“Not many schools that are like us, that fit our profile, do the kind of things that we do in their communication department,” said Reid Vance, a professor in Mississippi College’s communication department. That disparity will only increase, as MC introduces a new Sports Media concentration in the fall of 2014.
“We put this together because we’ve had, in the past, students involved in sports media, and in broadcasting, but there wasn’t much of an academic component to it,” said Vance.
Although Vance is spearheading the program, other faculty members are energized by the new opportunity. “I’m excited because it’s a huge area, and if we can give you guys a chance to bring a skillset (to the job market) that no one else can, that’s good for everybody,” said Mignon Kucia, another communication department professor. Kucia will assist by teaching a public relations course in the program.
The focus will allow students to learn about a range of subjects as they relate to sports, Vance said. “We’re going to cover the mass media angle, which will be radio or television, we’re going to cover the sports writing angle, so writing for print or for web and we’re going to cover the public relations angle, so students can maybe use this to get a job in a sports information department at a college or a media relations department with a professional team.”
Students will benefit from the application-focused program, which nurtures the development of skills through practical learning opportunities. “I’m very excited. I think it’s going to help us get students ready for an area that we haven’t been able to address before,” said Kucia.
Vance moonlights as “The Voice of the Choctaws,” and officially is titled the Director of Broadcasting for the MC athletic department. His close working relationship has allowed students to gain access to extracurricular learning opportunities in the past, but that will only improve in the fall.
“I think this (concentration) will open doors in a more intentional way,” said Vance “David Nichols, our Sports Information Director, has indicated a willingness to have students come alongside us.”
Hands-on learning will be a requirement of the program. Sports Media Practicum (COM 432) is one of three entirely new classes that have been developed for the concentration. It will be similar in format to an internship with practical experience, but it will allow for students select an aspect of what they have learned and apply it to tangible output for local sports.
“Let’s just say they figured out that writing was their main interest,” said Vance, who will guide students in the Practicum class. “We’ll work out assignments where they can write about sporting events, sports features and sports profiles throughout the course of the semester, and go in depth in that one thing that they’re really interested in.”
Kucia will teach Public Relations in College Athletics (COM 453), which will be offered for the first time in the fall. “I’ve been working since last year to get ready for it. I’ve found my book and I’ve got my syllabus. I think it’s going to be a really good class,” said Kucia.
The final new course developed for the concentration is Sports Writing (JOU 455). “Sports writing is a specialized field of writing,” said Vance, “So in the Sports Writing class we’ll talk about that that vernacular.” The class will also teach students basics such as the correct format of score reporting, utilizing social media as a sports journalist and the nature of deadlines in the industry.
These new courses will be complimented in the concentration by an upper-level public relations course (COM 444), Multimedia Journalism (JOU 334) and Sportscasting (COM 332), all of which are presently offered. The seven core courses required for every communication major will also be a part of the educational requirements for the degree.
“I think over the next two or three years we can see some interest build to where we recruit students from high schools and JuCos to come study Sports Media here at MC,” said Vance. He has already been involved in conversations and academic advising with current students who will enter the program. “I think it will be a positive thing for the (communication) department.”
Vance believes that the program will be mutually beneficial, and that it will successfully prepare students for a range of career paths in the sports world. “The options are great for students who get this degree.”
– Andy O’Brien, Sports Editor