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Tuesday January 22, 2019

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Communication degree speaks to career advantage
December 21, 2017

Choosing Walters State Community College as a pathway to a degree in Mass Communication offers advantages that include a depth of experience among instructors — and often fellow students. From video production exhibitions to public speaking and debate contests, communication students at Walters State routinely excel among their counterparts at four-year institutions.

Associate of Arts degree programs are available in Speech Communication, Mass Communication, and Mass Communication with emphasis in journalism or broadcasting. Each program requires 60 total credit hours of coursework. Students majoring in other areas of study often take communication courses to enhance skills. The college also offers Associate of Science degrees in Speech Communication and Mass Communication.

“Communication degrees are consistently at the top of employable credentials,” said Malcolm McAvoy, head of the college’s Department of Communication. “There is a lot of cross pollenating from among computer science, nursing, business and other programs. They show up and say, ‘I want more of what you’ve got.’”

While Communication majors traditionally have pursued careers in public relations or print and broadcast journalism, options have greatly expanded for today’s communication professional. Event planners, sales and advertising representatives, grant writers, technical writers, foreign relations professionals and social media experts are just a few career paths available to Communication majors. The various areas of study are popular among most other degree majors who seek to deepen their professional and interpersonal skills.

One of the popular communication opportunities at Walters State is the debate team, which has demonstrated excellence in intercollegiate competition for more than four decades. A mixture of traditional students working to build communication skills and returning students seasoned by life experiences, the team won a national championship in Novice Parliamentary Debate in 2006, and is off to a great start this debate season. The team finished second behind Morehouse College during last month’s Southeast Regional Debate Tournament and won another debate at Northeast State Community College.

“It’s not just about winning the awards,” said Rob Pratt, debate coach and instructor of speech. “We like that affirmation, but it’s really about growing communication skills and personal development.”

Filmmaking and video production, under the direction of Matthew Lawson, assistant professor of speech, is another area of strong interest and participation among communication students. 

“We teach a wide spectrum of of mass communication students, from journalism to sports broadcasting to film majors,” Lawson said. “In our video production courses, we have the students examine and critique their work and other films. My job is to build the Mass Communication program and do what I can do to teach them that mass communication can be fun.”

McAvoy said the coursework is designed to prepare students for the workplace and for further study toward advanced degrees. “Matthew’s work has provided a strong focus for our program,” he said. “Our students are graduating with strong skills, and we’re also getting them ready to go into the workplace. If they need to go into a job, we have them ready to do that.”

To showcase the student-produced videos, the Department of Communication recently celebrated its 8th Annual Cliffy Film Festival and Awards, named for Dr. Larry Clifton, an associate professor of speech who teaches a popular film appreciation course at Walters State.

“He is a walking encyclopedia of film,” McAvoy said of Clifton, who studied film at New York University and has served as a consultant on many motion picture projects. “We added Humanities 1030 Introduction to Film Appreciation about a decade ago and it has filled every single time we have offered the class.”

The focus of the class is theory and criticism. “We primarily concentrate on American film from the silent era forward,” Clifton said. “The students leave here with a good foundation that puts them in good stead for future classes.”
Walters State’s debate team, film appreciation and video production courses are examples of areas that strengthen the Department of Communication’s mission of enabling students to think critically and communicate effectively as they prepare for careers. Learn more here about Communication programs and other programs of study under the Associate of Arts division at Walters State.