FAQ - Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture
Why change the school’s name?
The faculty of the Robertson School of Media and Culture (formerly the School of Mass Communications) had been discussing for some time whether the name “mass communications” best encompasses the future of advertising, journalism and public relations as the fields adapt to the growth of the Internet and the changes in the way information is distributed and accessed. The School has a history of maintaining a cutting-edge curriculum and program of scholarship, including progressive naming of many courses, innovative coursework and research into social, digital and mobile media.
We believe the new name, the “Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture,” best represents the transformation of mass communications in today’s world and reflects the future of the disciplines offered in the school.
Who is Richard T. Robertson?
Richard T. “Dick” Robertson (B.S. ’67/MC) is a legend in the TV industry and one of the school’s most accomplished alumni. In addition to being the former president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, Dick had a hands-on role in more than 100 TV series and movie packages, including “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Friends” and “The People’s Court.”
Dick has also been one of the school’s biggest supporters. He has financially helped VCU and the Robertson School (formerly the School of Mass Communications). He has also donated untold hours of service as a member of the VCU Board of Visitors and as chair of the School of Mass Communication’s, and now the Robertson School's, Advisory Board.
In recognition of Dick’s significant volunteer services and ongoing philanthropic support of the university, VCU agreed to name the school the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. The VCU Board of Visitors and President Rao, as well as the school’s faculty, staff and advisory board members have embraced the name, as a tribute to Dick and a reflection of the future of communications education and industries.
What does Media and Culture mean?
Communication channels have expanded dramatically during the past two decades and “media” in this context refers to ways information is transferred in the fields of advertising, journalism and public relations. The explosion of media outlets and forms (social media, individualized content in digital media, etc.) has decreased the dominance of select mass media (newspaper, radio and television). Increasingly, the practice of advertising, journalism and public relations involves highly segmented and more diverse audiences as well as a dramatically expanded number of outlets that provide information to people.
The term “media” has become a contemporary substitute for — and an encompassing way to define — “mass communications.” At the same time, the term “media” is inclusive of new modes and new products of professional communication.
For advertising, journalism and public relations to be effective as professional disciplines, they must effectively deliver information to individuals in a context where that information will be received, understood and acted upon. One definition of “culture” is “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, age or other group.” Advertising, journalism and public relations are professions that can only be successful in the new world of media by recognizing and responding to an array of cultures within society and delivering information effectively in that context.
“Cultural industries” are defined by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) as those “which produce tangible or intangible artistic and creative outputs, and which have a potential for wealth creation and income generation through the exploitation of cultural assets and production of knowledge-based goods and services (both traditional and contemporary).” What cultural industries have in common is that they all use creativity, cultural knowledge and intellectual property to produce products and services with social and cultural meaning. Generally, cultural industries can include advertising and public relations; writing and publishing; television, radio and Internet broadcasting; film, video and other audiovisual production; educational and leisure software; and other media forms.
Does the school name change mean students earn a degree in “Media and Culture?”
No. The name change is an academic unit name change only. The school’s current mission statement, degree programs, curriculum and assessment plans will not be affected at this time. Students will continue to receive degrees in Mass Communications from the Robertson School.
How does the new name affect student learning?
The fields of advertising, journalism and public relations use media to shape, to respond to and to deliver information in diverse cultural contexts. The renaming of the school reflects the current state of the media and culture industries, and provides a foundation for their research and practice in the future. As the school moves forward as the Robertson School, its commitment to student success will remain ever constant.
Who did the school consult to determine that “Media and Culture” was the best choice?
The name change to “Media and Culture” was informed by national trends at programs accredited by the Accrediting Council on Eduation in Journalism and Mass Communications and by input from the faculty, students, and administration, as well as alumni, the School's Advisory Board and media community.
The School’s Advisory Board was also asked to assess the change and to gather feedback from current students from an industry and community point of view. The School’s Student Advisory Board was similarly asked to assess the change and to provide feedback from current students. Input from alumni was sought and received. Every effort was made to inform and consult any constituents with an interest in the impact of the change.
What opportunities does a named school bring to students, alumni, faculty and staff?
The new name will open the door to numerous opportunities for the School. A named School is an opportunity for a major donor to transform the school — from the bricks and mortar of the building to the intellectual work and services. It is also an opportunity for growth that sets the school apart. This defining moment in the School’s history will serve as a catalyst for others to become excited about our programs and will lead to more philanthropic opportunities within the School, including maintaining and providing students with state-of-the-art equipment and endowment funds for scholarships and international fellowships.
For students, this means access to the best learning experience possible executed with advanced tools for learning. Additionally, the School can attract and retain the most talented faculty and can provide top-of-the-line professional and development for students and alumni.
We have a new name. Now what? What’s next?
The School is working on its long-term goals and short-term priorities. Recently, the School’s Advisory Board had a very successful meeting and lively interaction with the students, faculty and staff about the school’s goals, strategies and needs.
The School will continue to be on the vanguard of modern communication, which involves social media, online education, community service, award-winning creativity, professional journalism and effective public relations, as well as cutting-edge scholarly research and proactive global outreach. We are preparing and creating the future at the same time.