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College of Communication & Creative Arts

Rowan University College of Communication & Creative Arts

History of the College of Communication & Creative Arts

In February 1966, President Thomas Robinson proposed establishing a Communications Department. A former English teacher, President Robinson had long been concerned about the quality of student writing, and he believed that creating a department for the teaching of writing would improve student literacy. This led to many hours of consultation with Prof. George Reinfeld, whom the president had chosen to provide leadership in this task. By September 1966 several English Department professors had become charter members of the Communications Department. Under the direction of Prof. Reinfeld, Professors John Collins, Sam Duryee, Mary Anne Palladino, Glen Thoms, and Allan Weinberg turned their attention to the task of teaching writing. Not yet official as a department, the Communications Division also included the members of the Speech and Theatre faculty. Its mission was the improving of both written and oral communication. Work also began on developing a major in Communications and achieving department status; both were realized in fall 1969. Under the administration of College President Mark Chamberlain and Prof. George Reinfeld, chairperson, the Communications Department admitted its first majors, offering a specialization in Journalism. A separate Speech and Theatre Department was also designated at this time.

Between 1969 and 1974, programs in Radio/Television/Film, Communications Education, Public Relations, Advertising, and Liberal Arts were added, and the number of majors swelled. In 1972, President Chamberlain assigned Prof. Reinfeld to special tasks as Assistant to the President, and Prof. John Collins was chosen to serve as Acting Chairperson. In 1974 he was elected to a three-year term. Prof. Collins was succeeded by Prof. Richard Ambacher, who was elected to three consecutive terms from 1977 to 1986. Dr. David Cromie was elected chairperson in spring 1986 and served as chair until July 1996.

The graduate program in communications was founded in 1967, even before the undergraduate communications program. President Robinson saw a need for people with a background in both public relations and education. He, Prof. Reinfeld and Prof. Don Bagin developed the program.

The M.A. program rapidly gained national recognition and has been cited as the best such program in the country by the National School Public Relations Association and other national organizations. In 1981, tracks were added in Corporate Public Relations and in Community Education. The program has 160 students pursuing the degree and graduates 15-20 students each year.

The College instituted the Women's Studies concentration in 1974. Prof. Reinfeld and Dr. Toni Libro participated in its founding and taught some of the first courses on sexism in language and communications about women. From 1978 until 1986, Dr. Libro served as coordinator of the Office of Women's Studies. Over the years, the Communications Department has co-sponsored many women's studies programs and special events.

Increased enrollments at Glassboro State during the seventies were matched by unprecedented growth in the Communications Department and its specializations. By 1976, the department included 29 full-time faculty, numerous part-time and adjunct professors, and over 900 majors. This growth afforded an opportunity to raise department standards for both admission and retention. In addition to serving majors, the Communications Department attracted large numbers of non-majors to its general education courses, and it continued to attend to its original mission teaching students to write. The Freshman Writing Program serves the entire student body, reaching over 1500 students a year. A Creative Writing concentration was developed in the mid-seventies and now includes courses in the writing of poetry, fiction, film scripts and plays. In addition, the department has sponsored an impressive number of extra-curricular activities, most of which are open to non-majors.

In 1980, the State Board of Higher Education designated the Communications Department a Program of Distinction; this step enabled the department to add facilities and equipment and to enhance its growing reputation for excellence. In 1986, the renovated Bozorth Hall became the Communications Department Center. In 1987, the department was one of six components at Glassboro State selected to participate in the third Governors Challenge Grant Program, which provided some $4.7 million to the college for special enhancements in the six components, each striving for excellence. Over a three-year period, the department received $718,000 to upgrade equipment and bring laboratories up to peak operating status. With its expanded facilities and especially its state-of-the-art studios, its Writing Center, and journalism laboratories, the department marked another milestone as it celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary.

By 1990, the department's size, scope, diversity, and excellent reputation warranted that it become a School of Communication. In December 1992, a Steering Committee was formed to establish the new School. The Committee, chaired by Dr. Libro and composed of fifteen members drawn from the University community, conducted a Feasibility Study and issued a Report. Rowan Trustees approved the Report in concept in December 1994. Final approval was won on July 1, 1996, when the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to create the new School of Communication at Rowan. Dr. Libro was appointed Interim Dean on July 3, 1996. Five Departments were established: College Writing (Janice Rowan, Chair); Communication Studies (Dr. Ed Streb, Chair); Professional Writing (Kathleen Stevens, Chair); Public Relations and Advertising (Dr. Don Bagin, Chair); and Radio-Television-Film (Dr. Richard Grupenhoff, Chair).

In the decades since the creation of the school, there have been several significant changes. The Department of College Writing, with the addition of a creative writing program, became the Department of Writing Arts. Professional Writing evolved into a Journalism program. Most recently, the Department of Art joined the college in 2012 and the name of the college was changed to Communication and Creative Arts.