News @ the Beach

CSULB Journalism and Mass Communication Department Earns Accreditation from ACEJMC

The Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) has earned accreditation from the prestigious Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).

The decision was made May 2 at the Accrediting Council’s annual program review meeting in Arlington, Va. The Accrediting Council consists of members from the media and journalism schools from around the country.

“This is tremendous news,” said department Chair Chris Burnett, who attended the meeting in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.  “The stamp of approval on our program from ACEJMC means that Cal State Long Beach is competitive with other leading journalism and public relations programs in providing a high quality education that leads to jobs for our students.”

Burnett noted that the ACEJMC accrediting team, which visited the campus Feb. 16-19, was impressed with the university’s commitment to relocate the department and its approximately 440 majors to renovated space in the Liberal Arts 4 Building, nearer to the hub of campus activities. The move from the basement of the SSPA Building is scheduled for spring 2015.

The accreditation is the culmination of a three-year process.

Burnett singled out College of Liberal Arts Dean David Wallace, Interim Provost David Dowell and Interim President Donald Para for their backing.  “Not once was I turned down in requests for support,” he explained, “either in the form of money or in-kind assistance to help us write and edit the accreditation report last summer and fall.”

Based at the University of Kansas, ACEJMC has accredited more than 100 undergraduate and graduate journalism programs nationwide.  CSULB was one of five programs this year to receive first time accreditation. A minority of schools nationwide offering journalism degrees are accredited. In California, there are only eight other accredited programs.

“Cal State Long Beach regaining its accreditation makes this campus more of a destination for top students who want to study journalism,” Burnett pointed out. Additionally, he said the accreditation will help raise the department’s profile as an attractive destination for bright young faculty seeking teaching careers and students seeking a top-notch journalism education.

Also, students and the department will now be eligible for Hearst Journalism Awards available only to students from ACEJMC accredited schools.

The department was judged on nine standards including mission, governance and administration; curriculum and instruction; diversity and inclusiveness; full-time and part-time faculty; scholarship with research, creative and professional activity; student services; resources, facilities and equipment; professional and public service; and assessment of learning outcomes.  The accrediting team found the program in compliance on all nine standards.

The site team cited concerns about student and faculty diversity, but Burnett said student praise for the university’s emphasis on diversity issues in the curriculum and across the department aided the department’s cause in accreditation.

“In many ways, diversity is a strength of the department, where students of color make up the majority (38 percent Hispanic, 12 percent Asian American and 6 percent African American, plus 3 percent international),” he said. “Also, the site team noted that the full-time faculty has four international professors, including two from Brazil, and students feel strongly that diversity and cultural sensitivity permeates the department.”

Finally, the report pointed to the department’s non-salary operating budget (less than 2 percent of the overall), and nascent fund-raising efforts. Burnett argued the budget issues greatly limit the department’s ability to purchase mobile news-gathering equipment, sponsor events, sponsor travel and research and engage in pro-active outreach to alumni, the professors and their key constituency groups.

Burnett stressed the real-life emphasis of journalism instruction at CSULB. “Most of the time, CSULB students know Belmont Shore or Bixby Knolls but they don’t necessarily know all the communities,” he explained. “In our senior seminars, we have our students work with Voice Waves, which sends students out to under-reported areas of Long Beach. It’s a tough experience. But they learn what life is like the Anaheim Corridor or Little Cambodia. Our students will know more about the world when they graduate.”

In its report, the accrediting team credited Burnett with playing a key role in the turnaround. “Much of the credit for the recent success was attributed to the department chair,” said the report. Burnett noted, however, that the real credit goes to the faculty, staff and students who pulled together to make the site team visit and the overall effort a success.

“This was a real team-effort,” Burnett said. “Winning accreditation was something the university has been looking forward to for a long time. Success wouldn’t have been possible without everyone pulling together.”