The University Record, October 2, 1995

Committee recommends study of possible certificate program in journalism

By Julie A. Peterson
News and Information Services

A committee charged with evaluating the future of the University’s graduate-level journalism degree programs has recommended that a new program—a Certificate in Journalism—be explored.

Such a program would allow students earning an M.A. or Ph.D. in another academic discipline to receive a certificate by taking a relatively small number of formal courses in journalism and completing an internship.

The committee recommended that the Master in Journalism degree program, currently housed in LS&A, not be relocated elsewhere in the University and that a moratorium be placed on admissions to the program effective fall term 1996.

“In making this recommendation, we do not mean to disparage the faculty and students of this program,” said the committee in its report. “Rather, we have concluded that the greatest need in journalism is for the education of experts in the very disciplines where the University has traditionally been strong—law, business, the social sciences, medicine and public health—and for experts in information technology, a field in which the University again has great strength and even greater potential.”

“All of us acknowledge the tremendous importance of the journalistic endeavor,” says Robert Weisbuch, interim dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies and chair of the committee.

“Our challenge concerns the relation of academic degrees to this endeavor—that is, what can the University do to prepare journalists that cannot be done elsewhere, and that is keyed to the particular qualities of the University of Michigan?

“It was the committee’s belief that we should not undertake such an effort unless it could be done well,” he says. “We became interested in the idea of a certificate because it would represent a unique contribution to the field and would build upon our strengths.

“The U-M already has several graduate certificate programs, the best-known of which is probably Women’s Studies. Students may get a doctorate in history or psychology or English, and also earn a certificate in Women’s Studies. That is the model we would consider.”

The committee reached its conclusions after months of research including interviews with more than 20 experts across the country, among them both practicing journalists and academic leaders in the field.

Interim Provost Bernard Machen accepted the recommendations of the committee to pursue the idea of a Certificate Program, and to suspend admissions to the master’s degree program pending consideration by the Executive Board of the Graduate School.

“You have outlined in a compelling way what our strengths and resources are, and I believe that your idea for a certificate merits further consideration,” he said in his written response to the committee.

The committee’s recommendations follow those of an earlier faculty committee, which in January advised that the LS&A Department of Communication be restructured for undergraduate and doctoral study of mass communication. The resulting Department of Communication Studies will focus on the study of the processes of mass communication, rather than on the preparation of journalists.

Machen appointed a new committee to set forth a more detailed proposal for the certificate program. He asked for a report within the current academic year.

Members of the committee will include: Walter Harrison, vice president for university relations and adjunct associate professor of English, who will chair the committee; Daniel E. Atkins III, professor and dean of the School of Information and Library Studies; Nicholas F. Delbanco, professor of English; Charles R. Eisendrath, associate professor of communication and director of the Michigan Journalism Fellows Program; Vincent E. Price, associate professor and chair of the Department of Communication Studies; and Robert Weisbuch, who also is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and professor of English.