Submitted Fall, 2002
The capstone course was developed to assimilate, as a body, the students in the department's various majors. Without this course many would never have had the opportunity to consider issues (ethical, cause and effect, and research) related to mass communications fields outside of their own. Many also would not have been required to read any scholarly research associated with communications. Further, it was the opinion of the faculty that all of the department's students needed additional writing opportunities and that they should be required to use a style with which they were not accustomed.
Two sections of the JMC 460 capstone course Mass Media and Society were offered in the spring 2001 semester. One section accommodated students who needed the three-hour course to satisfy the university Writing Intensive requirement. Other students, who had already fulfilled their 12 hours of WI courses, were able to complete 460 without completing the WI assignments. Of the WI group, all six students completed the course earning a C grade or above. Of the 33 non-WI students, only two were unable to earn a grade of C or above. Additionally, two of the non-WI students completed the WI requirements for Honors Program credit. Regardless of course classification, those students earning a C or above successfully demonstrated their understanding of the roles and functions of mass media in society to include: major theoretical concepts, principle mass communications research methods and some of the current ethical concerns involving media.
All 460 students: summarized scholarly journal articles from the mass communications field, participated in activities and exercises selected to demonstrate key mass communications theoretical concepts and ethical concerns, and completed the mid-term and final examinations. The WI students wrote four additional scholarly article synopses as well as conducted a textual analysis project that was presented in formal research paper format.
For the research project, students conducted original research by content analyzing select media text. For example, students examined the depiction of violence in select films, the representation of gender in children's television programming and on popular music packaging, the depiction of women and men in various print advertising media and the emergence of select themes in romance novels, to name a few. This assignment also required the students to present a recent review of the literature on the topic. Although few of the papers could be classified as superior or even outstanding, their work demonstrated an ability to examine a topic that is grounded in theoretical concepts as well as interpret the research in a manner consistent with the objectives of the course. A few of the students worked closely with the professor and/or with Writing Center counselors. In fact, these students demonstrated the ability to complete papers that were clearly written, mechanically sound and consistent with the style of presenting research in this field.
Performances and review of the same by outside entities play an important role in the department. External reviews legitimize the work of faculty and the curricula. Some examples of reviews of student performances follow:
- 1. UNK Forensics brought home their first National Championship from the National Forensic Association National Tournament April 19-23 held at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. The team placed first in President's Division Three beating thirty-one other teams.
- 2. UNK Forensics team was victorious at the Northeast Community College Hawk Invitational Speech Tournament in Norfolk, Nebraska February 2-3. UNK placed second in Division II Team Sweepstakes beating Northwest Missouri State, Nebraska Wesleyan and Concordia University. One member of the team, a junior, was the tournament champion in Quadrathon (top competitor competing in four different events). He was also the tournament champion in After-Dinner Speaking and Extemporaneous Speaking and he placed second in Impromptu Speaking. He was also chosen by his peers, coaches and judges as the Outstanding Public Address Speaker. Another UNK student placed fifth in Communication Analysis.
- UNK Forensics competed at the Wesleyan Weasel Forensics Tournament December 2nd in Lincoln. The tournament brought together top teams from throughout the Midwest. A UNK sophomore placed fourth in Impromptu Speaking and a teammate placed fifth in Extemporaneous Speaking.
- In a competition at the United States Air Force Academy, one member of the team placed 6th in Impromptu Speaking and another placed 6th in After Dinner Speaking.
- At South Dakota State University, a 5th Place in Impromptu Speaking was earned by a UNK student.
- The UNK Forensics team competed in the Pioneer Trails Forensics Tournament in Casper, Wyoming October 2000. The tournament brought together eighteen schools from Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Utah, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. A UNK junior placed third in Impromptu Speaking, fifth in Informative, sixth in After-Dinner Speaking, and was a semi-finalist in Extemporaneous Speaking. A sophomore teammate placed second in Dramatic Interpretation. Another sophomore member of the team was a semi-finalist in Extemporaneous Speaking.
- The UNK Forensics team kicked off the season with impressive finishes at the Creighton/Concordia Double-up Tournament held in Omaha, September 2000. The tournament brought together 32 top schools from throughout the nation. A UNK junior placed second in After-Dinner Speaking and fourth in Impromptu Speaking. A sophomore teammate was a semi-finalist in Impromptu Speaking.
- At the Nebraska ADDY's competition, two UNK students won an ADDY Award for a TV script they wrote regarding teen pregnancy. Another student won a Citation of Excellence for a :30 TV script for Dodge Trucks. This same student also won a trophy, called a "Judges Special Citation", which was awarded with the Best of Show trophies because "the judges just loved his copy." Two more UNK students won a Citation of Excellence for a :30 TV script entitled "Think Before You Act."
- A UNK student was one of four students selected in a national competition sponsored by the American Advertising Federation to tour advertising and marketing agencies, graphics houses and editing studios for one week in NYC. The student's travel expenses, meals and hotel accommodations were paid for by the AAF.
- A UNK advertising major won the Advertising Federation of Omaha Scholarship.
- UNK advertising students have increasingly been able to secure attractive internships. These students have, in many cases, been chosen by people at institutions outside of Nebraska. Selection is often based on writing ability, knowledge of the field and portfolio materials. Examples - during summer 2001 a Communication student is interning at Nylon Magazine in New York, another is at D'Arcy also in New York, a sophomore is interning at the Omaha World Herald, another secured an internship with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. and another one is interning at Empower IT in Bethesda, Md.
- A UNK broadcasting major won the Advertising Federation of Lincoln's Multicultural Scholarship.
- Of the 19 papers published in the 2000 - 2001 UNK Undergraduate Research Journal, six were written by Communication students. The editorial board consisted of one UNK faculty from each of the following departments: Biology; English; Chemistry; History; Education; Communication; Political Science; Management/Marketing; Accounting and; Music
The Antelope newspaper was mistakenly not entered in the Nebraska Press Association competition for writing, photography and design. In past years, the staff has often earned several awards at this annual event.
The seventh edition of the COMMFLYER.UNK, the department's alumni newsletter, was created and will be mailed in August 2001. Graduate Data Forms are still completed by students in the semester of their graduation. These have proven to be invaluable in terms of being able to locate and contact graduates to keep them informed of immediate employment opportunities. They are also used to build the database for alumni tracking and the newsletter mailing list. These forms of assessment will not be significantly changed or adjusted.
The portfolio review provides the student with an evaluation of his or her performance as a Journalism and Mass Communication major. By conducting the review the semester prior to graduation, the student has the opportunity to fine-tune his/her portfolio. One of the reasons for initiating this review was to help students prepare for interviews with potential employers by requiring them to gather data highlighting their knowledge and abilities. A second benefit derived from the evaluation process is that the chair is afforded the opportunity to spot systematic deficiencies and strengths in the portfolios and these observations are reported to faculty for their consideration.
This was the fourth complete year that portfolios were evaluated the semester prior to each Journalism and Mass Communications student's graduation. A total of 27 students had portfolios reviewed this year. The percentage of evaluators' selecting each of the responses is shown on the evaluation instrument. The scale for each item was Strongly agree, Agree, Neither agree nor disagree, Disagree and Strongly disagree.
Interpretation of the results is difficult as a new group of reviewers is selected each semester and they evaluate a different class of graduating seniors.
Many of the positive responses (Strongly agree/Agree percentages) on the part of reviewers are slightly lower than last year's data. This may be more a function of a relatively large and very competent group of students who graduated May and December of 2000 rather than a weakness of those who experienced the portfolio review process this academic year. The lowest rated areas concerned items 3 (grammar, spelling and form) and 7 (achievement). Weaknesses in any of items 1 - 6 on the evaluation carry over into or impact item 8 (competence). The faculty have and will continue to demand that students strive for excellence in the production of written materials.
Much like Performances, the internship program is a vital part of the academic program in this unit. External reviewers provide estimates of strengths and weaknesses in Communication students which might possibly be influenced by or addressed through curricula by faculty.
2000 - 01 JMC Internships
Fourteen students completed 15 different Journalism and Mass Communication internships since the last assessment review a year ago. They scored high in their "ability to work with others," a characteristic which is vital in the work world, but which is difficult to teach in a classroom. The interns also scored high in "Interest in job" and "Promptness."
Evaluation means showed minor improvements in four categories, slight declines in six categories and no change in four others. Regardless of whether scores were ranked high or low, the fact is that all of the mean scores were high; the lowest rating of 3.3 would translate to an 83% or a letter grade of B using the system that most faculty in the department employ (3.3 / 4.0).
The overall rating was 3.442, nearly identical to the 3.471 score from last year. This was still a very solid rating which provides room for improvement. The fact that no characteristic was rated under 3.3 this year compared to 3.2 last year is positive and suggests that the quality of the department's students completing internships is improving.
Four of fifteen of this year 's internships were outside of Nebraska. Of the rest, six were in Kearney and the other five were in Scottsbluff, Doniphan, Hastings, Omaha and Grand Island. Just over half of the students worked for the media and the others worked for a variety of companies and organizations.
2000 - 01 Speech Internships
During this assessment period, there were 14 internship enrollments. Internships were completed in a variety of settings, including organizations such as a communication consulting firm, distribution center, community foundation, television station, pharmacy, U.S. senatorial office, educational service unit, alumni association and a religious organization.
(See samples of comments which employers wrote about the internees)
Students were evaluated positively. Supervisors evaluated each student on 14 items. Ratings were on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being "unsatisfactory" and 5 being "very good." No students were rated below 3 on any individual item.
At this point in time, changes to the assessment plan appear to be unwarranted.