New CCI directors find home at Kent State despite challenges of pandemic

New directors in the College of Communication and Information came into their roles at a difficult time, but are working toward greater involvement despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among these administrators is Emily Metzgar, the new director of the School of Media and Journalism

She said her entrance was definitely a strange way to start a new role at a new institution and a difficult aspect for her is not seeing the students. 

“I don’t know what campus looks like in a normal setting. When I go outside at lunch and walk around, there’s just no one there. I have to keep reminding myself this isn’t normal,” Metzgar said.

However, everyone has been very kind, welcoming and sensitive to the challenges associated with stepping into the role right now, she said.

She found the students and faculty in CCI to be very committed and immediately saw a lot of opportunity for growth in MDJ. 

“I’m committed to ensuring MDJ tells its story loudly and clearly,” she said. 

During her career, Metzgar would like to address feedback received from students in MDJ’s recent student surveys:

  1. Students are frustrated that classes are being offered with a variety of technology to meet virtually. For example, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Blackboard Collaborate. Students want classes to be offered using a consistent platform.

  2. Technical difficulties — either the student or instructor struggling with their own technology. 

  3. Students would like more connection with classmates and instructors. They’ve found communication to be especially difficult with asynchronous classes.

Jana Seifert, third-year advertising major, and Jessica Urig, third-year public relations major, said their own semester experiences involved increased workload and decreased motivation.

Urig feels she isn’t learning as much as she would in person. 

“I’m a very hands-on person and I feel like just listening to the information isn’t as helpful for me,” she said. 

Seifert said her motivation is “in the tank,” but the Franklin Advertising organization helps keep her connected. 

The organization is for students pursuing degrees in advertising, marketing, visual design and other communication studies. The organization provides them with professional experiences, according to its website. 

Although meetings are virtual and events aren’t happening this semester, Seifert said she’s grateful to have a time to sit and talk to other students in the same situation. 

“It’s really nice to have something to look forward to on Tuesday nights. Everyone there is super nice. We’re all in the same boat and just trying to get through it together,” Seifert said. 

The students also agree that professors have been pretty accommodating and understanding. They said they found courses being adjusted well to fit a remote setting. 

However, the students said they feel professors are expecting a lot more from them this semester. Both mentioned a larger workload and less time to complete assignments. 

Seifert lives in the Centennial dorms and said it’s easy to isolate herself. However, Urig, being a commuter, said she has concerns about Kent State not offering enough tools to commuters.

“I wish they were doing more with screenings, testing, etc. towards commuter students. An email about trying to be safe isn’t the same as a real screening,” Urig said. 

She said she’d like to see more tools offered for at least the students in Northeast Ohio.

Despite these concerns, both students said they commend administrators and feel they are doing the best they can. 

Metzgar wasn’t the only director entering CCI at a difficult time. 

Michael Beam made the transition from faculty to administration this year in the School of Emerging Media and Technology

But stepping into this new role hasn’t been without its challenges, he said. 

EMAT received both a new director and new home this year, moving from its previous place in the Kent State library to the third floor of Franklin Hall. 

“It’s a bummer to have this nice new space and we’re really excited about partnering with MDJ, Ideabase and student media,” Beam said, “but having to be on all day virtual meetings; it’s more challenging than I would like.” 

Not being able to see faculty, students and staff every day is disorienting, he said, especially because EMAT is an interdisciplinary unit with joint faculty across different programs. 

Though it is a different experience than expected he said he also sees opportunity.

“The remote situation has really demonstrated how important technology skills and being able to still have vibrant communication over technology is,” Beam said. “That’s what our school is really about.”

Seeing many industries dive into emerging media to be successful at this time has been great, Beam said.  

His involvement on campus is all about innovation. He mentioned being on the team that proposed bringing together the School of Digital Sciences with CCI which led to the now redesigned EMAT school he directs. 

This innovation continues with revision of old programs, such as the graduate program, and work on new programs such as the new Bachelor of Science in Emerging Media and Technology. 

But the biggest focus right now is trying to create a sense of community without face-to-face conversation, Beam said. 

“We’re trying to figure out creative and fun ways for our students to just get to meet each other and communicate,” he said. 

Jessica Cobb is the regionals/CCI reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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