Donors and University officials celebrated Strong Hall’s opening with a ceremonial ribbon cutting. Photo courtesy of University Relations

Wednesday, Sept. 6, marked the observation of a monumental event for the Department of Communication at UM: the Strong Hall Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.

Although the project first broke ground in April 2017, Strong Hall has been an enterprise more than a decade in the making, and its completion has allowed the communication and mass communication programs to be housed under the same roof for the first time at UM.

According to Steve Peters, dean of the College of Fine Arts, a facility where these programs could coexist was a feat the faculty had been “wishing and hoping and dreaming” of long before he arrived at UM in 2014.

“The hard edges around mass communication and communication studies and social media have all eroded, and we really needed an opportunity for students in those programs to be able to interact and collaborate with [each other],” Peters said. “The need for a unified home was really about excellence in teaching and learning [in a more] collaborative . . . and multidisciplinary environment.”

That sentiment was echoed by professors within the Department of Communication, such as Drs. Finklea and Ford, who said they recognized the value of proximity.

“There are things that can happen because you’re frequently seeing somebody or hearing what they’re doing, and there’s going to be more awareness of what our programs are doing individually so that we can identify collaborative opportunities,” Ford said.

“Dr. Hardig and I collaborated on a book chapter a couple of years ago, and it was one of those things where we came up with the idea when we went out to lunch,” Finklea said. “And I think about being able to sit down with someone face-to-face and being able to chat about an idea, [how] so much more can come of that more quickly than just emailing across campus.”   

Opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration are not the only ones emerging from Strong Hall’s establishment. With the construction of the new hall came a technology upgrade Peters likened to “going from a bicycle to a race car.”

“Before in our studio we were standard definition, four by three. We were making great 1980s style television,” Finklea said. “Now we are network-level. . . ABC News uses some of that same equipment. Our graphics program is the exact same that runs the graphics in the new Mercedes-Benz stadium in Atlanta.”