With a new dean, Dr. Norman Mintle, at its helm, the School of Communication has been revamped for a rapid launch to another dimension of academic excellence.
“We are creating something very unique — and it is going to build on the good work accomplished here in the past with greater excellence because we will have far greater opportunities,” Mintle said.
The school has recently been restructured, allowing for better synergy among communication-based departments. The School of Communication is now comprised of the Department of Theatre Arts; Department of Studio and Digital Arts; the Zaki Gordon Cinematic Arts Center, under the direction of Stephan Schultze, a Hollywood veteran with an expansive résumé; and the Department of Communication Studies — which encompasses journalism, speech communication, digital media (formerly broadcasting), and advertising and public relations.
In addition, Liberty’s media productions team has been merged into the school. This latest move allows for the integration of students into real-world professional media venues.
Mintle and the department heads have begun to augment their curriculum with a greater and more diverse array of real-world opportunities, better equipping students to enter their careers as experienced professionals. As students of these departments explore these opportunities, they are able and encouraged to integrate, working together just as they would in a professional setting.
“I am convinced the way the real world works is through collaboration,” Mintle said. “Anytime we can bring together a real-life simulation on an educational level we benefit the student, better preparing them to go out to wherever they aspire to — Hollywood, New York, TV networks or stations, Broadway, drama troupes, missions and church work involving media and drama.”
The possibilities for integration are endless: broadcasting students create programs that require advertising and public relations students to brand and market the product. Actors from the theater department are readily available to provide talent for cinema or broadcasting projects. Digital artists can create posters and logos for films and programs.
|Dr. Norman Mintle, dean of the Liberty University School of Communication|
For decades Liberty’s founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr., utilized his public persona to promote the university and further the Gospel. From appearances on every major news network to original programming created in house, Falwell took full advantage of the power of the media.
Dr. Ron Godwin, Liberty’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, sees this as an opportunity for students to get plugged in, working with industry professionals at Liberty to create more original content.
Right now, Liberty’s media productions team produces about 30 percent of its own content for the Liberty Channel. Godwin and Mintle
aim to flip that around and begin producing more and more student-generated programs.
“Mintle will be able to bring experiential training and learning to the communication students to a degree we have never been able to offer,” Godwin said. “The recent deployment of a significant number of Liberty broadcasting staff members to the School of Communication, under the direction of Dr. Mintle, will allow communication majors far greater opportunity to engage in the actual production of television, radio, and print media.”
This semester, more than 100 students expressed interest in working in a wide variety of productions through this new production group — from Convocation and church services to Flames sports (Athletics and Club Sports) to original programming written, produced, and directed by students in collaboration with professionals.
A number of students are already plugged in, helping produce these events, and more are going to be integrated as the production group expands.
This new arrangement allows students to work closely with the department’s staff of industry professionals to gain a learning experience with practical, professional training not commonly offered at other universities. Students will be able to gain varying levels of experience as they work their way up through the program, with volunteer positions, practicums, and eventually internships available.
Mintle said he hopes to increase the volume of original content as the program grows, incorporating more sports and campus events, like concerts, and branching into original programming, such as news and talk shows.
A new “mini-program” tentatively called “Top Plays of the Week,” is currently in development. This program will join “Option LU” and “Around Liberty in 90 Seconds” as a part of each week’s Convocation lineup.
To better equip the students, faculty, and staff to do this, the School of Communication plans to build a full-blown production studio and has acquired a new HD production truck to take on location for live events.
Now, advertising and public relations students will be given further opportunity to sharpen their skills as they can help brand and market the original programs. Students of this program already excel and have won numerous awards with nationally recognized advertising agencies. Most recently, two teams of two students were flown to New York to pitch campaigns to industry leaders and executives as finalists of the Collegiate Effie MINI USA brand challenge. Liberty’s teams claimed the top two spots in the competition.
Those interested in print media can gain valuable experience through the awardwinning, student-run newspaper, the Liberty Champion, and Liberty’s award-winning yearbook, “SELAH.” Both publications provide learning opportunities in writing, photography, design (graphic and layout), editing, and management, and incorporate both print and digital formats to properly equip students to succeed in the field.
The Department of Studio and Digital Arts gives students with an artistic flair opportunity to hone and showcase their gifts in a variety of ways.
At Liberty, students are invited to participate in a number of art shows, galleries, and competitions. Utilizing the Liberty University Art Gallery and various computer labs, these projects enliven the facilities and give students a taste of life as an artist.
For the exceptionally motivated art student, Liberty encourages them to submit work in a number of local and national art competitions. Every year Liberty students come away with prestigious awards, ranking them in league with (and even above) artists from the most recognized institutions in the country.
In its new location on the fourth floor of Arthur S. DeMoss Learning Center the program provides gorgeous classroom settings for its students — state-of-the-art computer labs with the latest software for digital artists and stunning art studios that feature natural light, high ceilings, and loft storage for studio artists interested in painting, pottery, ceramics, and more.
Mintle recognizes the value of good actors and their role in strengthening the quality of other programs, such as cinema and broadcasting. In its new home under the School of Communication, the Department of Theatre Arts is in a stronger position to offer increased opportunities for production and acting students to work in film, television, and radio.
The recently launched in-house Alluvion Stage Company presents opportunity for students to notch a professional credit on their résumé.
Voice acting is a growing market and students may gain experience through Playhouse of the Airwaves, a newly formed radio drama series produced at Liberty.
As the program continues to expand, Mintle hopes to build a black-box theater (a simple, performance theater that is easily re-arranged to accommodate various settings for different types of performances) so that greater learning experiences are achieved with expanded opportunities for serious and important theater literature.
The school’s newest program has just taken students “all in” with the first semester of the cinematic arts’ immersion program under way.
This rigorous two-year journey focuses solely on filmmaking — the innovative program requires students to have completed all of their required general education courses and the three core cinema classes, and then apply for acceptance into the program.
Under Stephan Schultze, who has worked in every aspect of the industry (major motion pictures, television, music videos, commercials, industrial videos, etc.), and his faculty of experienced professionals, students will explore many key disciplines of filmmaking and learn to succeed in the cinema industry. Through workshops and guest speakers, students will hear from some of the biggest names in the industry, including Randall Wallace (writer, “Braveheart”).
Students work hands-on with top-of-the-line industry standard equipment, including RED camera packages, Avid edit bays, ProTools, and THX certified sound mixing equipment. All students who graduate from the program will have written and directed their own short film; compiled a professional reel of their work; written, polished, and formed a business plan for their own screenplay; and will have a credit on a long format film.
“I am excited about the School of Communication rising to a new level of educational quality under the leadership of Dr. Mintle,” Godwin said. “It is the adding of a far greater degree of experiential learning and training to our communication majors that excites me the most at the provost level. I am a great believer in students putting their talents and passions into action outside of the classroom.”
Mintle said what Liberty is going to be able to offer in the next one to two years will exceed what students could experience elsewhere.
“I’m not aware of any other university or college in which a full professional production group has been integrated into the academic setting. Here we are able to provide our students with opportunities not available elsewhere,” he said.
“When any high school student in America says, ‘Where do you go to get the best experience with broadcasting, or filmmaking, or theater?,’ they are going to say, ‘Liberty.’ It is going to be the first thing on the top of their minds. Because this is a place where artists are nurtured to develop their craft, whatever the discipline, in a God-honoring environment where excellence is our bottom line.”