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Program Gives Students Award-Winning, Hands-On Education

June 4, 2010
SHSU Media Contact: Linda Borja

Applied arts and sciences major and mass communication minor Taylor Gunderson works the afternoon shift at 90.5 The Kat, SHSU's campus radio station.

The mass communication department at Sam Houston State University is bringing the real world experiences into the classrooms by providing hands-on training for the students, and a national agency has recognized the department for its efforts.

The SHSU’s student-run radio station, 90.5 The Kat, which broadcasts from the first floor of the Dan Rather Communications Building, is an educational, non-commercial station and has successfully upheld its Federal Communications Commission FM license since the late 1970s.

The department is inspected by the FCC every three years to renew the FM license and ensure the radio station is operating properly and was renewed in March.

“I was really pleased to get a flawless report by the FCC,” said Glenda Balas, mass communication department chair, adding the department had been preparing for the past two semesters for the inspection. “We work very hard to protect our license, and I think it is definitely an accomplishment.”

The FM license is also a benefit not only to the mass communication department, but also to the university, according to Balas.

“There just are not that many school radio stations that operate as genuine broadcasters in the community but also as a laboratory for students to learn how to be broadcasters,” she said.

Mass communication is one of the most hands-on departments on campus according to Balas.

All of the student media, including news, radio, public relations, television, and the newspaper, are supervised by a faculty member.

“There is a genuine effort to link the training and the classes to the work in the co-curricular,” said Balas.

Students who are a part of the radio station receive first-hand training in audio production, management, underwriting, and radio play. Senior Selene Chapa, operations and underwriting director for 90.5 The Kat said, “SHSU is recognized as a hands-on entity. Professionals in the media market know Sam students have the training that is needed on the job.”

“The department also provides hands on training for every emphasis in the curriculum, with different kinds of experiences for people with different interests and different skills,” said Balas.

The students in print journalism have the opportunity to work with the student-run campus newspaper, The Houstonian. The Houstonian has been operating for approximately 96 years. Staff members work with a faculty adviser who trains them in terms of layout, design, writing, editing, and news value.

The broadcast journalism students’ responsibilities are writing, editing, shooting, doing on-air work, directing, producing, running the cameras, and programming for the campus TV station, also housed on the first floor of the Dan Rather Building.

Senior Brook Bortz, broadcast journalism major and anchor for channel 7, said, “I am proud to be a mass com Bearkat. I feel very grateful to have the equipment available to me because I have noticed many of the schools in Houston do not have the accessibility.”

“They do the whole show,” said Balas. “The students in the 499 course control channel 7 and make decisions and monitor programming, traffic and operations.”

The students emphasizing in public relations also can gain real-world experience by joining Priority One PR, a student-run firm. The students, under the supervision of a faculty member, work and design campaigns for clients.

“The university’s commitment to the applied as well as the theoretical and historical concepts that are related to mass communication is part of what makes this department so strong,” according to Balas.

“My colleagues are just amazed at how much our students do here in the department. Our goal is to help our students get the foundations they need in order to go into the media industries and succeed,” said Balas.

The mass communication department is also comprised of award-winning students and programs. In March the department won 25 awards from the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association Convention and Competition. The department won three awards for television, eight for radio, and an impressive 14 for The Houstonian.

For more information about the mass communication department, contact Balas at gbalas@shsu.edu.


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