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The Department of Communications at Simmons College has won a major award from the National Communications Association (NCA) for its innovative efforts to prepare students to meet the needs of the new, multi-platform media environment.
The 2011 Rex Mix Program of Excellence Award will be presented to the department at the NCA's national convention in New Orleans on Nov. 15-18. The award recognizes communication departments with a strong curriculum and broad student engagement and enrichment opportunities such as internships, service learning and community engagement experiences, and student/faculty research.
"I am both honored and delighted to accept this prestigious award on behalf of everyone in the department," said James Corcoran, chair of the department. "I am honored because this award comes from our peers and colleagues across the country, who recognize the quality program we have built. It is a superb affirmation of our work together."
Corcoran said he is "delighted" for two reasons: "First, the honor directly benefits both our graduates and current students because they now have a major that is recognized nationally for its strong reputation. Second, this affirms a decision we, as a department, made six or seven years ago to emphasize media convergence, the intersection and interaction of multiple media disciplines.
"Our students and graduates refer to this as a think tank approach, where they are put all together and get a unique mix of concept, skills, exposure, and output. I see it as a tapestry where all the individual pieces - graphic design, journalism, public relations, radio, and video production - are woven together into an intellectual unity that, when done correctly, results in something that is strikingly beautiful."
The Rex Mix review committee said in its announcement that it was impressed by how the department's application affirms its interactive, student-centered, and creative approach to communication education.
"Taken collectively, the department's courses honor the discipline's past, but also address students' future needs to have adaptable skills and analytical abilities in today's globalized information society," the committee wrote. "The courses repeatedly emphasize the necessity to apply communication theory and skills to real-world problems.
As it blends academic knowledge with professional practice, the program integrates media convergence in its courses, projects, study abroad opportunities, and internships. Although the Communications program has a strong media focus, students graduate with a broad liberal arts education."
A link to the selected work submitted for the award can be found at: http://web.simmons.edu/~commlab/mix/
The Department of Communications at Simmons has 11 tenured, tenure-line, and full-time contract faculty, one part-time faculty member, and three staff members. It offers its students majors in Journalism, Graphic Design, Public Relations/Marketing Communications, and Integrated Media. The department also has shared degree programs with the Art Department (Art Administration), Computer Science (Web Design), and English (Cinema and Media Studies).
The NCA is the largest national organization dedicated to the field of communication, with more than 8,000 members in all 50 states and 20 countries. The Rex Mix Award is given annually in honor of the award's namesake, a former communications professor and NCA leader from Lynchburg College in Virginia.
Mix believed departments should be recognized when they provide quality, innovative, and practical applications, and they have definite goals and a burning desire to achieve them. That national exposure would, in turn, motivate other small colleges and universities not only to compete, but also to examine their own programs for improvements that might eventually bring them the same honor.
The Department of Communications at Simmons College will be added to the Rex Mix Honor Roll that includes departments at Wake Forest, Wittenberg, and John Carroll universities, Concordia, Whitmore, and Hope colleges, Rochester Institute of Technology and Nebraska Wesleyan, and the Universities of Puget Sound, St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN), Montana-Billings, and Missouri-Rolla.
"In my more than 25 years in the department, I have been told we are the best kept secret along the Fenway," said Corcoran. "Well, we're no longer a secret. And that is a damn good thing."