2021 marked the beginning of a new era for the College of Journalism and Mass Communications (CoJMC). Over 75 faculty, staff, alumni and industry partners came together to chart a new vision for the college as a national leader in experiential journalism and mass communications education. The first aim of our strategic plan, approved in May 2021, was to launch a college-wide Experience Lab to provide every student the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working in one of the college’s media outlets or agencies.
Over the summer we outlined the policies and procedures for the Experience Lab and trained our student leaders. In August, we added over 13,000 square feet of new space dedicated to experiential learning and welcomed 14 professionals in residence to campus to ensure our students are career ready. In September, we secured funding for a new television studio and newsroom and a new photography studio and multimedia lab. In October, we published the first issue of Heartland Webzine. In November, we launched the first broadcast of Nebraska Nightly and approved the curriculum changes requiring all students spend at least three semesters in the Experience Lab. In December, we started construction on the new Unlimited Sports Lab.
We still have much work to do, but I am thrilled with the progress we have made already and humbled by the outpouring of support and encouragement from across the college, campus and community. None of this would have been possible without the incredible support of our alumni, donors and industry partners. In 2021, we more than tripled the funds raised or redirected to the College compared to the previous year and increased the number of individual donors to the College by almost 20%. In addition to supporting our experiential learning programs and research and creative activities, this generous increase in gifts allowed us to award more than $340,000 in scholarships in 2021—a 28% increase over 2020—and fulfill our mission to nurture curious and creative minds to thrive in the ever-changing media and communications professions.
Our inclusive “do from day one” experience, rooted in hard work, collaborative problem-solving and the ethical pursuit of truth to uphold democracy resulted in record breaking accomplishments in 2021. Our students published 464 stories through Nebraska News Service and Unlimited Sports. Jacht, Buoy and our advertising and public relations capstone classes worked with more than 50 local community clients. Through Heartland Webzine and our depth reporting classes, we drew attention to incredible business and community leaders who are often overlooked and underrepresented. KRNU, Nebraska Nightly and our media production classes created timely news broadcasts and podcasts and even short-form TV pilots on topics that spanned from alien invasions to waste reduction. We taught 22,897 credit hours to 9,570 students in 390 classes, and awarded 338 degrees in 2021—the most ever awarded in one year in the history of the college.
Another aim of our strategic plan was to emphasize and prioritize research and creative activity. We launched Knowledge on Tap to share research and creative works across the college and began meeting monthly to discuss funding opportunities and programmatic research. Over the last year, we increased the number of grants secured outside the college from two to 14! The number of faculty research and creative works more than doubled, including three books, 12 creative works, 17 conference presentations, 16 media contributions and 17 journal articles and book chapters. Twelve of our faculty have been named fellows with research centers across the university and the wider academic community. This is incredible, considering just 22 of our 37 full time faculty have a research apportionment.
Our students and faculty received 103 individual awards in 2021, all while supporting and promoting each other through the chronic effects of a global pandemic. The CoJMC Family isn’t just a cute hashtag on our college t-shirts, it’s one of our values: We care for and encourage each other as we work together to create a better future.
I am so proud of our college and all we accomplished this year. Just wait to see what we’ll do in 2022!