The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications requires accredited programs to publish their retention and graduation data. During Summer 2019, the following information was gathered using an online data tool provided by Virginia Commonwealth University's Office of Institutional Research and Decision Support.
These data track each first-year (freshman) class of mass comm majors. The statistics show the percentage of students who continue in mass comm each year and then graduate within four, five or six years.
One wrinkle in the reporting method used in the statistics above is how it treats first-year students who start in mass comm but then change majors. The graduation rates in the spreadsheet reflect the fact that these students do not graduate as mass comm majors, which is true. However, many if not most of these students do graduate from VCU, but in another discipline (as noted by data under being retained and/or graduated from the College of Humanities and Sciences and/or VCU).
The reported graduation rates for mass communications would be much higher if we tracked only students who start and stay as mass comm majors. For example, of the 116 first-year students who entered the mass comm major in Fall 2012, 68 remained in the major for at least three years. Of those 68 students, 61 – or 90% – graduated with mass comm degrees.
Another wrinkle is that the data do not include students who enter the Robertson School after their first year from other VCU majors or from other universities. The Robertson School serves hundreds of such students, with about half of all Robertson School students being transfer students.
Besides requiring the publication of retention and graduation data, the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications suggests that accredited schools provide the public with additional indicators of student achievement. Selecting a heading below will expand the section.
In addition, the Robertson School serves more than 90 undergraduates pursuing a minor in media studies. Moreover, the school's faculty also serves students in two master's programs (Strategic Public Relations and Multimedia Journalism) and an interdisciplinary doctoral program (Media, Art and Text).
VCU mass communications majors are required to complete an internship in which they work closely with media professionals. Between Fall 2018 and Summer 2019, 328 students enrolled in our MASC 493 Fieldwork/Internship course. At the end of the internship, the supervisor at the worksite must evaluate the student's performance. Here is a summary of the supervisor evaluations from Fall 2018 through Summer 2019 (as of Aug. 13). Overall, more than 260 internship supervisors completed the survey, for a response rate of about 80%.
Also as part of the survey, internship supervisors were asked, “Under the correct circumstances, would you hire this intern?” Of the respondents, 80.5% said yes, 5.7% said no, and the rest either responded that it was not applicable or skipped the question.
Students from the Robertson School consistently win scores of awards every year in international, national, regional and other competitions. Here is a sampling of student awards and honors from the past year.
The Robertson School won seven ADDY awards at the 2019 Hampton Roads local AAF (American Advertising Federation).
A team of advertising students won gold in the packaging competition. The team included Kate Lee, art director; Isabelle Tobe, copywriter; and Grace Kaminski, Meghan Middlebrooks, Ciara Reed, Catherine Turney and Samantha Phillips, strategic planners. Lexi Hand, as art director, and Erin Maynard, as copywriter, also won gold for their TV Single.
Silver winners included:
In the 2019 AAF District 3 regional competition (North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia), Kate Lee, as art director and copywriter, won a silver award for Social Media Campaign.
In April 2019, three Robertson School students were honored at the Richmond Show of the Advertising Club. Madeline Honig, a rising senior in the creative advertising sequence, was awarded the Barbara Fultz Women in Advertising Scholarship. Moreover, Christine Reyes and Vy-anh Nguyen won a “silver cannonball” for a print campaign they completed in their MASC 394 – Imagination class.
VCU student journalists, most of them mass communications majors of the Robertson School, received 17 honors in the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2018 Mark of Excellence competition for the mid-Atlantic region.
VCU InSight, which is produced by the Robertson School and airs on PBS in Central Virginia, won for Best All-Around Television News Magazine. The winning entry featured work by Precious Banks, Tayla Faggart, Tyler Layne and Tai Wong. In addition, Layne was a finalist in Television General News Reporting.
The Robertson School’s Capital News Service program took five honors. Kirby Farineau won for Online News Reporting; Yasmine Jumaa and Irena Schunn were finalists in that category. George Copeland Jr. and Thomas Jett won for Online Feature Reporting. In addition, Brandon Celentano was a finalist in Feature Writing, and Erin Edgerton was a finalist in General News Photography.
The awards were presented at SPJ’s Region 2 Spring Conference, held April 6, 2019, in Ocean City, Maryland.
Caitlin Barbieri, a VCU journalism major who graduated in May 2018, won for Non-Fiction Magazine Article for her article “Virginia’s epidemic next door,” published by RVA Mag. Members of VCU’s independent student media took home numerous awards as well:
In the regional competition, VCU students compete against college journalists in Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Student journalists could enter in the contest work published or broadcast during calendar year 2018.
The regional winners advanced to the national Mark of Excellence contest. In late April, SPJ announced that VCU InSight was a national finalist for "Best All-Around News Magazine" and the multimedia package by Copeland and Jett about African-American cemeteries in Virginia was a national finalist for "Online Feature Reporting."
In other journalism awards, a student team from the Robertson School's course MASC 461 - The Documentary class has been invited to screen their mini-documentary "Stuck in Stone" at the 2019 Poe Film Festival at VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art in Richmond in October. The documentary was produced by Sean Keating, Kassidy McDaniel-Hammond and Brian Maresco and explored the controversy on Confederate monuments.
Also during the 2018-19 school year, two VCU journalism students were finalists in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program. Kal Weinstein placed eighth in the Breaking News Competition, and Evie King placed 11th in the Radio Competition for stories they produced for VCU Capital News Service.
Moreover, in April, the Richmond First Club presented its 2019 Good Government Award to the Capital News Service program. The 100-year-old civic organization recognized the CNS students as “journalists covering Virginia politics with integrity and energy for over 20 years.”
Two teams of Robertson School public relations students won awards at the 2019 Virginia PR Awards, hosted by the Public Relations Society of America Richmond Chapter:
Students from MASC 337 - PR Strategy, won the Innovation Award for a campaign book for Ram Pantry, VCU’s student-run emergency food bank. The Innovation Award recognizes imaginative and unique student public relations work that ultimately produced measurable results.
And students in Agency, a senior-level, capstone undergraduate PR course that provides public relations and communications support to Richmond-area organizations, won the Community Impact Award for a campaign for the Chesterfield County Police Department.
At an award ceremony in February 2019, four Robertson School undergraduate students received VCU’s Black History in the Making Awards. School faculty chose the students “in recognition of their academic excellence, career ambitions or commitment to their communities.” The students were Tonecia Brothers-Sutton, broadcast journalism; George Copeland Jr., digital journalism; Taylor Pattie, public relations; and Malcolm Richardson, advertising.
The Robertson School Faculty Awards presented at our May 2019 commencement ceremony were as follows:
Also at the ceremony, the Robertson School honored Erin McEwen as the winner of the Spring 2019 Kappa Tau Alpha Top Scholar award. Kappa Tau Alpha is the honor society for journalism and mass communications. In addition, the School gave Jacob Sexton the Josephine Varnier Stone Award, which recognizes a graduating senior for “spirit, creativity and commitment to hard work.”