The University of Wisconsin-Superior will bring back its journalism program this fall after a three year hiatus.
Journalism was one of 25 programs suspended on Oct. 31, 2017. Reimagined and retooled with a broad lens, the new program offers an array of opportunities built on a firm news foundation.
“We started over and redesigned, reimagined. And I think as a result, we created something that is as strong or stronger than anything we’ve offered before,” said Brent Notbohm, chairman of the communicating arts department.
A year and a half ago, academic departments at UWS were offered the chance to reinstate programs that had been suspended in 2017. The decision was made after faculty senate members sat down with Chancellor Renee Wachter, Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Maria Cuzzo and Dean of Academic Affairs Nick Danz to discuss the institution’s history and its future.
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Of the 25 suspended programs, only three moved forward for reinstatement — multimedia journalism and a global studies minor, both of which will start this fall; and a physics minor with a pre-engineering emphasis, which has since been put on pause.
The multimedia journalism program starts with the basics: news gathering, news writing and reporting, along with some digital technologies.
From there, students can branch out based on their interests, whether it's web design, public relations, print news or broadcasting. To facilitate that, the program’s multidisciplinary approach draws on classes in different campus departments, such as art, computer science and writing.
“I think it’s a really powerful thing for the student, because they learn from not just one or two or three professors in one area of discipline, but they have the opportunity to learn from a variety of professors from across campus,” Notbohm said.
The addition of an experiential learning component expands that reach even further. Students could opt to provide play-by-play of Yellowjacket sports events over iFan, write articles for the Promethean, send stories out over KUWS radio, create campus TV broadcasts, craft media for the University Relations Department or intern with media outlets in the community.
Multimedia journalism students will have new state-of-the-art equipment to use and a redesigned learning space. The recent $650,000 renovation of the Holden Fine and Applied Arts building includes a state-of-the-art digital media lab, restructured green room and a more open instructional space.
The multimedia journalism program rounds out the department’s offerings, which also include concentrations in theatre and digital filmmaking or communication.
Journalism is just as essential today as when Tom Hansen, communicating arts senior lecturer, was a student at UWS in the 1980s, cutting audiotape for the campus radio station WSSU.
“It’s important for the students to learn the proper way of telling stories, being fair, being accurate, being responsible, all those things. There’s some great stories to tell here … not only on this campus, but in this region,” he said.
There has been an uptick in the need for people who have journalism-based skills to collect information, interview people and tell a story that can be disseminated across media platforms. Traditional newsrooms are increasingly moving online, creating the need for digital storytellers who are adept at communicating across multiple formats.
Hansen’s connections to media throughout the Twin Ports helped officials collect data on what employers need and how the medium is changing, Notbohm said.
And the support the department has received from the campus during the rebuilding process has been tremendous, he said.
“To be honest, I think UWS is looking for ways to move forward,” Notbohm said. “I’ve been critical of some choices made in the past. But I can honestly say that the atmosphere on campus right now is as positive as it’s been in years in spite of COVID."
Public leadership and innovation
The 2017 cuts also played into the construction of a new public leadership and innovation program, which will kicks off this fall.
"We had some ideas, we had some capacity, we had some instructors who were looking for some new avenues," said Lynn Goerdt, associate professor of social work and program coordinator.
Officials applied for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for the planning process. Over six months, they built the program from the ground up with input from community leaders and in-depth market research.
"In a nutshell, it is about preparing people to be change makers in their community on the complex, interdisciplinary issues that need solving," Goerdt said, and it's designed to be relevant no matter where someone's from.
RELATED: UW-Superior introduces new major
One of those tapped for input was Jeff Skrenes, housing coordinator and planner for the city of Superior.
Skrenes knew he wanted to help people, so he pursued a social work degree. However, he would have preferred a program like public leadership and innovation, which offers hands-on training on how to make a difference at a community level.
"I think I'd have been more competitive in interviewing and job applications and plain old more effective once I got started," Skrenes said.
As with the multimedia journalism program, the public leadership and innovation major offers multidisciplinary classes and concentrated internships to help students focus on the issues they want to tackle.
It's uncommon to launch a new program. Previously, UWS introduced a writing major in 2014 and an environmental science major in 2017. More recently, the university added the school counseling graduate program and online modalities for psychology and computer science. With the new additions this fall, UWS will have 57 undergraduate and 10 graduate programs.
Healing a rift
Cuzzo said an additional 15 programs that had been put on a warning list in 2017 were listed as neutral under the same memorandum that gave departments the chance to bring suspended programs back. A continuous monitoring process will keep track of academic performance and identify struggling programs earlier. Also included was a toolkit to help a struggling program reset and strengthen itself.
The process has helped bring university officials back together, said Chancellor Renee Wachter.
“I’ve been so pleased with the inclusive, collaborative process we’ve undergone to reimagine existing programs and introduce new offerings," she said. "It has been an energizing and unifying experience, resulting in a vibrant array of programs that prepare UW-Superior students for our changing world."
Enrollment in the programs will be carefully tracked over the next five years, Cuzzo said, with the university getting out word and aiding in recruitment.
“These two majors are very tuned to career opportunities and preparing our students to effectively enter the workforce and be well prepared to go on to additional education,” Cuzzo said. “To me, these two programs represent the best of UW-Superior, meaning we are nimble and responsive and creative. And they summarize that capacity very, very well.”
This story originally listed incorrect information for the workplace Tom Hansen in the 1980s. It was updated at 1:09 p.m. Feb. 18. The Telegram regrets the error.