School of Journalism and Communication Takes Learning to a New Level


Over the past year, Southern Adventist University’s School of Journalism and Communication (SJC) has made it a priority to offer students a next-level educational experience. From extensive renovations to innovative new classes, these efforts support the department’s long-standing goal of sparking intellectual hunger and challenging students to succeed.

As part of this commitment, the SJC team applied for and received a grant to research other flourishing journalism departments across the country. In an industry that is constantly changing, Rachel Williams-Smith, PhD, dean of SJC, found the comparisons beneficial in helping her team to identify new, effective methods of incorporating current technology and honing relevant skills.

SJC added several new classes, including courses on social media and media ministry. As a result, Jacob Fisher, senior journalism major (with an emphasis in digital broadcast), received a unique opportunity to apply his skills; through a class outing to J103, a local Christian radio station, Fisher landed an internship producing advertising spots for the station.

“It has been an incredible experience! I’m constantly learning new things, and I’m having a great time,” Fisher said. “I appreciate how SJC integrates spiritual matters with real-world applications.”

This past fall, two new professors joined the SJC team: Pulitzer Prize nominee Alva Johnson and award-winning film maker Pablo Fernandez. With his broadcast experience, Fernandez brought a fresh approach to the age-old speech class, introducing a TedTalk-style learning experience.

One of the most visible changes to SJC has been a complete remodel of the department. This included adding several new classrooms, a state-of-the-art photography studio, and a lounge area where students can relax and watch the news. Boards showcasing student work now line the halls, inspiring creativity and success.

“The remodel has made the department more welcoming,” said Lizzie Williams, senior public relations major. “The large couches and comfy chairs encourage us to come together, and the new study spaces help us grow academically.”

Lorraine Ball, associate professor of journalism and communication, has taught at Southern for 18 years and witnessed dramatic changes in the field. She and her fellow SJC professors encourage students to be the best that they can be both academically and in personal character, despite negative perceptions that some may have of the industry in an era of “fake news.”

“Ethics are a huge part of what we teach,” Ball said. “We try to weave values and principles into every class. We model them, we teach them, but ultimately it’s up to each student to embrace a strong moral code.”