Our Story

The mass media field is always evolving. Society, culture or technology changes and we change with it. Even the beginning of this department was generated by change.

In the fall of 1991, Communications Professor John Hunter accepted a position as the chair of the Department of Communication Studies. By the end of that school year, Hunter reported to Washburn University President Hugh Thompson that there was an emerging opportunity within the department for mass media professors. The field of mass media was expanding, and department was having trouble balancing the mass media classes with traditional communication classes. President Thompson declared it was time for a change.

The Department of Mass Media officially began in the spring of 1993. It offered concentrations in broadcast, public relations and journalism. In 1994, the program celebrated its first four official graduates.

In the past 25 years, the Department of Mass Media has had eight department chairs who have made improvements to the curriculum, requirements and technology used in the classrooms.

Today, the Department of Mass Media offers concentrations in contemporary journalism, advertising & PR and film & video. Mass media is still an evolving field and in maintaining the department’s visionary beginnings, it remains active in the community, partners with various groups on campus in annual initiatives, and continues to graduate competitive media practitioners every year.

The 2018 Mass Media Keynote Speaker event signaled big changes in the Department of Mass Media.

Assistant professor Kristen Grimmer and her students in the Public Relations II class took the reins from Kathy Menzie, who is retired from Washburn University after 20 years of service. She was in charge of more than 15 of these events during her time at Washburn University.

Island music floated through the air as students, staff, parents and other guests mingled. Attendees were treated to door prizes and feasted on a Mexican food buffet featuring fajitas and churros.

After dinner, keynote speaker Ivy Pruss shared how her own mishaps created the path to her current job as a writer for the Oprah Winfrey Network’s hit show “Greenleaf,” which is about the life and questionable choices of a family who runs a mega-church in Memphis.

Pruss shared that her path to Hollywood was not exactly straight. She took off for New York intending to work in publishing, but struggled to find a job in that industry. Instead, she wound up working as a paralegal for a while, and spent some time living on the couches of friends.

Pruss emphasized that students should be chasing their dreams, even if they are big, lofty ones. She instructed students to grab opportunities, even if they are not perfect because you never know which pathway might lead to a dream job.

Pruss also visited film classes during her three-day visit and shared tips on how to pitch ideas to a network during a separate lecture the afternoon before the keynote speaker event.

Assistant Professor Matt Nyquist said Pruss was impressed with the kindness and hospitality of faculty and students in the Department of Mass Media.

Another highlight of the evening came toward the tail end, when a video tribute to Menzie played on the big screen. It included messages from faculty, former and present students.

“I didn’t anticipate such a wonderful tribute,” Menzie said. “Or how tough it would be for me.” Menzie received the longest standing ovation of the evening and was visibly moved by the gesture.

The long-time leader is saying goodbye to the department, but Menzie believes that the department is heading in the right direction.

“I’ve loved this department for 20 years; I’m going to miss it. The department has such an incredible future ahead of it.”

The Department of Mass Media also recognized five outstanding students and handed out 26 academic scholarships for next year.

As the night wound down, attendees had their pictures taken in front of a tropical backdrop to commemorate the evening.

“It was a great evening, I thought it went smoothly,” said Colten Allen, a senior mass media major who also helped organize the event. “Being a part of setting things up and watching it come together was satisfying. When you put all the mass media students in the same room, it’s always going to be fun.”

GET IN TOUCH WITH Mass Media Department

Mass Media Department
Henderson Learning Center
3rd Floor; Room 316
1700 SW College Ave
Topeka, KS 66621

Phone & Email
Phone: 785.670.1836

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