Frequently Asked Questions about how to survive RU’s School of Communication and maybe even get a job in the real world. 

Communications major? Great choice. 

Communication is a wonderful business and it’s a terrific time to be going into it.  It is also a time of upheaval and chaos, and if you are going to be successful, prepare to give it everything you’ve got — starting today. 

So — Are you are certain about a career in the media?  Then don’t wait to take your major classes until your junior year.

The conventional idea that you should “get your General Education courses out of the way first” may be OK for people who are not certain, but it is actually not appropriate for communication majors.

My advice is to take your major classes as early as possible so that you can  spend time building your portfolio and developing your skills. 

It’s also a good idea to take classes that will help in your line of work. Advertising majors will want to take consumer psychology. Journalists need political science and history. Production majors need cinema history and theater lighting. And so on…

 The best advice:  Carpe Diem

First and foremost, be proactive. Carpe diem. Dont wait around for someone else to help you — it probably wont happen. You have to help yourself. Faculty and staff at RU are doing their best, but we are constantly chasing feathers in the windstorm. The fact is that higher education in Virginia is grossly underfunded. This is particularly true of RU and even more particularly true of the School of Communication.

So? Let’s face it: you have to think ahead for yourself, plan your own schedule, develop your own portfolio and think about what will happen when you graduate. It’s unfortunate, but some people graduate with a diploma in communication and can’t find work in the field. That’s not because they weren’t smart or even deserving. It’s usually because they didn’t prepare. You don’t want to be among them.

British engineer Harry Ricardo once said something that might be helpful. [Ricardo was famous for designing the Rolls Royce Merlin engine that was used in British Spitfire airplanes in WWII.]

First and foremost, make up your mind what to go for, that is to say, what in your judgement, will be likely to fulfill a need in say four or five years’ time; having once decided, keep that objective always clearly in view. Do not let yourself be cast down by disappointment, or too elated by those initial successes which so often prove to be only transitory. Do not be afraid of failures. In my experience one learns as much,  or possibly more, from one’s failures, and I have been responsible for many, as from one’s successes; the downright failure is always instructive and is usually fairly early apparent before it has cost an undue amount of time or money. The real danger, and by far the most difficult to cope with, is partial success, the achievement which is either not quite good enough, or for which the need is passing.  To cope with this taxes one’s judgment to the limit; it requires all one’s strength of mind to break off when cool judgment counsels the abandonment of a project to which one has grown very attached…

From: The Ricardo Story: The autobiography of Sir Harry Ricardo, Pioneer of Engine Research, SAE Historical Series, Warrendale, PA, 1992

So…. How do you use your education to launch a real media career?

When you graduate, you will have a sound liberal arts education. That’s the main thing. Then you should also have:

  • A set of skills you gain from skills classes, such as web design or print production or video editing
  • A portfolio (online in various forms, and also in print and on DVD ) of your published work in journalism, advertising and/or production.
  • Work experience with media, possibly student media but preferably local and regional news organizations;
  • Volunteer work experience and holiday mini-internships with professional media
  • Professional internships.
  • Where should I get counseling and advice?
    • If you are a freshman or sophomore, go to the CHBS  Advising Center in Russell Hall.
    • If you are a junior or senior, you need a School of Communication faculty adviser.

How do I find my faculty adviser?

If you are a junior or senior and unsure of who your academic adviser is, check the bulletin board in front of the department office or call 831-5531.

How do I know if I have the right faculty adviser?

Your adviser should be someone you can discuss your career options with and who can understand your goals. One or two meetings will help. Get to know all the faculty in the department.

May I change faculty advisers?

Yes, you may change advisers at any time. It’s your choice. Even though you are initially assigned an adviser, you can easily change. Just tell the department secretary you want to change. For seniors looking at graduation, whether or not you change academic advisers, its also best to sit down with the expert in your field and get entry-level career advice.

What professional backgrounds and specializations do COMS faculty advisers come from?

    • West Bowers — digital media
    • Courtney Bosworth — advertising
    • James Collier – advertising
    • Joe Flickinger — broadcast producer, radio
    • Sam Jennings — digital media production
    • Leigh Ann Kelley — web production and advertising
    • Bill Kovarik — newspaper journalism, web design
    • Joe Staniunas — broadcast journalism
    • Matt Turner — video production

How do I get information on my progress toward graduation?

Easier than ever. Just log onto the Student Information System and enter your university email login and passwords. If you have never opened your email account, you need to activate a new account.

IMPORTANT: You should have your student information printed out and in hand when you meet with your faculty advisor to go over your schedule 

So once I get advice on courses to take, what do I do?

Your adviser will give you a “ticket” with a PIN registration number which you use in the telephone or web registration process.

What if my advisor doesn’t have my PIN registration number / ticket?

If your adviser doesn’t have your PIN number, contact the main office first then the College of Arts and Sciences Advising Center in Young Hall.

What about summer school?

Information about summer school usually comes out around mid February. Summer school is often necessary to complete a degree within four years since classes that are hard to get during the fall or spring tend to be available in summer.

What about prerequisites and course sequencing?

Easy to get lost here. Prerequisites are designed to keep you from taking classes you aren’t ready for. The prerequisite sequence is several semesters long, so you have to take the right courses every semester. Details follow below. But first …

What’s the biggest pitfall?

If you are certain about a career in the media, don’t wait to take your major classes until your junior year. You will hear Arts & Sciences advising center advisors tell you to get your General Education courses out of the way first so you can concentrate on your major. This is OK for most people, but remember that MSTD has a longer prerequisite sequence than most majors. You will need at least four and as many as six semesters to get through all the courses, especially the journalism writing sequence (105-205-305-406-481-499)

What’s the diff ? Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science?

A Bachelor of Arts degree is equally prestigious and probably better for your career than a Bachelor of Science degree. The only real difference between the two is simply that the requirements for the BA are 12 hours of foreign language while the requirements for the BS are six to eight hours of social or natural science. Frankly, this means that it is far easier to get a BS than a BA, and the majority of students go that route, but that’s unfortunate. If anything, a communications major should be all about the ability to communicate across cultures.   So we greatly encourage students to take foreign language courses for the BA.

What do I really need to remember?

  • Plan ahead. You won’t get into all the courses you need in your last semester.
  • Bring your advising / planning file to your meeting with your adviser. Your adviser has 50 or 60 other students to see, and they will be able to help you better if you are prepared. Use these check sheets to help you plan!


Leave a Reply