Classroom Publication Puts Communication in Action

by Rashad Mulla

Classroom Publication Puts Communication in Action

Communication professor Michael Dickerson’s students are good writers. But each semester, it is their creativity that really stands out.

Dickerson, who teaches COMM 399: Public Relations Council this semester and has done so for the last five years, asks the class to write feature stories on students, faculty and alumni as regular assignments. The stories must be good enough to appear in off-campus publications, and Dickerson encourages his students to attempt to get their work published. 

The result of this hard work is The Communicator, a full-length feature magazine that presents some of the course’s best writing of the semester. Since Dickerson began teaching the course in the spring of 2005, his students have produced one issue of The Communicator each semester.  The magazine is completely a student effort. 

“They have to rely on a network of associates to do this,” Dickerson said. “They have to do some layout, some editing, some printing. It teaches them to work as a team.”

Dickerson allows the students to choose their roles and content. Some students write or edit, and others handle photography and layout.

In the past year, Dickerson’s students have written about many members of the Mason community in The Communicator. The spring 2010 issue featured stories about students such as then-junior and Olympic swimmer Kate Ziegler and aspiring model Cat Lee. The magazine also covered faculty members, such as the recently retired communication professor Sheryl Friedley. Two students wrote an article about alumnus Gabe Norwood, a member of the 2006 Final Four men’s basketball team, for the fall 2010 issue.

This semester, Dickerson’s students have begun work on a variety of new articles, including at least one covering the experiences of Japanese students at Mason after the earthquake and tsunami that struck their country on March 11.

It’s the type of substantive storytelling Dickerson has grown accustomed to.

“They’re good stories,” he said. “I want the students to have the experience of creating a product that they’re proud of and pleased with.

Image: Two recent issues of The Communicator.