Storytelling unites comm majors

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Storytelling unites comm majors

Cinema department head Sharyn Robertson teaches students in a March 2020 cinema class. Photo submitted

Bob Jones University’s Division of Communication develops the experiences necessary for success in the field of communication through focused yet expansive majors.

The Division of Communication offers the majors of theatre, journalism and mass communication, communication studies and cinema, as well as media technology, a new associate’s degree and the only associate’s degree in the division. The division also offers two graduate programs, one in theatre and another in communication studies.

Each major in the division offers a broad skill set while focusing on storytelling, the theme that ties the majors together according to Dr. Lonnie Polson, former Division of Communication chair.

BJU graduate Steve Choi is currently working on a master’s in communication. Photo submitted

Polson said each program is designed to teach a wide variety of skills including critical thinking, problem-solving, analysis, teamwork and interpersonal communication. “What we really try to do is give our career-focused students the very best of that kind of education— and we also exist to give other students, including those not majoring in the field, a really solid introduction to the field of communication,” Polson said.

One of the career-focused majors is journalism and mass communication, a degree designed to develop the storytelling expertise through both the technical side of broadcasting as well as the communication side. The major combines academic classes with project-based classes, teaching students both the broader goals of communication as well as the focused application for journalism and public relations careers.

The major allows students to experience the variety of media opportunities today while also being an individualized program for students’ specific career goals.

As of March 2020, students in the journalism and mass communication major have won more than 45 awards in the previous five years.

Steve Choi, communication studies graduate, said the major teaches many broad communication ideas while focusing on leadership.

Some of the electives offered in the communication studies program are crisis communication, conflict management, nonverbal communication, strategic narrative and intercultural communication.

Students can take their communication studies degrees into the fields of marketing and politics as well as the business world.

According to Choi, one strength of the graduate program is the faculty who work with the students, helping them stretch themselves to turn their weaknesses into strengths. “I know that after these courses, [students] will be ready to step further into our field,” Choi said.

Sharyn Robertson, head of the cinema department, works with students daily to develop marketable soft skills as well as one ability critical in any field—teamwork. According to Robertson, the Division of Communication produces well-rounded students with the skills they need to communicate to everyone.

Cinema department head Sharyn Robertson teaches students in a March 2020 cinema class.
Photo submitted

From her cinema perspective, Robertson emphasized the opportunity and necessity of team building and networking in the field of communication. Every student learns to connect with people they work with from any major. Robertson said this forced teamwork teaches students the interpersonal basics required for networking.

The teambuilding skills that students learn are designed to give them a platform for their own stories. “You don’t have to be this dynamic personality; you just have to have a good story to tell and tell it well—and you can influence a lot of people’s lives,” Robertson said.

Chantel Dewar, a cinema major graduate, shares Robertson’s enthusiasm for developing professionalism in interpersonal communication. Dewar stated one of the most important skills she learned in her major was teamwork, citing the long hours on set as valuable time to develop her professionalism during times of conflict.

As a cinema student, Dewar said she valued the times she has had to work around technical difficulties or people’s schedules. Through these challenges, Dewar developed the abilities she needed to pursue her passion as well as the basic communication skills to aid her pursuit of it. Dewar plans to produce media for Christian organizations using the valuable skills she has learned through her program in the Division of Communication.

Theatre, another major in the Division of Communication, specializes in teaching students skills such as acting, costume design or directing.

The many yearly productions of the Department of Theatre not only offer theatre majors hands-on opportunities to learn their field, but many productions are open to non-majors allowing other students to benefit from the program.