Walking down the aisle at Elon University’s 127th Commencement will be senior Haley Longbottom, a member of the first class of Communication Design majors since the program was created in 2014.

The program was created to teach students about the design of print publications, advertisements and websites or mobile media because, according to the university’s website, “The design of media and communication messages is important in a visual world.”

According to Harlen Makemson, a professor of communications and member of the steering committee responsible for the major’s creation, the program “fills a void.”

“We felt like it was an area that was sort of lacking in the program — that visually we could do a lot better,” Makemson said. “In part, we felt like there was a need in the industry for people who can combine visual skills along with storytelling whether it be journalistic, or whether it have a communications aspect.”

Enthusiastic support from members of the School of Communications’ Board of Trustees reinforced their decision.

Longbottom was a rising sophomore when the program was created. She said she was impressed by the faculty most of all.

“When you have a new major, it can be tough to pick and find specific faculty who are great at what they do and can cater to this new major,” Longbottom said. “But every single faculty member that I have had within the major has been absolutely incredible.”

Though she loved her experiences within the program, Longbottom said she thinks the program will continue to evolve.

“I think there’s room for improvement, but I think that comes from going through multiple classes and seeing what works and what doesn’t,” she said.

From her perspective, Longbottom said the program’s most prominent pitfall is a lack of electives, she said she feels confident that administration and faculty members are taking students’ input seriously.

Makemson said faculty members meet regularly to discuss what is going well and issues that might need to be addressed within their classes and overall curriculum, but he said not much is likely to change until next spring at the earliest, after the school’s accreditation evaluation period.

The School of Communications was nationally accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications in 2012, but that was prior to the creation of the Communication Design program.

Longbottom said that in spite of opportunities for enhancement, the program has served her well and she feels prepared to enter the professional field.

“You need to have guinea pigs to understand what can go wrong and what can go right,” she said.

Makemson said he thinks the overall School of Communications has benefited from the program’s short existence.

“We thought it would raise the level of competence in the other five majors, and I think we’re seeing evidence of that. When I see student work at The Pendulum or at Live Oak, the visual quality is much higher,” he said. “I think it’s sort of raising the level of our visual competence in general.”


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