California State University, Long Beach
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Journalism And Mass Communication Wins National Accreditation

Published: May 15, 2014

CSULB’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication has won national accreditation from the prestigious Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).

The decision was made on May 2 at the Accrediting Council’s annual program review meeting in Arlington, Va. The Accrediting Council consists of members from the media and journalism schools from around the country.

“This is tremendous news,” said Journalism and Mass Communication Department Chair Chris Burnett, who attended the meeting in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. “The stamp of approval on our program from ACEJMC means that Cal State is competitive with other leading journalism and public relations programs in providing a high quality education that leads to jobs for our students.”

The accreditation is the culmination of an intense three-year process, Burnett explained. “We worked hard to muster resources and were grateful for a lot of support from the College of Liberal Arts, the provost and, of course, the president,” he said. “From here, what we want to do is build the program.”

Burnett singled out College of Liberal Arts Dean David Wallace, Interim University Provost David Dowell and Interim President Donald Para for their backing.

“Not once was I turned down in requests for support , either in the form of money or in-kind assistance, to help us write and edit the accreditation report last summer and fall,” Burnett said.

Burnett also said the ACEJMC accrediting team, which visited campus Feb. 16-19, was impressed with the university’s commitment to relocate the department and its approximately 440 majors to renovated space in Liberal Arts 4, nearer the hub of campus activities. The move from the basement of the Social Sciences/Public Administration Building is scheduled for Spring 2015.

ACEJMC, which is based at the University of Kansas, has accredited more than 100 undergraduate and graduate journalism programs nationwide. CSULB was one of five programs this year to receive first time accreditation. The program had been accredited for several years in the 1990s before losing the designation. Because of the long time period that has elapsed since the school was accredited, ACEJMC considered CSULB’s bid as a first-time application. A minority of schools nationwide offering journalism degrees are accredited. In California, there are only eight other accredited programs. “CSULB’s regaining of its accreditation makes this campus more of a destination for top students who want to study journalism,” Burnett said.

The department was judged on nine standards including mission, governance and administration; curriculum and instruction; diversity and inclusiveness; full- and part-time faculty; scholarship with research, creative and professional activity; student services; resources, facilities and equipment; professional and public service; and assessment of learning outcomes. The accrediting team found the program In compliance on all nine standards.

The department enjoys strong support from the college and university leadership, Burnett said. The accreditation report says journalism’s budget remained intact over the past six years despite the serious economic downturn and a large enrollment drop.

The site team cited concerns about student and faculty diversity but Burnett said student praise for the university’s emphasis on diversity issues in the curriculum and across the department with being critical in aiding the department’s cause in accreditation.

“In many ways, diversity is a strength of the department, where students of color make up the majority (38 percent Hispanic, 12 percent Asian American and 6 percent African American, plus 3 percent international). Also, the site team noted that the full-time faculty has four international professors including two from Brazil and students feel strongly that diversity and cultural sensitivity permeates the department.”

Finally, the report pointed to the department’s non-salary operating budget (less than 2 percent of the overall), and nascent fund-raising efforts. Burnett argued the budget issues greatly limit the department’s ability to purchase mobile news-gathering equipment, sponsor events, sponsor travel and research and engage in pro-active outreach to alumni, the professors and their key constituency groups.

Burnett stressed the real-life emphasis of journalism instruction at CSULB.

“Most of the time, CSULB students know Belmont Shore or Bixby Knolls but they don’t necessarily know all the communities,” he explained. “In our senior seminars, we have our students work with Voice Waves, which sends students out to under-reported areas of Long Beach. It’s a tough experience. But they learn what life is like along the Anaheim Corridor or in Little Cambodia. Our students will know more about the world when they graduate.”

Burnett sees a bright future for Journalism and Mass Communication at CSULB. “When the accreditation kicks in this May, I see the number of majors increasing beyond its current level,” he said. “I think we have room to grow from there.” He sees a rising profile for the department in a future that includes more than the Daily 49er. ”There will be a growing emphasis on digital and broadcast communication,” he said. ”I want to give students more resources with which to connect with jobs.”

Burnett encouraged tomorrow’s reporters to enroll at CSULB. “I think Cal State Long Beach is a great place to come to school,” he said. “It is affordable. We are in a great location. Students here will have the opportunity to write the stories no one else is writing about.”

In its report, the accrediting team credited Burnett with playing a key role in the turnaround.

“Much of the credit for the recent success was attributed to the department chair,” said the report. Burnett noted, however, that the real credit goes to the faculty, staff and students who pulled together to make the site team visit and the overall effort a success. “This was a real team effort,” Burnett noted. “Winning accreditation was something the university has been looking forward to for a long time. Success wouldn’t have been possible without everyone pulling together.”