Journalism at APU: Scholarship, Skills, and Recognition

by Department of Communication Studies

The journalism program at Azusa Pacific University is demonstrating its strength by winning top regional and national awards, providing faculty members a platform to share their practical and scholarly experience, and securing new programs and equipment that support a culture of excellence.

“An APU education teaches students to be critical thinkers and provides opportunities for them to get the tools they will need to be great journalists,” said Brooke Van Dam, Ph.D., APU’s journalism program coordinator and assistant professor.

Van Dam is working with the university’s Information and Media Technology office to set up a television studio for use by broadcast journalism students.

“This new set will allow us to fully realize a broadcast journalism program,” said Van Dam, a former TV journalist. “We have strived to make our journalism program convergent, but this studio set has been the missing piece.”

The excitement in the broadcast wing is matched by advances on the print and Internet side, demonstrated by The Clause student newspaper and Collide, the student-led magazine. This spring, Collide took first place in campus publications in the Evangelical Press Association national competition, which boasts 400-member news outlets with a combined circulation of 20 million readers.

“Instead of being merely an artistic and creative journalistic outlet, Collide became a legitimate, popular, and informative piece of journalism that is picked up, read, and enjoyed by the student body,” said Arielle Dreher ’14, the magazine’s 2013–14 editor in chief.

Not to be outdone, The Clause received three Southwest region awards from the prestigious Society of Professional Journalists, and placed in the top five of both the EPA campus publications competition and Los Angeles Press Club search for best college newspapers in Southern California.

“I’m very proud of the efforts our student journalists put in all year long. Going in, I had priorities such as getting more sources into stories, adhering more closely to Associated Press style, and finding better balance and objectivity in our reporting, and we made good progress in all three areas,” says Kyle Huckins, Ph.D., assistant professor and advisor to Collide and The Clause.

Annie Yu ’14, The Clause’s 2013–14 editor in chief, credits her experience with the paper as key in her development. “I learned how to effectively manage a newspaper operation as well as deal with the team dynamics of my staff,” she says. “I loved seeing reporters and editors, including myself, learn and improve because of our experiences at The Clause.”

Yu and Dreher, who both graduated with a B.A. in Journalism in May 2014, praise the APU program for its small class sizes, one-on-one time with professors, and hands-on opportunities. Yu is in the midst of a prized Pulliam fellowship with the Arizona Republic and Dreher will attend the journalism graduate program at Columbia University.

“Our program gives undergraduates the chance to build a great portfolio of work starting even in their freshman year. Not many schools can say that,” said Huckins.

APU’s journalism professors keep up with their industry through research and studying trends and technology. Huckins gets an inside view through writing a weekly column on religion for secular newspapers as well as recently publishing a scholarly article on media coverage of a popular religious revival. Van Dam hones her skills by constantly working with social media for a required course she teaches in digital newsgathering. Jim Willis, Ph.D., a professor in the department, continues to write on assignment for the Associated Press, and other notable publications regarding world-wide issues and trends. Willis continually reviews how other schools are advancing in journalism education.

Students and professors alike make a point to integrate APU’s Christian faith and reliance on God in all areas inside and outside the classroom. “My life at APU was guided by professors who would pray for their students, which is such a huge blessing,” says Yu. “In this time of post-college uncertainty, the biggest comfort is to realize that everything is in God's hands and that he will provide. I am grateful to have spent four years surrounded by faculty who share that faith and who will continue to be accessible and supportive to me throughout my career journey.”