February 16, 2000
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456 or mstepanovich@csub.edu

Communications Is Newest Academic Department At CSUB

The newest academic department on the California State University, Bakersfield campus faces an influx of students and a growing demand for its classes, its chairman says.

Those and other factors prompted the English/Communications Department to separate into two separate departments to better meet student needs, said communications professor Andy Alali, who has taken the reins of the new department. English professor Victor Lasseter, who had chaired the combined department, continues as chair of the English Department.

"We found we needed to separate the departments because the needs of the students in communications was different than the students that the English folks serve," Alali said. "Our decision was influenced by the type and growing number of students served.

"We do two different things, and our quest to be granted this divorce was bolstered by external program reviewers who said we need to be an independent academic unit. Above all the administration was quite interested in seeing communications as a separate department which is part of the growth of the university."

Alali said the department has four options in which students can specialize:

  • The journalism option, for students interested in a career in newspapers, magazines, book publishing, technical writing, and web publishing.

  • The public relations options, for those interested in organizational communications, both profit and non-profit, employee relations, and the related fields of health communication and marketing.

  • Computer imaging, including graphic and visual communications, as well as interactive production and design.

  • Speech communications, which had been dropped from the curriculum, but was re-added in fall 1998.

  • "Students have the opportunity to choose from one of four options," Alali said. "We've also designed the electives in such a way that students can take courses in each of the other option areas in addition to their specialization. We believe this helps in the skills development and marketability of our students.

    "Communications involves different areas, and it's important to know what happens in public relations and print and so forth. It helps to be able to discuss and understand all options in communications."

    One area of communications not offered is in broadcast. "It's quite expensive to build a studio, and it would be quite a drain on the School of Arts and Science's budget," he said. "We are open to branching into a television production and broadcast sequence as we see a need."

    Alali said the department helps find internships for those interested in television and broadcast production, as well as in the other areas of program emphasis. "Our immediate goal is to strengthen the current offerings and then add a master's degree in communications," he said. "Of course all of that depends on enrollment, budget and the addition of instructors to assist the current faculty in teaching the graduate courses."

    The department currently has five full-time faculty and six to nine part-time faculty. The fulltime faculty members are Alali, Judith Pratt, Elizabeth Jackson, Gary Byrd and Omar Guevara.

    Originally from Nigeria, Alali earned his bachelor's degree from Alabama A&M University in telecommunications, and his master's in journalism and radio/television from Murray State University in Kentucky. He earned his doctorate from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

    He has been teaching in college since 1984, and came to CSUB in 1986 from Washington, D.C. He left to teach at CSU Dominguez Hills in 1987, then returned to CSUB in 1989, where he's been ever since.

    He was influenced in his choice of fields by an uncle who was a respected journalist in Nigeria. This caused a family conflict: "I wanted to be a journalist," he said with a smile. "But my father wanted me to be a physician.

    "As I went through the education process I moved away from journalism toward developmental communications, and analysis of the media. I dealt with such issues as how the media covered terrorism, disasters, other issues."

    Alali says he still writes for academic journals, plus he keeps his hand in journalism through participation in journalism fellowships. "I spent three months as a faculty fellow of the American Society of Newspaper Editors with the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and recently as a fellow of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, Inc. at the University of Pennsylvania's Hersey Medical Center in Hersey, Pennsylvania. I'm interested in science writing and how science issues are covered, particularly how health issues are covered in the media."

    His interest has led to a contract to edit a book, with Dr. B.A. Jinadua, about health communication issues in Africa, which is due out soon. This will be Alali's fifth book.

    He sees a growing role for communications in the 21st century. "It's an interdisciplinary field," he said. "I see communications being called upon to help navigate and make more contributions in areas such as health and politics. "As a field of study, communications creates more awareness to enhance other disciplines. As a process, it's something you cannot divorce from other aspects of life."

    For more information about CSUB's communications major and its options, please contact Alali at 661/664-2152.