FAMU’s j-school wants to be more digital


In a 2013 McKinsey survey of young people and employers, 40 percent of employers say that lack of skill was the main reason for entry-level vacancies and 60 percent said new graduates were not prepared for the workforce. The biggest gap was in technical skills. 

“I went to school for communications and now I work in tech. Honestly, I do not think enough students are equipped with the knowledge needed for these jobs,” said Kayla Burke, a technical sales consultant at IBM.  “At my job I am one of the only black women in my department. Not enough students, and definitely not enough black students are in these positions.”

Florida A&M University touts its journalism school as one of the premier programs in the country because the school provides students with the necessary skills to excel in the communications industry. Students are known to shine and soar higher than their peers at internships and jobs. But, is it enough?

The world is going digital right before our eyes. Every morning we are checking Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter just to name a few. Everything from movies, TV shows and music are now being streamed online. Even the news breaks online first.

Digital has become the fastest and most timely form of communication.

Many communication IT jobs are not being filled, according to the McKinsey survey, because people are not trained for the positions or not earning degrees with the skills needed to work in those fields. It’s not that there is a lack of jobs but a lack of skilled individuals to perform those jobs.

Dhyana Ziegler, Interim dean of FAMU’s School of Journalism and Graphic Communication, wants to tailor the curriculum to prepare students for the digital world.

“My vision is to create a digital track between journalism and graphic design that encompasses both sides of the curriculum so that students can have those tools of both sides of the house,” she said.

SJGC has a curriculum that teaches students pillars of journalism, which are research and storytelling. However, employers are now asking students to not only have the foundation but to have the skills to create content using a plethora of software.

“Digital is a growing lucrative market that will continue to expand. If students hope to be competitive within this market, they need to be equipped with the knowledge, tools and training that will set them up for success,” said James Bland, film director and a graduate of the FAMU’s business school.

There seem to be many different views on the school’s success in keeping up with the digital shift, but both professors and students believe there should be a digital track added into the curriculum.

“By adding more digital and tech classes it would teach students the skills that will put them at a greater advantage in ‘securing the bag.’ The media industry is highly competitive,” Alicia Hope, a graphics professor at FAMU. “Students have to be a quadruple threat in order to compete in today's job market.”

Students believe that we are keeping up with digital and tech but we would like to add a few more classes to feel confident.

Some students are hoping that animation classes and other courses designed for the digital world will be added to the curriculum.

“The whole curriculum should be digital if you ask me, since that is the way of this world. I wish we could add animation courses that allowed us to design cartoons as well as screen printing,” Matthew Donaldson, a broadcast journalism student, said.