Posted by Diane Gayeski at 12:04PM   |  Add a comment
instruction on camera equipment

This tweet just appeared in my feed:
With our high quality, self-paced degree programs you can get an accredited degree for around $6,000 #EndStudentDebt


What separates a "real" college from a fly-by-night diploma mill? One of the ways in which colleges and universities are vetted is by accreditation.... and many new for-profit online start-ups like the one in the Twitter ad blast flaunt their accreditation as a validation of their legitimacy. But accreditation comes in many flavors.

Like all respectable colleges and universities, Ithaca College, is accredited by the US Dept of Education approved agency for our region, Middle States. The Park School of Communications falls within that overall institutional accreditation and in fact, we're recognized as one of the top undergraduate communications schools in the nation.

That's the easy part. Here's where it gets hairy: Many individual schools or degree programs within an institution can also be accredited by an agency that's specific to that discipline. For some, it's mandatory. For instance, programs offering a degree in teacher education or in certain health sciences such as physical therapy MUST be accredited for students to be able to sit for licensing exams and for students to be considered for graduate study in that area.

In other disciplines, there is voluntary accreditation. Business is one of those fields. Journalism is another - and that's one of the degrees in the Park School. Some journalism programs choose to apply for accreditation from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. We've never chosen to pursue this and here's why.

The accreditation standards for ACEJMC actually limit the number of communications courses that students can take.They require that students take a minimum of 80 credits outside of the school while we require that students take at least 60 credits of their coursework outside of communications. Here's why: communications is a complex and rapidly changing field. To be competitive, students need a preparation that is both deep and broad. If you want to go into journalism, one course in reporting that you don't take until your junior year is not going to cut it. If you want to be a scriptwriter, you need many semesters of practice. Prospective communications professionals also need to learn about skills and practices slightly outside of their specific area of interest. Journalism students profit from being photography minors and taking courses in public relations. Cinema majors are well-advised to take some advertising courses lest they don't get picked up by George Lucas to direct his next epic.  TV-Radio majors may wind up producing corporate videos, so taking courses in strategic communications will allow them to be more effective.  One of the great advantages of the Park School is that we have all of these majors and courses under one roof... and we encourage our students to take advantage of that fact.

ACEJMC also limits the amount of internship credit a student may take in a degree to the equivalent of one course -- 3 credits. That's counter-intuitive. What we're hearing is that to be employable, students need intensive and multiple internships. Our students often start out with a 1 credit internship after their freshman year, go to our Los Angeles, London or New York City programs and take 6 credits of internship (engaging in almost full-time work for a semester), and many of them do multiple internships in their home towns during the summer. We limit internships to 12 credits total.

Students come to the Park School and alumni are successful in large measure because we immediately immerse them in coursework in their majors starting day one-- AND we promote intensive and meaningful internships. Does this make our students less academically prepared or narrow? I certainly don't think so. Actually, we find that when students engage in internships and become immediately involved in their professional coursework, they are more likely to value the kinds of courses our college offers outside of their majors. They learn the importance of speaking a second language, of being able to grasp scientific and economic concepts, and of being prepared to construct and balance a budget.

Many other schools of communication agree with our stance; in fact, only about a quarter of the over 400 programs seek accreditation - and some prestigious programs such as Ohio State have voluntarily given up their accreditation so that they could offer what they feel is a more valuable curriculum.

So accreditation is a two-edged sword. In today's confusing marketplace, families certainly need some assurance of the quality of an institution and its programs. On the other hand, accrediting agencies are one of the many factors that lead to curricular stagnation - the very last thing that we need in higher education.

We'd like to think that our own faculty and leadership - as informed by our ongoing engagement with our academic and professional counterparts - are the very best judge of what constitutes an excellent communications education.

Posted by Diane Gayeski at 8:48PM   |  1 comment
happy students

It's that wonderful time of the year when high school students applying to Ithaca College are getting their acceptance letters.  I hear from a lot of them - through ICPeers (our online social network for prospective students), through my Facebook page, and emails - and it's wonderful to share in their thrill.

Then comes the big question for many of them: deciding among many good college offers.  On the sidelines are their families who will be trying to support them both emotionally and financially through the next four years -- and each day being bombarded with questions about the value and purpose of a college education.  President Obama, in his recent State of the Union address, put colleges "on notice" regarding rising tuition costs.  And today, a guy who dropped out of Harvard launched the Facebook IPO and instantly became a billionaire.  Should you pick the college that gives you the best financial package? One that guarantees you a job right after graduation? Or should you take that college savings account and open up a lemonade stand or a create new smartphone app?  What's the purpose of a general well-rounded liberal education?

I've figured it out... the big question that prospective college students and their families should ask:

*** Which college will give me the best chance at having the most fun for the rest of my life? ***

I'm not talking here about which place has the best downtown nightlife, the most frats and sororities, the rowdiest football games, or the most entertaining-sounding courses.  And it's not just which college looks like it has the happiest students (although that's an important indicator). 

Many students wonder why they are "forced" to take all those courses that they don't feel relates to their major or what they want to do as a career.  I've even heard them called a "waste".  FAR FROM THE TRUTH.  Those are what create opportunities for fun.

Sure, we hope that a college education at a place like the Park School leads to great job opportunities upon graduation and career advancement through a lifetime.  We have four decades and thousands of alums who have proven that we do that really well. We prepare students who are confident, connected, and well-trained in their craft.  But if it's just the technical skills you're looking for, you can get those through a trade school or even free online.  A place like Ithaca College offers you much more.  It's those other courses and experiences outside your major  that have the most potential of yielding you more fun in your personal life after college.

Do you know people who are picky eaters, timid around strangers, narrow in their musical tastes, anxious travelers?  They're kind of difficult to be around -- and they seem like they have few opportunities for enjoyment.  I remember when my 3 yr old nephew would only eat Kraft American cheese, white bread, and Chicken McNuggets.  The other kids were having a great time exploring new tastes and new places and he frankly was kind of a wet blanket.

If you give yourself opportunities to expand your musical and literary tastes, learn new languages, be comfortable in strange places with new people, try new cuisines and sports-- you simply expand the possible ways you can have fun.  When you get the opportunity to go skiing in the French Alps and eat escargot, you're right there, mixing with the locals.  When an opera company comes to town, you jump on it with the same enthusiasm that you feel for your favorite jazz trio and heavy metal band.  You have a deep appreciation for art films, keep in great health, create a solid investment strategy, and can have a lively debate with people of almost any political persuasion.  What fun!

The Dali Lama (who actually spoke at Ithaca College in 2007)  said in his book: ""I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness." 

College should help you create more opportunities for happiness.  Sure-- a great career is a good start. So are good life-long friends. But more than that- your four years in college should help you develop more things you appreciate and more situations where you feel confident and comfortable.

If you're thinking about college -- or already a part of a campus -- seek happiness for yourself and for those around you. THAT's what we're all about.


Posted by Diane Gayeski at 3:07PM   |  Add a comment
Randi Zuckerberg PDV poster

I had the pleasure last week of hosting our Park Distinguished Speaker, Randi Zuckerberg, who for 6 years led marketing and PR for Facebook. Emerson Suites was packed with students who had provocative questions about the future of social media -- not just as a tool for PR and media distribution, but also as an agent in our personal lives.

In my introduction to Zuckerberg's speech, I said that it was great to see so many people "in the flesh", since most of the audience spends a significant amount of time interacting with friends and co-workers online.  Can we even remember life before Facebook -- or heaven forbid, WITHOUT Facebook??!!

Shaping our personal and professional identities is an endeavor worth serious consideration. We know that most prospective employers (and even internship sites) do online searches of candidates before offering them positions, or even a first interview.  Staying off the grid of social media isn't really an option, either.  As communications scholars and professionals, we more than ever need to create our own personal brands and develop some niche areas of expertise .. and that digital repository and image needs to be accessible 24/7, globally, and digitally.

This is one of the many fascinating topics we talk about in our freshman S'Park class, where we require our students to live tweet and to create their own e-portfolios.  Recently, the class Skyped with alum Elspeth Rountree who is listed as a “2009 Silicon Alley Insider 100” and one of the “25 Need-To-Know Bloggers” by  “Ellie” has appeared as an internet culture expert on major media channels and is co-creator of two highly successful websites, Rocketboom Tech and the Know Your Meme series.  Both she and Randi Zuckerberg highlighted the importance of developing online communication skills as well as interpersonal skills -- and in fact, the most common question that our students asked of both of these experts was whether we as a culture are losing our real-world communication savvy and sensitivity.

We can't afford to become screen-creatures without the confidence and credibility to be effective in person.  That's why I'm very pleased to see so many of our students taking advantage of the various "pitch sessions" we've been offering where students can deliver polished, short presentations on new business or creative ideas.  We did one of these during alumni homecoming weekend; the Business School recently sponsored a business pitch competition; and the day after Zuckerberg's speech we hosted independent film producers Christine Vachon and Ted Hope who also heard ten students pitch ideas for their own films.

We now have many platforms on which to build our professional and personal identities.  What's your own strategy and brand?


Posted by Diane Gayeski at 4:19PM   |  Add a comment
Founding Dean John Keshishoglou with Rod Serling

The Park School of Communications radiates creativity, enthusiasm, energy, a sense of social responsibility, and a passion for innovation.  It's not by chance.  Those qualities were among the many important character traits of the founding dean, John Keshishoglou.   Dr. Kesh, as most of us called him, passed away on August 24 after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Kesh took a few boxes full of equipment and a fledgling TV-radio curriculum and transformed it into the School of Communications in the mid-70s; he also established the Instructional Resource Center at the college.  An accomplished producer himself, he taught film and photography and produced instructional and documentary films around the world, including one about the monks at Mount Athos in his native Greece.  Kesh built up the faculty and the curriculum and was instrumental in bringing Rod Serling to campus as a regular visiting instructor.  And I'm not sure how he made time to do this, but he completed dozens of multi-week consulting and teaching trips to Singapore, India, Nepal, and the Middle East.  Recognizing the power of the media to improve education, he was instrumental in setting up government broadcasting capabilities for clients such as the Sultan of Brunei. 

To honor his legacy, we've launched the John Keshishoglou Center for Global Communications Innovation at the Park School; this center will run an annual Media for Social Change mini-course and competition, will provide funding for student and faculty research internationally, and will eventually house a global executive master's degree in communications innovation.

Throughout all the many changes in communications technologies and practices, Ithaca College's School of Communications will always stay true to its roots.  Kesh's energy and vision is still with us.

Posted by Diane Gayeski at 3:18PM   |  Add a comment
Park alum Nick Righi

It's that time of year when we clean up our offices after graduation and prepare to welcome a new crop of first-year students. 

... when I get enthusiastic emails from new grads who just landed jobs

... when I follow tweets from alums getting frustrated by endless applications and interviews, still waiting for their big breaks

... when I get visits from former students bringing THEIR kids to campus, exploring the whole college scene for the first time

... when I get postcards and Facebook updates from former students from all corners of the globe -- enjoying a vacation or off to a new professional challenge or grad school in some exotic spot

And I start thinking about what I'll say to the parents and students arriving on campus over the next few weeks for orientation.

As you might imagine, many of the questions I get are about the kinds of jobs that Park students can expect to get after they graduate: Where are they? How much do they pay? And how quickly do our grads get hired?  We have a lot of success stories to tell; many of our seniors had job offers waiting for them and some even complained that they had to miss senior week to start their new positions.  But many of them don't have jobs -- at least not the kinds of traditional jobs we've been thinking of -- but they are also among the lucky and successful ones.

To be sure, the economy is changing.  Jobless rates continue to climb and more people are piecing together various ways to pay their bills.  The media entertainment industry is one where the most prominent profesionals NEVER had jobs -- rather, they have 'gigs'.  The top producers, actors, photographers, event managers, scriptwriters, editors, and cinematographers get temporary contracts to work on one show after the next.  They create their own "properties" and "franchises".  They are their own brand.  They're not owned by anybody. 

And so, many of our most talented and engaged students are following these trends and patterns.  Even if they go the route of accepting something that looks like traditional employment, it's really just the next chapter in a long personal story of individual goals and projects.   They are creating their own stories and careers which are quite beautifully integrated with their personal experiences, values, and dreams.

Our most recent ICTV station manager, Nick Righi,  has always wanted to combine his love of the outdoors with his passion for TV.  Last month, he graduated with a degree in TV-Radio with minors in business and outdoor recreation. He spent countless hours and the last of his pennies funding his own video documentary on the Everglades. This opened the door to his job as a Media Manager for Spectrum Productions in Tampa.  When I emailed him asking for permission to use his photo on this blog, he modestly informed me that he had just been promoted to Production Coordinator -- after less than a month on the job.

His classmate, Chloe Scutt, was snapped up right after commencement by G2 Direct and Digital, a leading digital marketing communications firm in NYC (where we have about a dozen other alums).  Chloe said in a recent email to me, "From working as a Dean's Host, Park France Ambassador, Ad Lab Co-Chair, Supervisor of the Ithaca Fund, as well as a member of the Senior Class Gift Committee- all these opportunities have all helped me progress as a successful student and as an adult."  The fact that her Ad Lab team won the district championship and came in #2 in the national student advertising competition didn't hurt either her confidence or her marketability! 

Rachel Merkin graduated in May and went directly into the job of her dreams: Community Relations Coordinator for Major League Soccer. She majored in integrated marketing communications and minored in sports studies. Throughout her college career, Rachel  held a part-time position at GiftCard Partners, a small marketing company based in the Boston suburbs where she worked as a marketing intern, social media manager, and most recently, public relations coordinator. During the summers of 2009 and 2010, Rachel worked as a marketing intern at Pangea Brands, a Boston-based sports licensing firm.  She also interned for the Boston Breakers, a franchise in Women’s Professional Soccer, and was an events marketing intern for Kraft Sports Group, the holding company for the New England Patriots and New England Revolution. Talk about a young woman who knew what she wanted to do and pursued every opportunity to build her skills and her network!

Many other young alums are out there pitching their scripts, writing books and journalistic articles, putting together production teams and financing for their own documentaries, and creating online businesses.  Matt Quintanilla and Mike Potter who graduated from the Park School in '07 are founders of  Disrupto, a digital product development studio with clients like the NY Rangers and Samsung.  Evan Engel, '08, is a member of Jet Set Zero, a group of young people who produce a web series on jet set life on a zero budget. Our senior dinner speaker this year was Meryl Weinsaft Cooper '92 who is a partner in a NYC PR firm and just wrote a book on Becoming Your Own Best Publicist.  Liz Tigelaar '98 was last year's senior dinner speaker; she created the new TV series "Life Unexpected" which draws a lot of inspiration from her own experience as an adopted child.

The concept of "job" is actually quite new in human history. Throughout history, most humans grew up in a family farm or business and were nurtured in a community where they discovered what they liked to do and whose company they enjoyed.  They found the means to support themselves and their families -- but not necessarily through a single rather rigid relationship with a corporate employer. 

The lines between family and work and hobbies and passion are blurring, and isn't that GREAT??!!  And so it's back to the future for many of our young students and alums. 

I'd like to think that our unique mix of a rigorous professional education, opportunities to lead and explore in internships and co-curricular media, and a wonderful array of courses outside communications gives our students a special advantage.

At Ithaca College, we don't just prepare you for a job... we prepare you to get a life. 


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