Dr. Barbara Gainey named new Department of Communication chair at Kennesaw State


KENNESAW, Ga. (May 1, 2014) — Dr. Barbara Gainey has been named the new department chair for the Kennesaw State University Department of Communication starting July 1, 2014 following a national search.

With a background in public relations, Gainey has been an associate professor at KSU since 2003 and is currently the department’s interim chair since March 2013.

“I know KSU well,” she said. “I know the department so I’m very excited about what lies ahead for both our department and KSU. There’s a lot of exciting things going on right now.”

From department to school

One of the changes the department is looking into is becoming is expanding the department into a school on the KSU campus.

“We are still doing the research for what are the advantages,” Gainey said, hoping the department would become a school sooner than later. “What’s the rationale? What are the things that will help us if we transition to a school rather than a department.”

Gainey believed that a lot of these efforts to look into the possibility of becoming a school would take place this year. After putting a proposal together, the change will be considered by the faculty before going to the dean for consideration.

“This is a very large department,” said Gainey. “We have over 1,400 students.”

Gainey pointed out that they do not expect the enrollment numbers to change with the new GPA requirement going into place. She hopes to find out what the department can do to better serve the number of students they have when they transition into a school.

“We’re looking to moving toward majors, and I hope that will be in the not too distinct future,” she said. “We’ve already done the paperwork for converting our journalism and citizen media program and our public relations program into separate majors.”

She said she expects that the organizational communications and media studies will become majors as well eventually since the process has to go to the Board of Regents to be approved. Gainey said that because of the consolidation between KSU and Southern Polytechnic State University is currently going on, she was not sure when the new would take effect.

Creating the new majors is the desire of the department, she said, because it would help the students graduating from the college become more marketable.

“Right now, if you do graduate in journalism or public relations, that does appear on your diploma,” said Gainey. “But it’s not a separate major yet. There is a lot of interest with our department, with our students, and within the professional community to see us go for the major.”

Gainey said she wants the school to be a destination program so students are making a choice to come here for journalism, public relations, media studies, and organizational communications. She hopes students will come for what the program can do for them in terms of academics, expertise, and skills they will gain for when they go in the job market.

“We are getting ready to adopt a new strategic plan, which talks about a school of communication,” said Gainey. “[We're] looking at new majors.”

She mentioned they have in place some new certificates that are available to bring new opportunities to the students.

The department is still building their Integrated Global Communications graduate program, but so far it’s been well-received since it started in 2010, she said when asked about adding more graduate programs. Gainey also mentioned the online graduate certificate in social media.

“Students who apply to the graduate school and are accepted as graduate status can take this totally online certificate,” said Gainey.

Experienced faculty

The department also relies heavily on part-time faculty through professionals from the communication field in the metro Atlanta area.

“We are having a number of our courses taught by part-timers right now,” said Gainey. “The financial downturn hit state universities too, so we really haven’t been able to add permanent full-time positions in the past few years like we would like to. I hope that will change in the coming years.”

The department is always going to have part-timers who are involved, Gainey said.

“One of the things we’ve found through surveys to the students is that they value professional experience from our full-time and part-time faculty,” she said. “Our full-time faculty have had significant work experience outside of university teaching.”

For example, since Gainey has had experience in PR and crisis management, she is able to talk to her students about her knowledge and how it works outside of the classroom. That is the value the full timers and part timers bring to their teaching experience at KSU, she said.

“We’ll always have a part-time faculty here,” said Gainey. “But I would also like us to have a stronger base of full-time faculty here, too.”

KSU/SPSU consolidation

The department is still sorting out how the impact of the KSU/SPSU consolidation will affect the department.

“We are working side-by-side with many of [their communication professors] on the consolidation, ” Gainey said. “We have representation from the communication faculty on the nine groups so we’re taking every advantage we can to work with the whole process. I hope it will be a smooth transition. I expect there are a lot of questions and that will take a while.”

The SPSU faculty and students are welcome to the north campus and Gainey thinks it will be an exciting opportunity for everyone involved. She said that she plans to invite the communication staff at SPSU to the next Communication Colloquium in September 2014.

“In 2015, when the consolidation is complete, we certainly will be inviting all communication students, whether they are formerly of KSU or formerly of SPSU to participate,” Gainey said. “So there will be a lot of opportunities to welcome students and faculty, and get them involved.”

New GPA requirements

According to Gainey, new GPA requirements will go into effect in the fall 2014 semester.

“Students who are either a declared major now, or declared by this summer, will be a communication major,” Gainey said. “For new students coming in, or students who change their majors, in the fall, there will be a process where they will need to end their 2000 level communication classes, take all five of those classes with an adjusted GPA of 2.5 and get a passing score on a writing test that will be online, and then they can apply to declare communication as their major.”

The department is excited about the process. Gainey thinks the new GPA requirements will make the sequences of classes clear to students.

“They need to get the Writing for Public Communication class, the public speaking class,” she said. “We have a new lower level research class.”

Students will have to take a grammar portion and Associated Press portion as the two components for the writing test. Gainey said that students in the organizational communications concentration would probably just be taking the grammar portion of the test. According to Gainey, students should be well prepared for the writing test if they took the Writing for Public Communication course.

“Students who are serious about this field, who are interested in getting a degree [in communication], this is going to appeal to those students,” said Gainey. “Clearly you’ve got to have some writing skills to do well in this program, so we want to help students identify early ‘is that  your interest?’ If it’s not, you’ll need to consider another major but if it is your interest, if you do well on the writing test, if you have a good solid GPA when you finish your lower level classes, then you’re ready to move forward.”

Gainey hopes this program will attract students who did well in high school and are serious about their college education. She believes the program will benefit all of its students. According to Gainey, the department wants to make sure seats in classes are going to students who are serious about doing well in their classes so they can graduate.

Gainey was recently published in 2011 for the article “Crisis Leadership for the New Reality Ahead” in the Journal of Executive Education. She is the faculty advisor founder for KSU’s PRSSA chapter and won The George Beggs Advisor of the Year award in 2007. More information on Gainey can be found on the KSU communication department website.

Story by Leah Bishop
Link to original KSU News Now article