MONMOUTH -- The Communication Studies Department was honored with the National Communication Association’s (NCA) Rex Mix Award for Undergraduate Program Excellence, which is only presented to one university each year to recognize quality and innovation in theoretically and practically grounded programs. Past recipients include Wake Forest University, Hope College, Seattle University, and Whitworth College. This was the first time WOU applied for the award.
Nick Backus, department chair and Associate Professor of Communication Studies, was thrilled to be honored with this recognition because the NCA is largest and most reputable American association in the field of Communication and this is known to be a highly competitive award.
“This award increases opportunities for students. If people hear about the program and see that we’re nationally recognized for quality, I think that the skills, ideas and knowledge that they bring to a workplace will be more credible,” said Backus.
This award was based on an external evaluation by reviewers. Emily Plec, Associate Professor of Communications, said: “These are reviewers who have no knowledge of WOU, its programs, or who we are – it really speaks to what kind of a gem we are. We talk about WOU being the best kept secret in the west, this helps us get that secret out.”
Plec believes that students directly benefit from the award. They will graduate with a major that is recognized nationally for its strong reputation. Those who continue on to graduate school will have a degree from a program nationally recognized for excellence. She added that, “it gives us a chance to promote ourselves to other educators. Just to have somebody outside of your university agree that your program is as great as you think it is; it’s a wonderful kind of confirmation.”
Due to growing enrollment in the major, the Communication Studies department has expanded its faculty and offerings to meet the needs students and the professional world. This fall a new faculty member, Dr. Cat McGrew, joined WOU, adding a focus in health communication to the curriculum. McGrew’s expertise will strengthen the department’s ability to mentor students who want to go into health communication as a field, a fast growing job market.
Last year the department changed its name from Speech Communication to Communication Studies and updated their curriculum to reflect the strengths of the faculty and new directions in the discipline. Backus believes that much of the program’s quality stems from the faculty’s ability to work together.
“We work together, rather than separately or against each other. Professionally we all get along very well and we’re on the same page about where the discipline is headed, about where we’re headed and about what our students need,” said Backus. “We do very direct, in-depth, long term personal advising.” Personalized faculty-student advising, extra-curricular opportunities, and the quality and breadth of courses were features of the program highlighted in the nomination for the Rex Mix Award.
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Nick Backus, department chair and associate professor of communication studies
Emily Plec, associate professor of communication studies