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Meek School Of Journalism And New Media Receives Strong Reaccreditation Report Amidst 320% Growth

Farley Hall, home of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Photo by Steven Gagliano

In a unanimous decision (24-0) by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC), the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi has received accreditation for its Bachelor of Arts in Journalism (BAJ) and Bachelor of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications (BSIMC) degree programs.
The UM Journalism degree program last received accreditation in 2011, just after the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) had approved the addition of the Bachelor of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications degree program in 2010. The team’s visit last fall (2016) was the first time that the Integrated Marketing Communications degree program was included in the accreditation process.
Each individual school and college within the University of Mississippi, along with the University as a whole, undergoes periodic accreditation review to ensure improvement of academic quality and public accountability. The ACEJMC has accredited the Meek School and its predecessors at the University since 1975. In 2009, a $5.3 million gift from Dr. Ed and Becky Meek endowed the creation of the Meek School independent from the College of Liberal arts, where it had previously operated as the Department of Journalism.
The team evaluated the school on nine standards through a process that included a self-study and four-day site visit, all coordinated by Assistant Dean Charlie Mitchell, that included tours, analysis and interviews with students, faculty, alumni and administrators.
The nine standards measured were: Mission, Governance and Administration; Curriculum and Instruction; Diversity and Inclusiveness; Full-Time and Part-Time Faculty; Scholarship-Research, Creative and Professional Activity; Student Services; Resources, Facilities and Equipment; Professional and Public Service and Assessment of Learning Outcomes, all of which it was in compliance.
Photo by Steven Gagliano

Since the last accreditation in 2010, the Meek School of Journalism and New Media has grown 320% from 445 total majors to 1,424 total majors (fall of 2016), making the school “generally the fastest-growing unit since its creation among the 14 that make up the university,” according to the accreditation report.
Just between spring of 2016 and fall of 2016, there was a 7.7% increase in students in the journalism and IMC degree programs. Last fall, there were 460 in the Bachelor of Arts in Journalism degree program and 964 in the Bachelor of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications degree program for a total of 1,424 students.
Leadership
Dr. Will Norton, Jr. is the dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Norton returned to the University to serve as the first dean of the Meek School when it was created in 2009. He had previously served as journalism department chair at UM for 11 years from 1979-1990 before leaving to serve as the dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for 19 years.
Will Norton

The report states that campus colleagues refer to Norton as the “leader the school needed.” It goes on to say that Norton’s “extraordinary commitment to students and his countless contacts in the industry are given effusive praise by alumni.” They note that he “writes 600 handwritten notes a year to admitted students and many have stories of how he personally got them internships when they were undergraduates.”
The report also states that the school’s budget has grown 22.26% in the last three years (in 2013-2014 it was roughly $3.8 million and 2016-2017 was $4.7 million) and that the school has the lowest instructional cost per student credit hour at the university.
Noel E. Wilkin, the university’s interim provost and executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, is the presiding official over the accreditation of all of the university’s programs.
“We are proud of the programs offered by the Meek School of Journalism and New Media,” Wilkin said. “We know that our faculty are offering students a valuable education that will help them to be successful in these disciplines. This accreditation shows that our faculty are meeting the standards set to ensure that we offer quality educational programs.”
Strengths
The committee reported that both the Journalism and the IMC students felt the curricula were rigorous and that the faculty were accessible and make themselves available outside of class. The team reported that the Meek School has a strong core curriculum with a balance of conceptual and skills courses and that the school has a strong commitment to diversity in its instruction and works hard to increase the diversity of students and faculty.
    Other strengths noted:

  • Outstanding leadership and vision that has led to astounding enrollment growth.
  • Strong journalism and IMC curriculum that creates crossover opportunities for students that will serve them well in the professional world.
  • A very strong faculty buttressed by big-name professionals and able new-media experts who combine to improve the student experience.
  • A student body that draws increasingly from around the country; students are coming to Ole Miss for these programs.
  • Comprehensive and well-led student media that are part of the school and provide strong training for future careers across disciplines.
  • Good facilities, classrooms, and technology.
  • The presence of the Overby Center, which brings contemporary issues and speakers before the students and creates opportunities for interaction and learning from journalism legends.

The Overby Center. Photo by Steven Gagliano

Looking ahead
Peter Bhatia, chairman of the accreditation committee, president of ACEJMC and also editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, said, “The Meek School provides an outstanding preparation for students seeking careers in journalism and strategic communication. It has one of the best deans in the field in Will Norton, a very strong faculty, outstanding curriculum, and amazing opportunities provided by the Overby Center and student media.” He added, “I believe it will increasingly become a go-to place for students across the country seeking opportunities in the disciplines we accredit.”
The growth in both reputation and size of the Meek School presents challenges, enormous opportunities and a positive outlook for the University. As a result, the Meek School is working on plans and fundraising to expand its footprint at Farley Hall overlooking the Grove into a comprehensive building project that will bring all of the school’s operations, including the Student Media Center (now in Bishop Hall), under one roof. The project will take in the parking lot between the Overby Center and Lamar Hall (old law school) and is expected to put the University of Mississippi’s facilities on par with the elite journalism and new media programs throughout the nation.
The expansion of the Meek School will take place in the parking lot between Farley and Lamar Hall. Photo by Steven Gagliano

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said he could not be prouder of the Meek School’s accreditation report as well as its growth. 
“I attribute the success and growth of the Meek School of Journalism to its great leadership, faculty and curriculum, especially in its embrace of new media,” Vitter said. “This accreditation report confirms why degrees from the Meek School are at the forefront nationally and shows how we are taking full advantage of big data and the social media environment.”


Allison Buchanan is CEO of New Media Lab, LLC, parent company of HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at allison.buchanan@newmedialabllc.com.
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