“Alumni from the School of Communication rock!” proclaimed Dr. Stephen Hunt, the executive director of the School of Communication. He acknowledged that alumni have been very actively engaged in sustaining the school’s scholarship program.
“Our alumni understand and appreciate the fact that when they give by supporting scholarships and opportunities toward students learning, their degrees become more valuable,” Hunt said.
Hunt cited a few examples.
“Alumni came together to form a ‘Red Line’ scholarship for journalism majors and working at The Vidette, in honor of The Vidette’s previous general manager, Harry Phil,” he said. “Plus, following the last TV-10 anniversary, alumni added two new scholarships for students working in TV 10.”
Hunt also praised the school’s Alumni Advisory Board, which meets at least once a year to discuss vital matters for the school, including the need to generate scholarships. “We talk about the need for alumni to give back, to help make the school even stronger,” he said. “Our alumni are amazing on the Advisory Board. Last year, we led every other academic department in the total number of gifts for Birds Give Back. We finished second overall to athletics. That’s saying a lot about our alumni base and the awareness of the need to give back.”
He expressed his utmost appreciation for that awesome gesture.
“COM alumni have a good understanding of students’ need for this kind of financial help to pursue excellent educational opportunities here in the School of Communication at ISU,” he said.
Discussing long–term plans, Hunt indicated that even though the school has several scholarships in place, all are devoted toward juniors and seniors. He also noted that ISU and universities nationwide are facing challenges in recruitment and retention of students. He indicated that the school is taking pragmatic steps to help. A plan, he noted, was to further engage the Alumni Advisory Board, so that together with the school, there will be more scholarships geared toward freshmen, which should help with student recruitment and retention efforts.
The scholarships are extremely important because they provide the opportunity for the School to provide our best students with financial support across all COM majors,” Hunt said.
To him, the competitive nature of college enrollments, coupled with the challenge associated with recruiting and retaining students, has created a greater need for these scholarships because some of these scholarships give the program and the school a competitive advantage. He further recognized that the scholarships also assist students to be successful and to defray financial costs.
A critical factor for the school and ISU that Hunt noted was that Illinois is the second–largest exporter of college students in the country. For the past couple of years, public institutions in the state besides ISU and the University of Illinois have struggled with enrollment. Therefore, even though ISU has done well, Hunt explains, we cannot become complacent.
“As we look forward, projections are by 2025, we will face a pretty significant decline in the number of high school students. This is going to be a lot more competitive arena for us to recruit students,” Hunt said.
He also recognized that student demographics in ISU are changing and is much more diverse than in the past. In this case, the School of Communication has students who represent a broad spectrum of the socioeconomic status. Such students, according to Dr. Hunt, have special needs. In this way, Hunt called for a persistent scholarship that will help address some of these challenges.
“School of Communication alumni realize that the better they do, the better the school becomes, and that gives alumni more reasons to support the school,” Hunt said. “The school is strong, and with alumni help and engagement, it can be so much stronger.”