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Department changes name to highlight wider array of concentrations

(August 14, 2023) - One of Clayton State University’s biggest departments is undergoing a slight change. 

film theatre comms

This past July, Clayton State’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts was officially renamed to the Department of Film, Communication, and Performing Arts. The renamed department will continue to offer the same degrees in Film Production, Communication and Media Studies, Music, and Music Education, while introducing a new Theatre-area degree, Stage and Screen. 

Dr. Nasser Momayezi, dean for the College of Arts & Sciences, said in a written statement that the change is being made to “better align its name with the diverse range of majors offered within the department.” 

“This new name more accurately represents the various creative disciplines encompassed within the department and reflects our college’s commitment to supporting the evolving needs of our students,” Momayezi said. 

Long-time Clayton State film production professor Jonathan Harris is also undergoing a new change, as well. Harris officially began his first semester serving as the Interim Chair for the newly renamed department this August. 

Like Momayezi, Harris also believes the name change is a positive change for everyone involved in the department – students, staff, and faculty alike. 

“It better represents our majors that we have so the community immediately knows what we’re offering,” Harris said. “Visual [Arts] kind of contained Film and Communication, but you didn’t know they were in there. The faculty consensus in our department was to keep ‘Performing Arts,’ in the new name, in the new name, emphasizing the role that performance plays in our students’ education and future careers, and reflecting the importance of our Music and Theatre programs. But, by putting Film and Communication out there, it clarifies immediately to anyone reading our name what we offer.”  

Harris said that as the film industry has grown in recent years in Atlanta, Clayton State’s Film major has grown alongside it, noting that the program has gained more local students as well as students from New Jersey, Florida, and other surrounding states looking to start their film careers in Laker Nation. 

However, with that growth, Harris said that other concentrations in the department soon seemed to be forgotten and, like the end credits of a blockbuster film, began fading to black. 

“Communication was just completely hidden in Visual and Performing Arts,” Harris said. “Students didn’t even know we were there [or] that Communication was an option.” 

To regain the attention of both currently enrolled students and prospective future students, Harris said Communication faculty members were the ones to first present the idea of the name change. Once proposed, he said the move “passed with flying colors.” 

Right in the middle of that community on campus is Clayton State Communications Professor Steve Spence, who was one of the faculty members that voted in favor of the name change.  

While Spence believes the new name change may not excite many current students, he said it will be pivotal for potential future students in Communications who are looking for a university to eventually call home. 

“Mainly, we’re thinking about this for external audiences,” Spence said. “It’s about making sure that students who are interested in film can easily find their way to the department that offers the program. Students interested in Communication can easily find their way to the department that offers those classes and that major for them. The new name, at least, includes the largest major, the second-largest major, as well as the Performing Arts.” 

Spence added that he believes this name change will also help the department as a whole become “more visible” to anyone searching online for greater details about the various programs the university offers.  

He additionally said the new department name isn’t about “signaling a change of direction,” but instead “better reflects what we already do and who we already are” to help students better discover Clayton State. 

“The entire university is really focused on recruitment and retention right now,” Spence said. “We were tasked – we being Communication and Media Studies – with coming up with ideas that would help us recruit, that would be more effective getting the word out about what we offer to students.” 

Like Spence, Harris is also optimistic for the future of the renamed department and hopes that such a simple change can help lead to a larger student body of Lakers in the years to come – especially those who are passionate for the arts. 

“We are a community and a department that celebrates and teaches the Arts,” Harris said. “It isn’t just about Film and Communication. It’s about all of us, how we collaborate, and how we work together to create the next generation of artists in all disciplines in Georgia.” 

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