Accreditation is something to brag about
by Molly Rose Livingston
Learning in an accredited program not only gives Chico State journalism students bragging rights, but they are more likely to graduate on time and get jobs after college.
The most recent accreditation report from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, or ACEJMC, cites a two-year post-graduation employment rate of 98 percent, which is due in part to the high standards of accreditation.
“This number has held steady despite dramatic changes in journalism,” said Susan Wiesinger, chair of the Department of Journalism and Public Relations.
Chico State is one of eight university journalism programs in California and 108 nationwide certified by the ACEJMC.
Accreditation is a process of self-assessment and external review that verifies that the program lives up to the highest standards of excellence.
Employers value the skills of graduates from accredited programs, which typically have a well-earned reputation for curricular rigor and student success.
According to the ACEJMC website, “Students in an accredited program can expect to find a challenging curriculum, appropriate resources and facilities, and a competent faculty.”
That’s exactly what Chico State’s program provides.
Technology is integrated into all journalism and public relations core and applied skills classes, Wiesinger said. The focus is on multiplatform storytelling.
“You’re going to tweet, shoot videos, build a website,” Wiesinger said. “Students need to be able to do it all.”
National accreditation of the department was one of the reasons Trevor Williams, a senior with a PR option, chose to attend Chico State.
Along with being a resume booster, Williams believes accreditation is the reason for the college’s well-rounded curriculum and helpful teachers.
“The personal relationships I have built within the department keep me motivated to be successful,” he said.
It is the driving force behind some of the most beneficial aspects of the journalism program at Chico State, including mandatory advising every semester, diverse student and faculty, and department resources, Wiesinger said.
Students get to sit down with a knowledgeable faculty member to map out their schedule in detail, Wiesinger said. This keeps students on track, and helps drive the department’s graduation rate.
And reducing the time to graduation is good for parents, said Christopher Tavolazzi, a fifth year news and PR option. Tavolazzi switched his major from biology two years ago as a junior, and the personal attention from faculty will allow him to graduate much faster.
“I really feel like teachers value my success,” Tavolazzi said.
Another standard of accreditation requires journalism majors to have a minor, and the minor must be outside the School of Communication. Journalism and Public Relations is one of only two majors at Chico State with a minor as a stipulation for graduation.
While this standard may be the cause of headaches for some students, it is essential for student success, Wiesinger said.
“We want our students to be well rounded,” she said.
The accreditation process primarily benefits students, said Maggie Payne, interim dean of the College of Communication and Education.
“It increases the value of the degree you earn,” Payne said. “The degree you hold lives up to national standards.”
The program at Chico State is reviewed for accreditation every six years. A team of three ACEJMC representatives, both in the field and academia, visit Chico State’s campus to review the program and ensure it meets the council’s set of nine standards. These include regulations regarding faculty, diversity, curriculum, student services and faculty research.
The review process takes more than a year and, along with the site visit, includes an intensive self-study and report of the department’s students, faculty and curriculum.
Journalism and Public Relations has been an accredited program since 1998 and will be reviewed again in 2016. At the last review in 2010, the accreditation team thought Chico State had one of the best writing programs in the West, Wiesinger said.
“They called us the little train that could because we keep improving despite setbacks, such as budget cuts,” Wiesinger said.
Studying in an accredited program is impressive to parents, and it’s something students can be proud of too. Bragging is acceptable, and encouraged.