“I have a son who is a senior in high school. He wants to be a journalism major,” said Roush, senior associate dean for undergraduate students in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “I am only letting him apply to journalism programs at universities that have accredited journalism schools because I can feel comfortable knowing that those journalism schools are going to give him the training and the skills that he needs to be a professional journalist.”
From Feb. 8 to 11, a group of professionals from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications will visit UNC’s journalism school. Currently, the council has 114 fully accredited programs.
Prior to the accreditation team’s visit, the school submitted a self-study report, which included more than 400 pages of information about the school. The team is made up of deans and professors from other journalism schools.
Caleb Waters, a sophomore journalism major, said he thinks the athletic-academic scandal has affected the University, even the journalism school.
“It’s definitely dragged the University through the mud,” he said. “And while it doesn’t affect students on the day-to-day basis or affect the diploma we receive, it’s definitely been a negative publicity thing for the University and all schools included in that.”
But Roush said he doesn’t predict the scandal to be an issue in the reaccreditation process. He said the report prepared for the council included information about the scandal.
The accreditation process happens every six years. During the last evaluation in 2009, the school was reaccredited, but it was told that it needed to improve how the school assesses what the students have learned.
“What we’ve done since then is implement a number of pre- and post-tests to assess whether journalism school students are learning what we want them to learn,” Roush said.
He said they also compare writing samples from classes like News Writing, by reviewing the work a student does at the beginning and end of the course.
Associate professor Rhonda Gibson said this process does mean extra work for teachers, but it is for a worthwhile project.
“It’s not my favorite way to spend time, but I understand that the self-study process helps us evaluate our strengths and weaknesses and guides our efforts to improve,” she said in an email.
Through posters, standards in each syllabus, emails and announcements, professors and staff have notified students in journalism classes about the upcoming activities.
“It’s not a problem to work the accreditation standards into the syllabus. It just doesn’t take that long,” Gibson wrote. “I’m not sure we really need the posters, but on the other hand, their presence gets the conversation about accreditation going.”
On Feb. 9 and 10, the accreditation team will also meet with journalism students at a forum to discuss their experiences.
Virginia Pierrie, a senior in the journalism school, said she thinks the school has nothing to worry about.
“I think it’s a really, really well-equipped school. I think that all of my classes have been enriching and engaging,” she said.