WKU Department of Communication reflects on 50-plus years on the Hill

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Inside the halls of the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center on the campus of Western Kentucky University, an important department lies tucked away in room 130.

That room is home to the WKU Department of Communication…which has now served the school for more than 50 years.

“I think it’s very special because there are some communication departments that in other universities did not really prove that they made a huge difference,” said Dr. Helen Sterk, Department Head of the Department of Communication.

This communication department, however, has made a lasting impact, both on the students and faculty and staff.

“We have been able to stay relevant, to stay current, to stay valuable,” added Sterk.

Sterk has served in the department since 2011, but her connection with it predates that. She actually received her Master’s degree from the department in the late 1970s, so she’s seen first-hand many of the changes this department has experienced during its 50 year existence. The biggest, and most important, change that Sterk points out, though, is the enhanced connection to jobs due in large part to the addition of advertising, public relations, and pop culture courses to the department’s curriculum.

“What that did is it brought us in touch with very specific jobs and very specific careers that many students in [communication] were interested in but didn’t know how to get to,” Sterk said.

There are many goals for the future of this department, but Sterk said the biggest is get all of its current programs solidified, as well as hopefully expand to offer more certificates to others beyond just the student body. Accomplishing those things, she said, will hopefully cement the department’s presence on the Hill for another half of a century to come.

“The discipline itself is crucial,” said Sterk. “The idea that employers are looking for decision-makers, they’re looking for collaborators, they’re looking for people who think critically. Well, that’s what we teach in our department. And I think people know that.”

To celebrate more than 50 years at WKU, the department will be holding several events throughout the week, including an open house/panel discussion and dinner on Friday.