The Department of Media and Communications Turns 10

25 October 2010

In the hallowed hall of one of Sydney's oldest buildings, staff, students and alumni came together to celebrate the Faculty's newest milestone.

Over 110 people converged in the Great Hall to mark the Department of Media and Communication's 10th Anniversary on Tuesday 12 October.

Among distinguished guests present at the event was University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor, Dr Michael Spence. He noted the importance for democracy in having skilled professionals to communicate complex ideas, and the media degree's success in training intelligent minds to adequately critique the challenges facing society.

Dean of Arts, Professor Duncan Ivison, spoke about the distinctiveness of the media degree, with its emphasis on intellectual autonomy in the liberal arts as well as more practical aspects.

Professor Ivison said graduates are well prepared to ask society's difficult questions and piece together a broader news context thanks to the humanities facet of the program.

Chair of the Department, Dr Steven Maras, believes the first decade had been an "exciting" and "fast-growing" period in which both the undergraduate and postgraduate programs have expanded alongside the appointment of high quality staff.

"The future looks bright as we move to the next stage, and focus on strengthening our research reputation as a place where scholarly theoretical work enriches media and communications practice, further internationalising our curriculum, and solidifying relationships with industry networks," he said.

The Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney was established in 2000 by respected media academic and commentator, Dr Catharine Lumby. Past acting Dean of Arts, Professor Anne Dunn, was also instrumental in the formation of the degree in its early stages.

Since the genesis of the Media Department ten years ago, Dr Lumby believes the media course has grown to become "at the cutting edge" of the humanities and journalism in Australia. She said the course structure gives students unparalleled access to learning the key humanities skills crucial for today's media worker.

"They're learning about research, critical inquiry and communication. They're also learning vocational skills from people who are practiced and professional, as well as research-based academics," she said.

"That's really top-notch stuff and it's not happening at that level anywhere else in the country.

"I know, even though I work at a different University now, that Sydney University has the best Media and Communications program at undergraduate level in Australia."

As one of the nation's most elite journalism courses, the Media and Communications program provides a uniquely multifaceted approach to working in the media.

Students experience both practical and theoretical training in myriad media fields, including broadcast, print, online and strategic public relations, to obtain a rounded and multi-skilled education as professional communicators.

Sydney media graduates have gone on to work in careers as broad as print, online media, publishing, television, radio, advertising and public relations in organisations across Australia and the world.

The very first student to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) degree was Julia Carland in 2003.

Carland, who now works as a lawyer, said the Media program was an "excellent" way to gain the "transferable skills" of communicating well, dealing with people and working to a deadline.

"Whatever you're doing I think they're really useful," she said.

"It's a point of interest for people. You have an insight into an industry that a lot of people have an interest in, and if you can bring that to what you do later on, that's always an asset."

Meredith Griffiths is also one of Media's original alumni, graduating from the course in 2004. She believes the structure of the program, combining both classical, liberal humanities with practical media training, was a great benefit compared to other degrees.

"It was wonderful - it suited me down to the ground," she said. "I got to do my very artsy, very humanities stuff, but in the meantime I gained an interest in the media."

Griffiths, who now works for ABC Radio's AM, PM and World Today programs, said she appreciated the guidance of staff such as Anne Dunn who acted as mentors and gave her practical advice into the realities of working in the media.

Departmental staff come from a range of industry backgrounds, bringing with them the necessary experience and connections to give students a realistic understanding of the workings of the Australian media.

The broad scope of the Department's undergraduate program was also a highlight of study for 2008 graduate, David Fay, who now works as a freelance web developer.

"There was a lot of diversity in the subjects which made it really interesting," Fay said.

"It challenged you along the way; you were always learning new skills in each subject. The academics were always there to support you."

The Media and Communications Department offers a four-year undergraduate degree, professional postgraduate coursework programs and postgraduate research degrees.

The undergraduate course also enables students to obtain hands-on work experience through a compulsory 20-day internship in their third or fourth year of study. This equips graduates with a portfolio of work while they acquire practical skills and general media knowledge.

Testament to the course's high professional esteem over the past decade is the fact that the University of Sydney is only one of four institutions across Australia to be involved in the ABC's competitive undergraduate internship program.

These internship options were a highlight for recent graduate, Sarah Whyte, who finished the course in 2009. Having completed work experience at the Sun Herald, Whyte was offered a full time job at the paper upon graduation.

She said the experience of interning internationally at the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia as part of the Myer Fellowship gave her "grounding I never thought I'd get into the journalist's world."

"I went over there [Cambodia] not really wanting to be a journalist and came back loving it," she said.

"It's been a great degree."

Final year media student Arghya Gupta said he would miss his close group of friends and the late night "bonding" sessions in the media labs as students finish their practical broadcast assignments.

"These connections we make now will help us in our careers and stay with us for the rest of our lives professionally and socially," he said.

To see a sample of the work Sydney Media graduates are creating in the media today, visit the online media showcase, Salience.

Contact: Emily Jones, Faculty of Arts

Phone: 9351 2209

Email: 260f38550b400b20260c3527234f2a1d22117c3633187c3914