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College of Information and Communications


What's in a name?

Posted May 14, 2015
By Charles Bierbauer, dean of the College of Information and Communications


We are now the College of Information and Communications. The change of the college name was approved by the Board of Trustees on April 24. 

So what are we? What we call ourselves? What others call us? What it says on or above the door? 

My wife, also a journalist, says I answer questions with questions. So, what do you think we are? 

We are about information, how we acquire, assess, digest, synthesize, compose, compress and expand, expound, express to you and you and you, singularly and collectively, through words, pictures, depictions, digressions — a few and preferably explicatory — in sound and pictures and graphic representations, in other words, communications, to make you feel, not necessarily sad or glad, but well informed. 

So what do we call ourselves? 

In 2002, as a result of a university-wide assessment called the Strategic Directives Initiative, the university combined two free-standing entities — Journalism and Mass Communications and Library and Information Science — into a new college. I was to become its first dean. (The position is often called founding dean, though, in truth, I had little to do with its founding.) 

It was to be called the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies. Why? Ask the committee that labored over that. 

Our first test was to see if we could answer the phone saying the college’s full name without taking a breath. Try it. The greater struggle was to find a bond between quite different programs, cultures and structures. In many ways, we are still trying. We’ve hired faculty who see the information/communication nexus. We’ve created parallel degree programs with each school now offering undergraduate through doctoral degrees. We are restructuring staff responsibilities across the college and its schools. 

We are moving closer together, physically when the new journalism building opens in August and collaboratively as we move forward. The timing for a name change seemed fortuitous. New stationery. 

This should not distract from the identities and personalities of both schools. Nor will their names change. We like what those names say about our disciplines. 

But the college name should say something more. It should reflect the larger role and mission of the college and, for that matter, the university. So we did a little editing of the former Mass Communications and Information Studies. 

Everything we do involves studies. And we’re not merely mass communications. Our engagement runs the gamut from one- to-one, through social networks, to nearly global networks. All on the information-communication continuum. As a result, we’ve lost two words and, I trust, gained clarity. 

As for primacy, which comes first? Neither works very well without the other. But as someone who’s spent time reading from teleprompters, College of Information and Communications just rolls off the tongue more smoothly. 

What do you think?