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80 Years

“I honestly don’t think a week goes by when I don’t have a memory of a journalism class or a chat with a professor. What they taught me still resonates, and I still practice what I learned in Martin Hall.”
David Cline (BSJ, 1986), proposal writer for Perspecta

When Cheryl Ferrebee (BSJ, 1988) started her journalism education at West Virginia University in 1984, Martin Hall seemed to have the premiere technology of the day. Having undergone a $1.8 million renovation in 1977, the College had electric typewriters, a video display terminal system, modern radio and television equipment, light tables and a photocomposition unit with more than 100 typefaces. There was even a small library in the building that housed physical copies of the latest newspapers and magazines so she could conduct research.

She gained experience outside of the classroom, working in the advertising department of The Daily Athenaeum. She was challenged by professors who brought real-world situations into the coursework. And, although she didn’t realize it at the time, she was being prepared to adapt.

“When I think back to just how basic ‘technology’ was when I was at WVU, it astounds me. I recall thinking that the broadcast students were high-tech because they had monitors and cameras with which to work,” said Cheryl. “Keeping up with technology has been both the most challenging and most exciting aspects of my career in advertising. I have gone from manually setting type, to planning, executing and measuring social media campaigns for my clients.”

Fast forward 30 years and Cheryl’s daughter, Jaymie Ferrebee (BSJ, 2020) was walking through the same halls and learning similar lessons. Jaymie grew up hearing about how much her mom loved the journal- ism school at WVU and saw firsthand how it had prepared her for a successful career. But ultimately, it was today’s curriculum and opportunities that sold her on majoring in strategic communications.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I first enrolled at WVU,” Jaymie said. “I reached out to someone in the strategic communications program, and after the meeting, I was sold.”

Both mother and daughter found the right fit at the College— one in advertising, the other in public relations. And in both 1988 and 2020, the respective Ferrebees took capstone courses that were the highlight of their college experiences. Cheryl had to sell Professor Bob Summers on an extensive media campaign for an assigned brand, and Jaymie took Chuck Harman’s study abroad capstone, where she built a campaign for an international client in Germany.

80 years spread
Clockwise from top left: Barbara Sayre Casey from the 1959 Monticola, WVU's yearbook; Cheryl Ferrebee (BSJ, 1988) pauses for a photo outside of Martin Hall with her daughter, Jaymie Ferrebee (BSJ, 2020), photo provided; Sports and Adventure Media student Mark Schoenster broadcasts a WVU men's soccer game, photo provided; Journalism student Stephanie Suwak uses a new video display terminal, photo from the 1981 Monticola yearbook.

“I honestly don’t think a week goes by when I don’t have a memory of a journalism class or a chat with a professor. What they taught me still resonates, and I still practice what I learned in Martin Hall.”
David Cline (BSJ, 1986), proposal writer for Perspecta

Even though 32 years separate their graduations, both Ferrebees credit the College’s project-based, hands-on teaching style for equipping them with the skills to succeed.

“All of the professors have impressive backgrounds in the field and adapt the courses to meet the ever-changing landscape of the media industry,” said Jaymie. “I learned how to make successful campaigns and portfolios very early in my course work, and by my senior year, I was building professional-level strategic communication campaigns for real-world international clients in my capstone.”

Over the past 80 years, the College of Media, formerly the P.I. Reed School of Journalism, has played an important role in the lives of nearly 9,000 alumni.

“I honestly don’t think a week goes by when I don’t have a memory of a journalism class or a chat with a professor,” said David Cline (BSJ, 1986), now an experienced proposal writer for Perspecta, a leading U.S. government services provider. “What they taught me still resonates, and I still practice what I learned in Martin Hall.”

Although the school celebrated its 80th anniversary this past academic year—75 years as the P.I. Reed School of Journalism and five as the Reed College of Media—WVU offered journalism courses well before the independent school was established on April 22, 1939. A two-hour course in news writing was offered through the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences beginning in 1915. Five years later, a series of professional courses were added, and as demand increased, a complete professional curriculum was made available to students. By 1927, a separate Department of Journalism was created, but Perley Isaac Reed advocated for more, fighting administrative battles and rallying outside forces until an autonomous school of journalism was created.

“Small classes, one-on-one instruction, and a regional, grass-roots journalism philosophy” was founder P.I. Reed’s vision for the newly formed School of Journalism, and those ideas remain at the heart of the College’s culture today. 

“As a relatively small college within a large university, I believe our students have the best of both worlds,” said Dean Diana Martinelli. “Our faculty still get to know students individually through our many skills-based classes, which are capped at 20 students each, and we incorporate service into students’ work, which makes it all the more meaningful.

“In addition, our students get the benefits that a large public university has to offer, from its diversity of people, perspectives and class offerings to major sporting and cultural events. Such activities enrich our students’ lives and complement our College’s strong liberal arts curriculum.”

FRONT & CENTER

Pam Larrick (BSJ, 1972) reflects on this perfect time to study journalism
Pam-Maphis-Larrick

I started at WVU in the fall of 1968 and graduated in 1972. To understand the School of Journalism at that time, you really have to step back and look at the environment of the school, the country. There were assassinations. Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy. There was a war. Promises of it ending. There was a draft — the first draft lottery in our country’s history. It was personal and scary. There is no question it had an impact on each of us, some more than others. Admittedly, it affected me.

I am from Clarksburg, West Virginia, only about 50 miles from Morgantown but back in the late '60s, it was a whole world away. There was an enclave of young people coming together from different walks of life to a place where you felt cocooned. Sorority life, fraternity life was big in my world then. The SOJ was my other world. Two places as different, yet as similar, as possible — bound by hopes and dreams, by fears and challenges.

But the intersection of the civil rights movement and the war made this period an inflection point for all in America. The draft was a major driver because the lottery impacted everyone. More importantly, it directly conflicted with the promises of ending or reducing our troop deployments to Vietnam. This made questioning our government more acceptable, and, for some of us, it led to challenging or codifying our own beliefs as well.

In May of 1970, students demonstrated across the country and at WVU as well. Martin Hall, positioned at the crossroads of the campus, was directly across from the demonstrators and those students standing by. As the demonstrations went on, tear gas wafted into the building through the open windows. But the irony of Martin Hall, home of WVU journalism, being front and center as these events unfolded is striking to me today. Perhaps back then it was not.

Pam Larrick

But now as I think about it, our years being in school were a perfect time for studying journalism at WVU. We were being taught to seek the truth. To get to the core of the news or the story with objectivity and professionalism. To ask questions but be prepared. Those days in classes helped me face the realities of the world around us that seemed confusing and surreal at times.

We sought conversations late in the evening with people across the campus. Most had different points of view and experiences. We listened. We spoke. We learned. We drank endless cups of coffee and saw the sun come up as we headed back to the dorm more times than I can remember. Our heads full of thoughts and our hearts wavering between trepidation and determination.

But those experiences made our classes more relevant, more personal. We became better students because we were more aware. Different ideas were not judged. Beliefs had a forum…if you had the facts to support them.

Those days at the SOJ listening, speaking and learning enabled this West Virginian to build the confidence and ability to be my own personal advocate. That helped me immensely as I navigated my life and career. This is something that is true of what the SOJ gives its students today. And that, I know, is priceless.


80-days-spread-2
Clockwise from left: Journalism students work in Martin Hall in the1940s, photo from the West Virginia & Regional History Center; Mark Schoenster uses virtual reality technology in the Media Innovation Center, photo by David Smith; Louise Crumrine Seals, editor-in-chief for the DA, from the 1966 Monticola yearbook.

Same Fundamentals | Different Media

Mark Schoenster, a Sports and Adventure Media student from St. Mineral, Virginia, chose the College of Media because of the opportunities that come along with the major, such as interning with ESPN-U, covering WVU athletics from the field and good job placement records, just to name a few. But he was also enrolling in a college with a long list of successful Pulitzer Prize and Emmy award winners, Oscar nominees, best-selling authors and executives who came before him.

“I wrote a paper for a contest when I was in eighth grade that won the local award and then moved on to win district,” Schoenster said. “It was the first time something I created was recognized, and I figured writing might be something I could pursue. When it came time to pick a college, I wanted to go somewhere that would give me the chance to hone the skills necessary to break into the sport media field.”

With a new major in Sports and Adventure Media, WVU was the perfect fit. Today, the College of Media’s majors have evolved to mirror the industry. Currently, there are six majors that prepare graduates for a variety of careers as journalists, advertising and public relations executives, on-air radio hosts, multimedia producers, marketing assistants, editors, graphic designers, content strategists and social media specialists. They work in a variety of industries—news, sports, fashion, entertainment, technology, healthcare, education, nonprofits, government and more.

The media world looked quite different in the 1950s, when only three majors were offered. Television was replacing radio as the dominant broadcast medium and newspapers were the predominant source of news — a stark contrast to the digital- first media industry Schoenster will be entering upon graduation. “J-School” students chose between sequences in news/editorial, advertising/management or general journalism and went on to become reporters, editors, advertising managers or public relations directors.

“It was really a stick to basics curriculum at the time with an emphasis on rigorous standards of journalism,” said Barbara Sayre Casey (BSJ, 1959). “We had reporting, editing, opinion writ- ing, newspaper production, including typesetting and layout, and advertising classes.”

Over the decades, the media industry would expand and change at a rapid rate, and so would the school. Sequences in broadcast and public relations were added, and career paths for students expanded accordingly. For Pam Larrick (BSJ, 1972), the lack of technology during her years at the College proved to be one of the greatest gifts.  As an advertising major in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Larrick did everything by hand.

“We literally taped copy and art together for the brochures or ads or storyboards that we were required to produce,” she said. There were also print production classes where she typeset pieces by hand. It was hard, tedious work. But it was also worth it.

“We learned to be resourceful,” Larrick said. “The attention to detail, to professional- ism, to getting it right was prevalent throughout the school. And that sheer resourceful- ness became a competitive advantage for so many of us during our careers.”

Today, the focus on emerging media permeates the College, with courses in game design and digital narrative, visual storytelling, podcasting, sports and adventure video production, infographics and data visualization, immersive storytelling through augmented and virtual reality and strategic social media, just to name a few. New interdisciplinary programs have been added, including an online undergraduate major in Integrated Marketing Communications that is shared with the Chambers College of Business and Economics and an Interactive Design for Media major, shared with the College of Creative Arts.

“One of the coolest things I have been able to do since coming to school is having the chance to experiment with new media technology,” said Schoenster. “I took a class that focused on these new methods of storytelling and how they can be used in a way that upholds the values of proper journalism, and it doesn't even stop in the classroom. Each semester, I have been able to work on projects with technology like augmented reality, virtual reality, 360-degree video, holograms and more to tell a story that regular photos, videos and words cannot capture.”

However, as the College adapts to the changes in media technology, the fundamentals of journalism persist, regardless of major. Required courses still include media ethics and law; basic writing and grammar; advanced writing and editing, which is major specific; along with a professionally focused capstone course.

Spread 3
Left - Johanna Fisher, managing editor, and Scott Widmeyer, news editor, work at the Daily Athenaeum. Photo from the 1973 Monticola yearbook; Right - Daily Athenaeum associate editor Ad Crable and editor-in-chief Bob Kittle, from the 1975 Monticola yearbook.

Same Focus on Experience | Different Experiences

When students are asked why they chose the WVU Reed College of Media, they often provide the same handful of answers. In addition to a focus on emerging media, they come for the community outreach, service learning and real-world experiences. These methods of learning have been staples of the curriculum for decades.

The 1978–79 undergraduate catalog included the following description: “A journal- ism education involves more than learning how to write and edit news stories or broadcast documentaries or to prepare creative advertisements. It involves the study of substantive issues that will need to be communicated in the next fifty years as well as those which have already occurred.”

Today, this philosophy is demonstrated through the College’s many academic, professional and community partnerships. Recent collaborations include Women Beyond Bars, an investigative journalism and advocacy communications project between the Reed College of Media and the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, and a reporting partnership with George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs that tackled the opioid epidemic and its effects on children. Additionally, in response to the current political climate, the College joined forces with PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize–winning news organization, to help train student journalists how to properly fact-check politicians.

The College’s community engagement is also seen in BrandJRNY, a research-based capstone course that developed integrated communications campaigns for West Virginia communities.

BrandJRNY Team

“This class really was a journey. It's a journey of growth, maturity and experience,” said Adison Ammons (BSJ, 2020). “I grew with my team, matured professionally and experienced a new love for the state of West Virginia. BrandJRNY gave me just what I needed – a hands-on project and an immeasurable amount of real- world experience in public relations and advertising.”

Practical experience has always been an important part of the College, even if it looked a little different in the past. For example, David Cline remembers a timed writing course where he had two hours to research and write a news article, mimicking a real experience writing for a newspaper.

“Dr. [John] Boyer would walk up and down the aisles, talking the whole time. He would stop at our desk, lean over and talk louder, ask questions, point out something, then move on,” said Cline. “He did this, he explained, because newsrooms are busy, crowded and noisy, and he wanted us to be used to distractions as we wrote and edited.”

A memorable newsroom experience for many students is working for The Daily Athenaeum (DA). First published in 1887, the DA has been regularly published on cam- pus for more than 130 years. In the 1920s, the newspaper became part of the journalism curriculum, serving as a lab for students, and stayed that way until 1970, when it became an independent publication.

“My DA work — from reorganizing library clip files in 1962 to being editor in 1965–66 — showed me a new world, one with more ifs, ands or buts than I had ever considered before,” said Louise Crumrine Seals (BSJ, 1966), who worked for the paper when it was located on the third floor of Martin Hall. “In general, using the DA Tuesday- through-Friday editions as labs for news writing, editing, photography and design also taught decision-making and awakened us to how complex it was to shepherd an idea or assignment into the paper.”

For many journalism alumni, working for the DA was a life-changing part of their college experience and played a key role in landing rewarding careers.

“As student journalists, we were left to our own devices,” said Bob Kittle (BSJ, 1975). “This meant that we made plenty of mistakes but also successfully scaled a steep learning curve. Based on the strength of my DA clippings, I scored a paid internship at the Charleston Daily Mail. I had learned so much as a DA reporter that I immediately jumped in as a police reporter.”

Former DA Editor Scott Widmeyer (BSJ, 1975) recalls, “Looking back, the foundation for communications, collaboration, social justice, advocacy and community build- ing was enriched from my four years on the editorial staff of The Daily Athenaeum. There, I learned skills in managing teams, covering breaking news, writing feature journalism and more. And, through it all, I developed friends for life and a community that cares for one another.”

Today the DA is just one of the campus organizations that provides critical experiential learning and career connections. There is also U92, WVU’s college radio station as well as Price and Prospect, the creative agency within the DA. Within the College of Media, students have the opportunity to be a part of the American Advertising Federation, the Association of Women in Sports Media, National Association of Black Journalists, Society of Professional Journalists, All Things Magazine, Film Club, Photography Club, Public Relations Student Society of America and Radio Television Digital News Association.

TedTalk
Top - Jack Hodge interviews Thomas Fulton, head of the WVU Social Work Department, for the Daily Athenaeum in 1954, photo from the West Virginia & Regional History Center; Bottom - Eric Minor (BSJ, 1995; M.S. IMC, 2014) cohosts TEDxWVU with April Kaull (BSJ, 1995; MS IMC, 2016) at the Media Innovation Center in 2018, photo by David Smith.

Same Investment in People | More Resources

There’s no doubt that journalism and journalism education have evolved over the last century. Once a lone course in the English Department, the journalism curriculum at WVU has grown and flourished to encompass myriad media careers. It has gone from a named school with two majors and a single master’s degree to a college that offers six undergraduate majors, five master’s degree programs (including four that are wholly online) and nine online minors.

This success can largely be attributed to visionary leaders who have come before like Perley Isaac Reed, Guy Stewart — a former student of Reed's— Chris Martin and Maryanne Reed, who had at least one thing in common: a commitment to investing in people – students, faculty, alumni, staff and friends.

“The College’s administration, past and present, fosters a culture to explore, create and innovate,” said Lauren O’Connor (BSJ, 2008; M.S. IMC 2016), a member of the College’s Visiting Committee and former Innovator-In-Residence. “As a student, I felt that the faculty were really invested in me and they connected me with alumni who also invested in me. That made me want to come back as an alum and invest in the College – to help advise and develop innovative courses and mentor students so they graduate with even better opportunities.”

But just as technology, curricula and real-world experiences evolve over time, so does what it means to invest in people.

In 2009, an investment in both students and faculty meant the creation of the College’s in-house Advising Center. Prior to its availability, students were advised by faculty (and even the dean). Now, four professional full-time advisors—all with master’s degrees—help students find and schedule courses that fuel their individual passions, support them when they’re struggling in a class and shepherd them through their college years to graduation. While faculty still support, guide and mentor students, the day-to-day academic advising role is left to specialists who are attuned to curriculum changes across the majors and University, as well as to current policies, processes and procedures, allowing faculty more time for course development, teaching, special projects and research.

In addition to the full-time advisors, the College hired an assistant dean for student and enrollment services who manages the advising services unit (Tricia Petty, who previously served the University as director of enrollment and as assistant vice president for University Relations under former journalism dean and university vice president Chris Martin), as well as a recruiter (Whitney Godwin, BSJ 2012; MSJ 2014) and a student careers and opportunities director (Eric Minor, BSJ, 1995; M.S. IMC 2014). In 2013, Minor, a former award-winning journalist, returned to his alma mater to become the College’s first internship and careers advisor. He manages the College’s mentorship program; provides career advice; offers resume, interview and social media self-branding help; facilitates and manages on-campus student interviews with media and communications companies; supervises professional experience opportunities for college credit; and provides internship placement assistance to students. In 2019, he received professional certification as a Board Certified Coach (BCC) from the Center for Credentialing & Education (CCE).

“Whether it’s a big question, like ‘what kind of work can I do?’ or a smaller one, like ‘how do I respond to this email from an employer?’ I’m always happy to help students come up with a thoughtful plan,” said Minor. “And alumni are central to the work I do. They provide j ob leads, they give us insight into industry trends and they mentor our students.

“The most exciting development of my first seven years on the job has been watching students mature into industry professionals who in turn offer their support to the next generation,” Minor added.

As we look back on the last 80 years, and even the last 40, when Cheryl Ferrebee stepped foot into a newly renovated, high-tech Martin Hall with electric typewriters, it may have been hard to imagine an entirely new building with an even higher-tech Media Innovation Center – an open concept, Google-inspired space with the latest digital storytelling technology, which opened in 2016. But as you consider the investments that were made to consistently keep the “J-School” turned Media College on the cutting edge, it’s not surprising.

Through all of the changes, adaptations and innovations, one theme has remained: believing in and supporting people who want to make a positive difference in the world, be it through journalism and communications, teaching, mentorship, research or creative works. Our history is rich with examples of such support, and the needs and nurturing continue.

“Whenever I see the bust of P.I. Reed in Martin Hall, hear alumni recall the impact made by former faculty members like Paul Atkins, Bob Summers, Pam Yagle and Ivan Pinnell, see the hall plaques commemorating endowed professor- ships and other high-level financial support, I’m reminded of our collective vision and dedication to journalism and education,” said Martinelli. “We’re incredibly grateful to all who have supported this vision and dedication over the years, and we know our work has never been more important.”

“We’re incredibly grateful to all who have supported this vision and dedication over the years, and we know our work has never been more important.”
Diana Martinelli, dean
     

THEN & NOW


Maxwell and Christy

If you’ve been listening to the campus radio station, U92, at 6 a.m. on Wednesdays these past few years, you’ve probably heard programming from Maxwell Shavers (BSJ, 2020). If you happened to be listening at 6 a.m. on Wednesdays 30 years ago, you would have heard from his mom, Christy Day (BSJ, 1990).

When Christy arrived on campus in 1986, she had no idea that her son would be following in her footsteps — she fully expected him to go in a completely different direction from her career. And while Maxwell’s professional journey will look a lot different from hers, using technology that she never imagined at the time, they both credit the College with providing them with the skills they needed to succeed in their careers. 

Why did you choose the College of Media/School of Journalism?

Maxwell: I chose that specific college because I loved the atmosphere along with what it encompassed. Communicating, exploring various media and storytelling in a progressing environment was encouraging.

Christy: When I was in seventh grade, I got an “F” in conduct in my math class. I wasn’t misbehaving, but I talked all of the time. I talked to myself, I talked to people who would listen, and I talked to people who would not listen. It wasn’t until I enrolled in classes at the WVU School of Journalism that I realized that I might as well use my powers for good.

Who was your most influential faculty member?

Maxwell: David Smith. I was a student of his for three straight semesters and had some life changing learning experiences under his instruction.

Christy: Dr. Charles Cremer. How I loved him. He instilled such faith in me as a student, and I loved his broadcast class. He was a historian and had such a great rapport with all of the students. He challenged his students to ask questions incessantly. Those questions were also inflected for our self-discovery.

What’s your favorite WVU memory?

Maxwell: Going on my Adventure WV trip right before I enrolled in classes my freshman year. I met some forever friends and crossed a few things off of my bucket list, one of them being going whitewater rafting.

Christy: I became friends with people from all over the world. I learned from them. I became more civic-minded, and I better understood my purpose and responsibility as a global citizen. I learned painful lessons, and I lived fully in every moment at WVU. I was at the big win against Penn State (I did NOT charge the field), and I marched for things important to me. At WVU I simply “fit” there, and the J-School allowed me to hone skills that would serve me for a lifetime.

What was your favorite class and why?

Maxwell: My favorite class in college was Brand Storytelling. I took pictures and video alongside the BrandJRNY team and traveled to Pineville and Point Pleasant.

Christy: Dr. Cramer’s broadcast class. He emphasized the importance of telling a story – beginning, middle and end. He made you think about content and to have a vision. He also made you think about the impact and emotional investment of your words and constructed sentences. Here we are decades later, and I can remember so many of his lessons.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

Maxwell: Don’t be afraid to seize opportunities that might seem uncomfortable to you.

Christy: Perfection is not the mode of transportation. If that is what you believe, your ride may be frustrating and unfulfilling. The journey is made whole from the pitfalls, the missteps and the downright failures that teach the greatest lessons.

What did the College of Media/School of Journalism teach you?

Maxwell: Persistence is key. Whether reaching out for a source or finding depth in a story, persistence is key.

Christy: A year after graduating with my BSJ, I returned to WVU and earned a Master of Public Administration. After completing that degree, I moved to Washington D.C., and returned to my first love, journalism. WVU gave me the confidence to run with the big herds. I found myself in the White House press room, sticking mics in the face of D.C. Mayor Marion Berry, digging through public files to get information and beating the pavement and knocking on doors trying to convince sources to speak to me. I had confidence and was unafraid even though I still had a lot to learn.

How did the College prepare you for your future?

Maxwell: It gave me skills that I would never have developed on my own, and it taught me professionalism and networking.

Christy: The faculty at WVU took my crude undeveloped skills and refined them in ways that have served me a lifetime. I was able to join my inquisitive nature with my love of writ- ing and, of course, my love of talking (communicating). WVU established a sound foundational skill set to build my professional career and it developed those soft skills that are also critical for success. Today, I continue to ask the question of myself that I began asking as a college sophomore ... how can I be better?