Calling all alumni - FIMS wants to hear from you
Welcome to the first edition of the Faculty of Information and Media Studies Alumni newsletter. With this publication we hope to connect with our thousands of graduate and undergraduate alumni around the world. FIMS continues to grow and mature within the Western landscape, and we want to share our success stories with friends.
Although it will evolve over time, you can expect to read articles about the professional activities of our faculty and students, profiles of graduates, updates from individual programs, academic and curricular changes and anything else that we think you might be interested in knowing. We would like to start by providing an update on the ways in which our Faculty has matured and expanded over the last 15 years.
As Western’s youngest Faculty, FIMS has grown into a vibrant and unique community made up of seven distinct graduate programs and a large undergraduate student body studying a variety of media, information and technology-related subjects. As our place within academia continues to become more defined, we expect to keep growing. FIMS is now operating with a faculty of approximately 45 professors and lecturers, and over 20 administrative staff. Our current enrolment sits at around 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students.
Our success came from modest beginnings. FIMS began as a merger of three separate units. In 1996, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, the Graduate School of Journalism and the Faculty of Part-Time and Continuing Studies came together to form the Faculty of Communication and Open Learning, soon after renamed the Faculty of Information and Media Studies. The vision of the founding members of the faculty was that FIMS would be an interdisciplinary environment, where people from different areas could share knowledge and work together in research and other ventures. To that end, FIMS was set up as a collection of programs, rather than individual departments.
“It was specifically designed that way because we didn’t want the silo effect of having units which essentially just fought over their own turf and didn’t interact,” explains Nick Dyer-Witheford, current Associate Dean. And he says that while there have been challenges associated with melding distinct cultures and traditions together, there has been increasing recognition among faculty of the value of regular collaboration with different expertise.
“But I think that the constituency where it’s actually most advanced is at the level of our graduate students and particularly our doctoral students, who are constantly talking to each other across disciplinary boundaries and making links and connections,” he says.
In 1997 the innovative undergraduate degree program in Media, Information and Technoculture was launched. The first class of MIT undergraduates numbered 40 students. In 2011, there are approximately 800 students enrolled.
Kathie Hess, Senior Undergraduate Counsellor for MIT, has been onboard since 1998. She doesn’t believe it’s much of a mystery as to why the program has done so well.
“Passionate faculty and interesting and relevant courses have put the program on the map as one of the top undergraduate programs in Canada. Media education is being formalized in the elementary and secondary school curriculum – more students are interested in media messages and are looking for programs that teach them how to think critically about media messages,” she says.
“We spend so much of our lives with media and technology that it’s not really surprising that the program has taken off.”
The undergraduate options have also grown over time. The addition of the Media Theory and Production program in 2002 drew on expertise from both Western and Fanshawe College, providing students with practical skills in media production and also the critical theory that goes with it. The opening of an additional stream within MIT known as Media and the Public Interest in 2004 allowed students to study the ways media relate to issues of equity, democracy, class, race and gender.
On the graduate side, FIMS has seen the implementation of several new program options, including an MA in Media Studies in 2002, a PhD in Media Studies in 2005 and an MA in Popular Music and Culture (joint between FIMS and the Don Wright Faculty of Music) in 2007. As of September 2011, the brand new Health Information Science program (joint between FIMS and the Faculty of Health Sciences) will welcome its first class.
Dean Thomas Carmichael, who has been at his post since 2007, says that since his arrival, there have been three major areas of change. He first points to the expansion of programs and of the student body, particularly in graduate student numbers. Secondly, the Faculty has made significant research gains with the appointment of an Assistant Dean, Research in 2009, the development of research themes, and the continued encouragement of collaborative research projects.
“The third area is really the growth of FIMS externally. By externally I mean both within the university – I think FIMS occupies a larger place now than it did only a few years ago – and outside Western where FIMS is recognized not only by our competitor institutions across the country and North America, but also more widely as a centre for the kind of innovative research and scholarly work that we do,” he explains.
Carmichael expects that over the coming years we will see a continued maturation and development of the academic culture within the Faculty, with the unique mix of knowledge and expertise bearing results.
“I think that we’ve reached a moment in which we are now effectively working across programs, and faculty members from different areas – media studies, information science, journalism – have teamed up both in research and in terms of curricular projects. So I think we’ll see a growth in that. FIMS is well on its way to becoming a truly interdisciplinary place,” he says.
For more information about our Faculty, please visit www.fims.uwo.ca.
The Alumni Newsletter is assembled by Becky Blue, Communications and Info Resource Officer for FIMS. We want to hear from you! For questions, comments or suggestions about what you’d like to see in this space, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.