrediting Committee Chair Doug Anderson, dean of the College of Communications at Pennsylvania State University-University Park, said the Southeast “effort had wonderful attention to detail. A collegial faculty are dedicated to students with a strong advising program and a strong service component.”

Charles Higginson, assistant to the executive director at the ACEJMC office at the University of Kansas, said the program is in “excellent shape” and the program’s self-study “is far stronger than would be expected for a school up for initial accreditation.” He said the self-study “reads like a program up for reaccreditation.”

Members of the Committee and the Council represent the member organizations, which include the American Advertising Federation (AAF), American Academy of Advertising,American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), Arthur W. Page Society, Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), Associated Press Managing Editors Association, Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication (ASJMC), Association for Women inCommunications Inc. (WICI), Black College Communication Association (BCCA), Broadcast Education Association (BEA), Inland Press Association, National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, Newspaper Association of America (NAA), Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Southern Newspaper Publishers Association (SNPA), and the Council’s parent organization, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

The 15-member Accrediting Committee includes eight educators and seven industry representatives. The Council president is a voting, ex-officio member of the Committee. The Committee chair is Anderson. The vice chair is Tom Kunkel, dean of the College of Journalism at the University of Maryland-College Park.

The accreditation calls for Southeast to undergo a sixth-year review to ensure the quality of the programs is maintained, Gonders said.

The mass communication and speech communication studies programs at Southeast merged three years ago into the Department of Communication. Interim chair is Dr. Tom Draper, chair emeritus from the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Full-time mass communication faculty are Dr. Tamara Baldwin, Dr. James Dufek, Dr. Susan Gonders, Dr. Karie Hollerbach, Dr. Don Jung, Dr. Roy Keller, Dr. Bruce Mims, Fred Jones, Tamara Zellars Buck, Cindie Jeter Yanow and Roger Stout. Full-time speech communication studies faculty are Dr. Mike Weatherson, Dr. Larry Underberg, Dr. Glen Williams, Dr. Roseanna Whitlow, Karen Kight and Jennifer Summary. Communication staff who support the faculty are Gina Harper, Jerri Coleman and Richard Reagan.

Founded in 1945, the 31-member Accrediting Council is composed of associations of educators and professionals involved with the professional education of students for careers in mass communication. Saundra Keyes, editor of the Honolulu Advertiser, is the current president of the Accrediting Council. Vice president is Dr. Will Norton, dean at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who conducted two pre-reviews in the last 10 years to help the mass communication program at Southeast prepare for the accreditation process. Susanne Shaw is executive director of the ACEJMC office headquartered at the University of Kansas.