Dr. Greg Pitts Leaves Legacy Of Accreditation
Jul. 15, 2015
By Bryan Rachal, University Communications
FLORENCE, Ala. - Dr. Greg Pitts, Professor and Chair of the University of North Alabama Department of Communications, will soon be leaving UNA after finishing his sixth year. Pitts is taking a similar position at another university, but before he leaves on July 31, I decided to sit down with him for a Q and A about his time at UNA.
Q. How long have you been at UNA?
A. I started July 1, 2009, so I just finished six years. I'll have been here six years and a month.
Q. what is your main area of focus, and what classes have you taught?
A. Well, let me talk about the department first. The department is journalism, radio, television, public relations, film and digital media, and public communication. I'm really a broadcaster by background, but in my doctoral studies and in my teaching in the last 20 years or so, I just think of myself as a mass communications person.
Again, newspaper verses television verses radio, it really doesn't matter anymore what it is. It's really a question of trying to teach students to gather information, evaluate it and then convey a message. Maybe it's a press release; maybe it's a news story.
Since I've been here I've taught introductory mass communication courses, but I've also taught our senior class communication portfolio, which I think is really cool. We have a senior portfolio course where we discuss writing your resume; we work on cover letters, the elevator pitch, and an online portfolio. What can you say to someone? What skills do you offer? Basically, how you start your career.
Q. So it kind of runs the gamut? You really touch on a little of everything?
A. You know in that class, that's really the goal. You say to a student, 'You've been in school now and you've worked full time or part time for four, five, six years, and we want you to graduate and move on with your life.' But you can't move on if you don't have a way to tell your story so somebody says, 'Hey, I want to hire you.' And that's one of things that makes the program at UNA unique amongst some of the larger peer institutions in the state. You know, we've got a personal relationship with the students here.
Q. Since you arrived in 2009, how has the department changed?
A. I started by putting together a timeline for accreditation, I knew we needed curriculum changes, and we desperately needed new equipment and some updates to our building. So we've replaced tile; we've had walls painted. Donors provided carpeting; and through a matching grant we received a major auditorium overhaul and it's now our surround sound digital screening room. We've had other classrooms overhauled and redone and we've put in a number of improvements.
We've added hands-on production facilities, including buying new television studio cameras. The cameras we had were old analog and now they're digital so they dump directly into a computer. We've added a Mac lab and updated another computer lab. We applied for a low power radio station construction permit, which was approved. We've refurbished our television studio; there were a lot of things out of date. We also brought together print and broadcast journalism, and made other changes so our students work across a variety of platforms.
Q. So obviously, and I don't want to go out on a limb here and speak for you, but perhaps your biggest accomplishment since you've been here has been the accreditation?
A. Oh yes, by far. There's only one organization in the U.S. that accredits journalism and mass communications programs, the Accrediting Council on Education and Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC). It's recognized by the U.S. Department of Education; and they accredit U.S. journalism and mass communications programs. Roughly, 118 programs are accredited now in the world.
What it does for UNA to be an accredited program: First, it says that your peers have looked at your program; they've looked at what you do in the classroom, the faculty, the resources you've made available, and they've found them to be in good standing.
The academy, the university, is all about peer review and ACEJMC accreditation - to achieve that at a university the size of UNA, honestly, it's a little unusual. Out of the 110 accredited programs in the U.S., most of those tend to be the one or two big state universities or very high dollar wealthy private schools. There are not many schools in UNA's category that are accredited. It says that the curriculum is in good shape, the teaching resources are here and the other part of the accreditation process is we go through and look at where our students are working. We look at a placement rate and retention and the goal of the program is to attract students, offer a good curriculum and let them graduate in four years' time.
Q. What's your funniest or fondest memory of UNA?
A. I'll tell you the funniest thing when I first got here: First, let me say that I'm an Alabama native, born and raised, graduating high school and college here - Spent a big chunk of my life working in the South and Southeast, but I also did a lot of public speaking, debate and radio work along the way. And it happened that the teaching job I held before coming here was at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. So, when I first got here people had heard that I came from up North somewhere; by the way, Illinois is the Midwest not up North! But the funniest line I used to use, people would say 'Where you from?' And I would say to them, 'Well, as you can tell from my accent, pause dramatically, I am a native Alabamian.' And they would always do this double- take and say, 'No, no, I heard you came from Illi-noise.'
Pitts' last day at UNA will be July 31; the College of Arts and Sciences has yet to announce an interim chair for the Department of Communications.
For more information on the Dept. of Communications: https://www.una.edu/communications/