Fall 2001 enrollment at the P.I. Reed School of Journalism at West Virginia University has more than doubled since the fall of 1995, setting a record with 538 students, said Ivan Pinnell, associate dean for academics and graduate studies.
“We have more students taking classes and theres more opportunities for professionals to teach in the school,”Pinnell said.
The enrollment boomspurred by increased interest in mass communications and confidence in the journalism school and its ability to train young journalistsis good news, Pinnell said. But the record numbers are also a mixed blessing.
“We have more people than we’ve ever had before and our resources are stretched to the limit,”Pinnell said.
He attributed the student increase to the schools innovative curriculum, its formidable local and national presence and its strong professional affiliations that lead to top-level internships and jobs for graduates.
Sixty-two percent of the schools students are from West Virginia. Female students make up 60 percent of the schools enrollment. The schools minority enrollment increased slightly to just below 7 percent.
The school hosted four Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists during the spring Festival of Ideas. It also touts an experienced faculty that includes Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and WVU Shott Chair in Journalism Terry Wimmer and renowned former Associated Press Vietnam War correspondent and Ogden Newspapers Visiting Professor George Esper.
“Our nationally recognized faculty give students an opportunity to study with the fields brightest stars,”said Dean Christine Martin.”Students know they are going to get individual attention from the best in the business. Thats quite a draw.”
The schools partnerships and community journalism projects have also attracted growing numbers of students. The broadcast sequence partners with KDKA and West Virginia Public Radio to give students hands-on experience. And news editorial students can work on the W.K. Kellogg grant-funded Mon Valley Voice and The Compass to develop their writing skills, Pinnell added.
In addition, Martin said, the school offers the only online graduate Integrated Marketing Communications program in the country. That new program, combined with numerous internships and professional programs, has filled the schools advertising and public relations sequences to capacity.
The two sequences lead enrollment with 169 and 180 students, respectively. The school boasts over 70 public relations internships per semester, Pinnell said.
Enrollment has also increased significantly in the news sequences. The school enrolled 102 students in its news editorial sequence this fall and 87 in its broadcast news program.
Despite a sluggish economy, Pinnell credits a robust job market for the higher student numbers.
“The third reason for high enrollment is students find out that good paying jobs are available in our sequences,”Pinnell said.”There were more jobs available last year than students to take them.”
But a record enrollment doesn’t come without its problems, Pinnell said. The increase in enrollment is taxing faculty, staff and Martin Hall.
To accommodate a growing student body, the school embarked on revamping the former photography laboratory into classrooms and office space. The school hired three graduate assistants to help with the growing advising load.
“The down side is that our resources are strained, time is at a premium and, considering that students come first, service to the community and state and research become more difficult to fulfill,”Pinnell said.
Pinnell said he doesn’t expect enrollment to drop dramatically in the coming years. Nor does he anticipate the school will waver on its high standards of teaching excellence and one-on-one teacher-student relationships.
“The kids know we take care of students,”Pinnell said.”They are taken care ofthey are not just a number. We don’t coddle them; we don’t baby them; but we take care of them.”
Fall enrollment on WVU s main campus is up nearly 800 students overall, or 3.6 percent, President David C. Hardesty announced last week. A total of 22,774 students are attending the Universitythe secondest highest in the institutions history.
WVU s regional campuses in Parkersburg, Keyser and Montgomery also experienced enrollment increases3,377, or 99 more students at WVU -Parkerburg; 1,254, or 146 more students at Potomac State College of WVU ; and 2,374, or 48 more students at WVU Institute of Technology.