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In a class by itself

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In one of the largest reorganizations in the history of UH Mānoa, five academic units with related yet distinct approaches to communication and information, from three different colleges, are combining to establish the School of Communication and Information (SCI) within the College of Social Sciences (CSS) this Fall. They are:

“This faculty-driven reorganization effort brings together units from across campus to leverage synergies and interdisciplinary opportunities for students interested in these fields,” said CSS Dean Denise Eby Konan. “It will allow them to explore the complexities of communication in one school to meet personal, relational, professional and community needs.”

For example, students may want to major in JOUR to report on war. Now in the SCI, they could also discover how to help others find and evaluate information on reports of war through courses in LIS. Alternatively, in COMG courses, students could learn how language is used to mobilize and marginalize people during times of war and how social identity processes contribute to conflict between groups.

“We’re breaking down any previously perceived silos of learning to have a more integrated, broader and richer curriculum for students,” said Konan. “This will increase course crossover options by gathering faculty in related specialties, strengthen the student experience and provide greater access to shared resources.”

Consultation of individuals and groups impacted by the proposed reorganization occurred from Fall 2020 to Fall 2021. The faculty-led working group reorganization team shared information and met with various units and constituencies across campus, set up a website for announcements and feedback, and held a series of town hall meetings. Faculty, staff and students expressed enthusiastic support for the new school.

The SCI is fundamentally concerned with the study of communication, including the creation and flow of information among people and communities, through media and technologies, and across time and cultures. The new school will help students to acquire the knowledge, skills and ethical perspectives to create, gather, analyze and share information. SCI graduates will have the tools and perspectives to solve problems by combining multiple approaches within the realm of communication and information.

“UH Mānoa students will now learn about communication from several distinct disciplinary perspectives,” said Colin Moore, inaugural SCI Chair. “Students interested in all aspects of communication – from speech and persuasion, to technologies that facilitate communication, to how information is organized, to how it is reported by journalists – can take classes across disciplines without having to search through different colleges.” 

Amy Hubbard, COMG professor and program director, agreed. “It’s something that the community, faculty and students have wanted for a long time because it rectifies past confusion about where to go to study communication,” said Hubbard. “By having Communicology, along with Communication, Journalism, LIS and the Matsunaga Institute for Peace together in CSS, there is more clarity and coherence in the different ways students can study and explore communication at UH Mānoa.”

She added, “It’s a good thing, because there can be new collaborations and initiatives. This will be a 21st century forward-thinking school that will equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to address critical problems facing the world today.”

Future librarians and archivists will benefit as well. “Information professionals have always needed to embrace the social aspects of their practice – things like intercultural communication, media literacy, negotiation and mediation are all necessary to connect people with information, and will be right there within SCI,” said Rich Gazan, LIS professor and program director. “That’s why LIS students, employers and faculty are so enthusiastic about this reorganization.”

With the support of UH Mānoa Provost Michael Bruno, UH President David Lassner signed the reorganization proposal this past summer, making it effective July 2022. SCI will be in a transition phase for the next academic year.