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Communication department settles into a better home

The communication department has moved from Building 45, which it shared with the music and visual arts departments, to Building 14D. This marks the first time the department has had a place to call its own.

Building 14D, located near the Green, was gutted and remodeled last year. Some classes were held in Building 14D’s first-floor lab rooms in the spring, but this is the first semester the entire building is operating.

The newly renovated Building 14D houses classrooms, offices, meeting space, computer labs and a TV broadcast studio.

Two of the labs are outfitted with new Mac computers. The department’s old computers were replaced as part of the UNF’s replacement policy, and their addition was not part of the renovation, said communication chair Dr. David Goff.

The computers have industry standard video-editing software and a suite of production tools created by the Associated Press, Goff said.

The new communication building also has a TV studio students can use to learn about and produce broadcasts. No such studio existed before.

With money the state of Florida allocated, UNF was able to furnish the studio with nearly half a million dollars in television equipment. Items include HD cameras, TVs and editing and production equipment.

Students were producing a monthly news-magazine show but had to shoot it at CW17’s studio, which limited their time and as a result, their ability to learn how to use the video equipment, said associate communication professor Dr. Peter Casella.

Students who produced the monthly news magazine Inside Jacksonville had limited access to CW17’s equipment because of scheduling issues, said Jennifer Reams, a UNF communication senior. Reams worked with Inside Jacksonville for three semesters and will be directing the communication department’s weekly newscast, the North Florida Weekly.

Reams said the new equipment in building 14D resembles a contemporary newsroom more closely than the equipment at CW17.

“[The new equipment] opens doors for students, it opens a whole new view,” Reams said.

“I go to national conferences, and I’m hearing professors talk about the great things they can do shooting with iPhones and flip phones, and here we have brand new, Panasonic, HD, state-of-the-art field cameras,” Casella said.

Though UNF provided funding for the studio’s equipment, furnishing the space proved more challenging.

Action News donated a set and news desk, and Channel 4 donated a second news desk.  First Coast News also offered some set pieces; however, the items didn’t fit UNF’s needs, Casella said.

Without the desk and set, students would be standing in front of a green screen, Casella said.

The building has more to offer than gadgetry, though.

One of the building’s best features is its small classrooms, said Dr. Paula Horvath-Neimeyer, who teaches journalism classes.

“Twenty students is about the max for a hands-on writing class,” she said.

The building offers the communication department a centralized location. The second floor is almost entirely faculty offices.

The conference room fosters unity among the faculty, Horvath-Neimeyer said. This is the first time all the communication faculty have had offices in the same place.

When the communication department was housed in Building 45, some faculty members even had offices on different floors.

Goff said he’d hoped the building’s layout would facilitate more interaction between and among professors and students. There is also a lounge area for students to meet and exchange ideas.

Resources like the TV studio will give students a more hands-on experience before they graduate, Casella said.

“It’s very difficult to convince someone to be part of an electronic news program when you don’t even have a studio. … The opportunities were just so limited,” Casella said.

Casella and Reams said the new facilities have already begun attracting student talent.

“We had one-hundred plus students interested in volunteering. Before we’d get half or a quarter of that,” Reams said.

As for drawing in new faculty, that will have to wait until the economy recovers, Goff said.

The communication department still holds classes outside of Building 14D. It can’t facilitate all communication classes at once, but Goff said there is room in the offices for more professors, when money is available.

“The investment that this administration has made in this program — especially in a recession — it’s fantastic,” Casella said. “The new facilities reflect … a rededication to the department.”

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