Since it opened its doors in 2004, Gaylord Hall, home to the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, has been widely considered one of the campus’ most modern buildings. But when OU classes begin on Aug. 24, the facility will attract even more envious gazes from students and professors in other colleges, as a brand new, state-of-the-art addition is set to be unveiled.
The new wing, Phase II of the construction, is a $19 million addition that doesn’t merely include more classrooms, said Joe Foote, the college’s dean.
It features additional Mac-infested computer labs, a 180-seat auditorium that doubles as a television set, a video production studio complete with both a green and a white screen and space for a student-run advertising and public relations agency, Foote said.
The college had plans to add on to Phase I from the beginning, he said, but no timetable had definitely been set for when the add-on was to take place. It wasn’t until he proposed a hypothetical Phase II at a faculty retreat shortly after becoming dean that the ball got rolling, Foote said.
“I approached the faculty at a retreat we had four years ago about, what if we could do this? What would we want in this building? And we had about an hour discussion which turned out to be almost exactly what’s in the building today,” he said. “Very prophetic, I mean.”
From there, Foote said he spoke to the architect of Phase I, Rees Associates Inc., a firm with an office in Oklahoma City.
“They put some thoughts together just on spec, and then the real difference came when I approached (OU) President (David) Boren about this,” he said. “And he approached donors that would have an interest in doing this, and within just a couple of months, he had secured all of the funding to build Phase II.”
Of the $19 million it took to construct the addition, $11 million came from foundations, with the remainder coming from university bonds, he said.
When the new phase’s classroom lights turn on for the start of another school year, journalism and mass communication students will have a lot more space, but Foote said he is not worried that any of the new square footage will go unused.
“Of course, there’s a little growing room because this is the last time a building will be built for journalism in a generation, so got to prepare for the future,” he said. “But we should be very well-equipped.”
The new wing will allow the college to house all but one of its classes, the large Introduction to Mass Communication course that all students who enter Gaylord College must take, Foote said.
So students from all five of the college’s majors ” journalism, broadcasting & electronic media, professional writing, advertising and public relations ” will get to use the new space. But perhaps no students will benefit as much as some enrolled in advertising or public relations.
That’s because the new phase will be the home of a student-run advertising and public relations agency. David Tarpenning, an advertising professor at OU, is teaching the group of students selected to head up the newly founded agency.
About 27 colleges around the country have agencies like the one at OU, Tarpenning said, but OU’s is the most recent, which allows it to be one of the most up-to-date agencies of its kind.
He said the experience students have working at an agency while in college is extremely helpful once they step out into the real world.
Each year, he said, he takes OU advertising and public relations students to New York City to tour agencies. While on one of these tours, Tarpenning said he asked a director at one of the firms if she would prefer a student who had worked at an agency like OU’s over a student who had done an internship at a professional agency.
“She said, ‘By far, I would rather have a student who came from an advertising agency, a student-operated advertising agency, because they know exactly what to do,'” he said. The firm executive said a student coming from an internship may not have had the same experience.
“She said, ‘You can never tell in an internship whether all they’ve done is filing or get somebody coffee or get somebody lunch,'” Tarpenning said. “And in this instance (at the student-run agency), we don’t do that. I mean there’s none of that. This is actually working with clients.”
During the summer, 18 students worked to get the agency up and running, and 18 more will come on board when school starts, he said. The plan was to wait to start working with clients until fall, but the word-of-mouth publicity has already attracted real-world organizations to the agency.
Tarpenning said the agency is currently speaking with 10 clients, which has made for a fairly large workload for the students. Daniel Dean is an advertising senior who has spent his summer working for the OU agency.
He said the experience has been a lot of work, but hopefully it will benefit him once he graduates. And benefiting students is the ultimate goal of the agency, as well as of Phase II in general.
Foote said he thinks the college has achieved that goal with the completion of the new phase.
“We have succeeded in getting everything we need to have a first rate, full service, nationally recognized journalism program,” he said. “Will Holland