KTA and Mass Comm Scholars
Kappa Tau Alpha
Kappa Tau Alpha is the honor society for journalism and mass communications. According to the organization’s website, “Membership must be earned by excellence in academic work at one of the colleges and universities that have chapters. Selection for membership is a mark of highest distinction and honor.”
Membership is by invitation only. The faculty adviser, Dr. Tim Bajkiewicz, contacts students as they become eligible. The School holds an induction ceremony once a year near the end of the spring semester. The school established its chapter in 1978, named the George T. Crutchfield Chapter after the former director of the then-VCU School of Mass Communications.
Mass Communication Scholars
The Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture has a special program for its majors who have been accepted into the VCU Honors College. This initiative is called the Mass Communication Scholars Program. The program provides mass communication honors students with additional academic challenges, enrichment and other activities to prepare them for professional careers and post-graduate studies.
For example, Robertson School faculty have taken mass communication scholars on field trips, such as to the Newseum in Washington, D.C., and to conventions of groups like the Online News Association. The School also informs mass communication scholars about high-profile internships, scholarships and other opportunities.
Moreover, Mass Communication Scholars can take Honors courses (or Honors sections of existing courses) offered by the Robertson School. These mass communication courses count toward the credits that VCU Honors students must accumulate to graduate with University Honors.
In addition, mass communication scholars have the opportunity to graduate with mass communication honors. To do that, they must:
- Maintain an overall 3.5 GPA and a 3.5 GPA in mass communications.
- Maintain good standing in the VCU Honors College.
- Complete 18 credit hours in Honors courses or “variants” (Honors breakouts of regular courses). At least 15 of these Honors credits must be taken in the School. At least three honors credits must be completed each academic year.
- Attend at least four Honors-speakers events or colloquia each academic year.
- Complete a mass communications capstone, three-credit thesis or project course, MASC 492 Independent Study.
- Complete an approved international component. (Generally, this means participating in a study-abroad program or taking a course that requires a close examination of other cultures and countries.)
- Compile a dossier or portfolio of their communications-related work.
Many of those requirements parallel the requirements of the Honors College. For example, all VCU Honors students must maintain a 3.5 GPA, attend Honors lectures and present a dossier. Under the mass communications scholars program, Honors students would take more of their Honors courses in the Robertson School and would highlight their advertising, journalism or public relations work in their dossier.
Earning Honors credits in the Robertson School
Mass Communication Scholars can earn mass communications honors credits in various ways.
The Robertson School hopes to offer at least one full-fledged Honors course every year. In Fall 2011, for instance, the School offered MASC 291-701 Topics in Mass Communications: Diversity Issues in 21st Century Media Workplaces. This course was designed and taught by visiting Professor Lee Ivory, a former USA Today reporter, editor and media executive and president of the Washington Association of Black Journalists. For Fall 2012, thanks to funding from VCU’s Honors College, Dr. Marcus Messner and Associate Professor Jeff South offered HONR 398-703 Social Media and the Presidential Race.
The School may offer Honors sections of existing courses and provide challenges and enrichment in those sections. For example, the School has designed a section of MASC 493 Fieldwork – our internship course – for Mass Communication Scholars. Only Honors students can take the MASC 493-701 section. To qualify for this section, Honors students must do a communications-related internship that has regional or national impact. During the semester, students in MASC 493-701 must participate in discussions, online or in person, arranged by the school’s internship coordinator. They also must attend at least two professional events, such as the Brandcenter’s Friday Forum lectures or meetings of the Society of Professional Journalists or the Public Relations Society of America. And as part of their internship, mass communication scholars must produce at least three work samples that can be included in their Honors dossiers.
The School offers Honors “variants” of certain mass communication courses. A variant is an Honors section of a course that meets at the same time as the regular section of the course. Besides attending the regular class meetings, the Honors students in the variant meet with the instructor for additional activities (usually an extra hour a week). During fall semesters the School offeres an Honors variant of its introductory course, MASC 101 Mass Communications, with an Honors variant of MASC 408 Communications Ethics and Law in spring semesters.
Honors students taking a regular class also can make a “contract” with the professor to do additional work that would qualify the course for Honors credit. The VCU Honors College must approve those contracts.
Mass Communication Scholars also can do an independent study (MASC 492) supervised by a mass communications faculty member. If the independent study has an especially rigorous focus, the student can ask the Honors College to approve that course for Honors credit.
For more information on the Mass Communication Scholars Program, contact Associate Professor Jeff South, the school’s director of undergraduate studies.