School of Journalism and New Media Reorganizes Into Departments

Bill Cassidy, Rashad Mammadov and Brian Smith join faculty as department heads

An instructor talks to a small group of college students seated in a classroom.

OXFORD, Miss. – As the University of Mississippi grows, so is its School of Journalism and New Media. That is why the school is reorganizing and adding a new department that has a proposed new degree track.

"The enrollment in the School of Journalism and New Media is very strong and we are even outpacing the growth of the university," said Andrea Hickerson, the school's dean.

"That growth is why we decided to go to departments structurally, to create stronger identities for our programs. They were really intermeshed before, which was great. There was an overlap.

Rashad Mammadov

"Now, each program can have its own identity and can better cultivate specific experiences for students."

The school will add a media and communication department alongside the existing journalism and integrated marketing communications programs.

"Degrees in our program have never been more relevant," she said. "We teach sense making. We teach people how to process information, how to gather information and how to communicate that effectively.

"I'm committed to our students having long-term careers and not just entry-level jobs because the world changes so quickly – in part because of technology – they're going to have to know how to learn and adapt, and that is what we have to prepare them for."

School officials are hammering out curriculum details for a new bachelor's degree in media and communication. Hickerson hopes to make the new degree flexible to cast a wider net for students.

"Journalism and IMC are very sequenced degrees," she said. "You have to learn this skill, which goes to this skill. The newer degree should be high-flex for students, and we think that will really help with transfer students that come in with credits from other universities.

"It's a generalist degree. It's also a way to build communication competency, in general, but from a critical thinking perspective."

Bill Cassidy

The new degree should be attractive to students who plan to enroll in graduate or law school or who want careers that involve critical thinking and analysis, she said.

Rashad Mammadov joins the faculty in July as chair of the new media and communication department; Bill Cassidy, as chair of journalism; and Brian Smith, as chair of IMC.

Mammadov comes to Ole Miss from the University of Fraser Valley in British Columbia, where he was director of the School of Communication. He brings more than two decades of experience, including digital and visual communication, journalism and media studies.

His goal is to ensure that students learn flexibility and adaptability as they sharpen critical thinking and research skills, embracing and birthing innovation.

"The school's proactive exploration of emerging media technologies and technology-driven changes in communication and journalism, including AI, excites me," he said. "I plan to contribute to the school's growth by introducing global perspectives and exploring program expansions and interdisciplinary collaborations.

"Ensuring that students are equipped to understand and navigate future workplace challenges, which may differ significantly from today's, will be essential for both legacy and new programs."

Cassidy's new role as journalism department chair follows 18 years of service at Northern Illinois University, where he became director of graduate students in the Department of Communication in 2021.

Brian Smith

Cassidy is president of Kappa Tau Alpha, the national honor society in journalism and mass communication. The faculty at Ole Miss attracted him to the school, he said.

"I was not actively seeking a new position, but this was too good of an opportunity to pass up, in large part because I believe my experiences and skills as a leader, instructor and scholar can effectively contribute to the school's vision and tradition of excellence," he said.

"Training and educating a diverse population of journalists and sending them out prepared to do their jobs will have a positive impact on the school, the university and society, especially when you consider the direct connection between the work of journalists and an effectively functioning democracy. The profession and study of journalism is crucial to public life."

Smith comes to the school from Brigham Young University, where he was an associate professor of public relations. He is associate editor of the International Journal of Strategic Communication.

Smith is a Fulbright Scholar and an Arthur W. Page Scholar. Besides his 15 years of experience in academia, he also brings experience in brand marketing, market research and publishing. 

"My top priority is to use our strength in numbers to build the national and international reputation of the major, the school and the university," he said. "I want to see students enrolling at Ole Miss to specifically study IMC because we offer both the education and experiences to succeed in public relations, advertising and other marketing communications careers."


Marvis Herring


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June 03, 2024