Accreditation and assessment
The Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture is one of only about 100 select journalism and mass communication programs accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. The School’s undergraduate program was re-accredited in 2012 for a six-year term. (ACEJMC’s process for accrediting professional master’s programs is relatively new, and the School’s two master’s programs were not a part of the last ACEJMC accreditation review.)
Accreditation is granted after an extensive internal and external review based on nine standards that include administration, diversity and student services. According to the ACEJMC website, "To accredit is to assure basic standards of excellence," with only about one in four mass communications programs around the country earning accreditation.
In its report, ACEJMC’s site-visit team praised the school’s faculty, staff and students, as well as the education provided at VCU.
"Students were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the faculty members and their professional experience that they bring into the classroom," the report said.
Dr. Yan Jin, interim director of the School, said, "Reaccreditation confirms what our students, alumni and the media community have known for many years: That VCU has an excellent program in advertising, journalism and public relations education."
The site team said the School’s faculty members keep "current in trends and issues in the media and professions that they bring into their classrooms." In terms of scholarship, the team described the faculty group as "productive, and in some cases truly exceptional, and make meaningful contributions to the study of mass communication."
The School’s faculty and staff members were applauded by the site visit team as "dedicated and hard-working and committed to making students and the program ever better." Faculty members in the School are"“very visible in the academic and professional communities of their specialties."
The accreditation process occurs every six years and involves four steps: 1) a self-study conducted by faculty, staff and students; 2) a site visit of educators and professors; 3) a recommendation by the national accrediting committee; and 4) a final vote by the national Accrediting Council. Faculty and staff members conducted the self-study during the 2010-2011 academic year. The AEJMC site visit occurred in October 2011.
The team concluded that VCU Mass Comm "delivers a quality professional education — and a quality broad, general education — to its undergraduates," and has "a forward-looking and hopeful attitude toward the future."
Accreditation site teams include distinguished mass communication academics, administrators and professionals.
The ACEMJC assessed the School’s compliance with nine standards:
Standard 1. Mission, Governance and Administration: “The policies and practices of the unit ensure that it has an effectively and fairly administered working and learning environment.”
Standard 2. Curriculum and Instruction: “The unit provides a curriculum and instruction, whether on-site or online, that enable students to learn the knowledge, competencies and values the Council defines for preparing students to work in a diverse global and domestic society.”
Standard 3. Diversity and Inclusiveness: “The unit has an inclusive program that values domestic and global diversity, and serves and reflects society.”
Standard 4. Full-Time and Part-Time Faculty: “The unit hires, supports and evaluates a capable faculty with a balance of academic and professional credentials appropriate for the unit’s mission.”
Standard 5. Scholarship: Research, Creative and Professional Activity: “With unit support, faculty members contribute to the advancement of scholarly and professional knowledge and engage in scholarship (research, creative and professional activity) that contributes to their development.”
Standard 6. Student Services: “The unit provides students with the support and services that promote learning and ensure timely completion of their program of study.”
Standard 7. Resources, Facilities and Equipment: “The unit plans for, seeks and receives adequate resources to fulfill and sustain its mission.”
Standard 8. Professional and Public Service: “The unit and its faculty advance journalism and mass communication professions, fulfilling obligations to its community, alumni and the greater public.”
Standard 9. Assessment of Learning Outcomes: “The unit regularly assesses student learning and applies results to improve curriculum and instruction.”
As part of Standard 2, ACEJMC identifies 12 "professional values and competencies." The Robertson School of Media and Culture has adopted these competencies as learning outcomes and objectives for its students. Both the Accrediting Council and the School believe that all communications graduates must be able to:
• understand and apply the principles and laws of freedom of speech and press for the country in which the institution that invites ACEJMC is located, as well as receive instruction in and understand the range of systems of freedom of expression around the world, including the right to dissent, to monitor and criticize power, and to assemble and petition for redress of grievances;
• demonstrate an understanding of the history and role of professionals and institutions in shaping communications;
• demonstrate an understanding of gender, race ethnicity, sexual orientation and, as appropriate, other forms of diversity in domestic society in relation to mass communications;
• demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of peoples and cultures and of the significance and impact of mass communications in a global society;
• understand concepts and apply theories in the use and presentation of images and information;
• demonstrate an understanding of professional ethical principles and work ethically in pursuit of truth, accuracy, fairness and diversity;
• think critically, creatively and independently;
• conduct research and evaluate information by methods appropriate to the communications professions in which they work;
• write correctly and clearly in forms and styles appropriate for the communications professions, audiences and purposes they serve;
• critically evaluate their own work and that of others for accuracy and fairness, clarity, appropriate style and grammatical correctness;
• apply basic numerical and statistical concepts;
• apply current tools and technologies appropriate for the communications professions in which they work, and to understand the digital world.
As explained above, the School’s graduate programs in strategic public relations and multimedia journalism have not been accredited by ACEJMC because the council’s process for accrediting professional master’s programs is relatively new. Even so, the School adheres to the accreditation standards for graduate programs. They state that a professional master’s degree program in journalism and mass communications must prepare students to:
• Meet ACEJMC’s basic competencies, with the added competency of contribution to knowledge appropriate to the profession.
• Think intelligently, strategically and critically about the fundamental and complex social and cultural issues of the profession.
• Master the skills and responsibilities of the profession with grounding in professional experience.
• Perform the profession’s roles ethically.