From the Chair

Bruce Drushel

Everyone should look so good at age 59.

Williams Hall was dedicated in 1959, meaning it celebrates one of those milestone birthdays next year: the big six-0.  Before then, the old Broadcasting program at Miami had been in a number of places, including the Old Main building and Building D. But Williams Hall was the first purpose-built home for media programs at the university. Once the location of WMUB-FM and WMUB-TV, it now is the home of all five of the programs in the Department of Media, Journalism & Film. It’s the first time Media & Culture (MAC), Journalism (JRN), Strategic Communication (STC), Film Studies (FST), and Comparative Media Studies (CMS) all have been in the same place.

That took some work. In the months leading up to the start of Fall semester, Williams was full of drywallers, electricians, painters, HVAC contractors, and flooring people who created new office space for faculty and staff moving to Williams from Bachelor Hall, as well as new computer lab and classroom space.

Williams Hall last underwent renovation in 1987-88, when the old building was stripped to its framing and new studios, offices, and classrooms were added. Back then, a small space (now two faculty offices) was dedicated as a computer-based writing lab. Prior to that, there had been three computers in the building – total. And networking, what of it was done back then, tied up office phone lines.

Thirty years later, you literally won’t find more than a handful of rooms in the building that don’t have at least one computer (they instead have shelves or toilets.) And networking, both wireless and ethernet, have been in place for a number of years.

Along with the new spaces, this year we welcome to Williams Hall new faculty: Matt Crain, assistant professor in Media & Culture; Lexi Marsh, visiting instructor in Media & Culture; Jim Timmerman and Lisa Bernard-Kuhn, visiting instructors in Journalism; and Charles Blades, producer of Stats & Stories.

I’m hardly new nor deserving of a welcome, since I joined the department during the last Williams Hall renovation in 1987. The department was called Communication back then, and included programs in Speech Communication and Speech Pathology & Audiology, along with Mass Communication. But I do find myself with a new title this Fall – Department Chair – and a new office. It’s daunting to follow in the footsteps of our first chair, Harry Williams, or those that followed: Jimmie Trent, Jerry Sanders, Mark McPhail, Gary Shulman, and Richard Campbell. Fortunately, people in the department and the university are being very patient.

In the meantime, the excitement of renovations and new neighbors is giving way to anticipation of new courses, such as the new smartphone course in CMS; a new year of our study abroad/study away programs in Washington, Hollywood, New York, Chicago, London, and Kosovo; and professional-grade content produced for our student media outlets, including MUTV, The Miami Student, Miami Quarterly, UP, and The Oxford Observer.

At 59, Williams Hall is experienced. But it doesn’t act its age and, God willing, never will.