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USG approves four-year communication degree

David Smith, center, assistant professor in the Department of Communication, Media and Journalism, works with students in the state-of-the-art video control room located on the Gainesville Campus.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) has approved a new, four-year communication degree at the University of North Georgia (UNG). The university sought expansion of the program in response to the recent sustained increase in demand for writers, animators, cinematographers, and media specialists. 

Communication film

Students in the Department of Communication, Media
and Journalism prepare to shoot a scene in downtown
Gainesville. Film and digital media production is one of
three concentrations offered in the new, four-year
communication degree.

"The new degree will benefit the region by developing students who can meet the needs of the growing communication labor market, especially Georgia's film, television, and media production industry," said Dr. Jeff Marker, head of UNG's Department of Communication, Media and Journalism. "The creation of the degree program was driven by demand among students, and now those students will benefit from the opportunity to earn a high-quality education in state-of-the-art media production facilities."

UNG's facilities include a 931-square-foot soundstage with lighting, a green screen, four-camera setup, and control room with 24-channel audio mixer, video mixer and teleprompter. Facilities also include high-tech audio and video editing equipment and a media lab with 18 editing stations.

According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the film industry contributed $3.1 billion to the state's economy in 2012, with some 333 productions shot in the state. Popular television shows like "The Walking Dead" and movies like "The Hunger Games" trilogy and "Trouble With the Curve" – both productions included filming in nearby Dawson County – have been filmed in the state. Since 2008, more than 30-industry specific suppliers have expanded or relocated to Georgia and more than 25,000 currently are employed in the state's entertainment industry.

"The communication program responds to a well-established, long-standing need for more advanced program offerings for our associate degree students who want to continue their studies on the Gainesville campus," said Dr. Patricia Donat, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. "Complementing UNG's commitment to providing high-impact learning experiences for our students is our recognition of the importance of aligning our degree programs with regional needs. The expansion of our award-winning communication program is a response to student demand, and the growing need for communication professionals throughout the region."

UNG will expand its current, two-year, associate degree in communication program to a four-year, baccalaureate degree program. An associate degree will be available on the Gainesville and Oconee campuses, and Marker said the four-year degree will enable students to develop a deeper knowledge and skills in the communication field.

The BA in communication will include three concentrations: film and digital media production, multimedia journalism and organizational leadership.

"This interdisciplinary structure conserves faculty and facility resources and maximizes the unique synergy that now characterizes the University of North Georgia," Marker said. "This structure also mirrors the interconnected, converged nature of contemporary communication systems."

The degree program is based on the Gainesville Campus, but students will be able to take communication courses on any campus during their first two years.

The USG's 31 member institutions currently offer only 14 baccalaureate degree programs in communication and related fields across the state. In the past two years, three-quarters of those programs have maintained or seen an increase in enrollment. Marker also has seen an increase in the number of students enrolled in UNG's associate program.

"The department would like to expand its offerings on the Dahlonega Campus pending facilities and faculty resources. There are already a small number of outstanding film, journalism, and communication faculty on that campus who will provide an excellent foundation for growth," he said.

The department sponsors several student organizations including the UNG Debate Club, the UNG Mediation Club, the Student Film Association, Sigma Chi Eta, an internet radio station and the three student news outlets that soon will be merging into one.

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