The head of Gwynedd-Mercy College’s new communications program is a punk. Well, a punk-rocker, anyway — Janis Chakars plays guitar for the recently reunited band Citizens Arrest, which at least one critic has called “the best New York hard-core band ever.”
These days, though, Chakars is putting most of his energy into his day job: creating the communications program at Gwynedd-Mercy.
Building on classes already offered at the university — such as journalism, digital photography, marketing and Web design — they’ve added TV production, broadcast journalism, public speaking, magazine writing, public relations and visual communications. Students are also required to take a class in media ethics, reflecting Gwynedd-Mercy’s mission of social responsibility.
The program isn’t just theoretical, though. Students will be learning hands-on skills in the new TV studio and multimedia lab at the school. They’ll also be learning through off-campus internships, volunteer opportunities and service learning.
“It’s really important that students not be confined to the classroom,” Chakars says. “We want them to engage with the wider world.”
One way they’ll engage is through the requirement that they have at least one piece published in a community newspaper before they graduate.
Gwynedd-Mercy has what Chakars calls a “Goldilocks location.” He explains: “[It’s] close enough to Philly to benefit from what a big city has to offer, but giving students a quiet oasis in which to learn.”
Why study communications?
Whether you’re planning to major in it or not, Chakars thinks it makes sense to take at least a couple of communications courses.
“Almost every job today requires strong communication skills, so there’s a strong practical reason,” he says. “In addition, though, regardless of your major — liberal arts, hard science, whatever — you’ll benefit from understanding how we communicate.”