By: Kate Roudebush (Loyola Sophomore)
Nestled amongst skyscrapers in downtown Chicago’s Gold Coast is Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication. This year, the School of Communication is celebrating its 15th anniversary, proving its successes time and time again.
Also celebrating an anniversary this year is John Slania (66) who has worked at Loyola for 20 years. A Loyola alumnus himself, Slania truly understands the greatness of the school.
Before returning to Loyola, Slania created an impressive resume. He has served as a newspaper reporter and editor for numerous media outlets, one being The Chicago Tribune. Along with this, Slania has served as a freelance writer, a Loyola professor, and the journalism program director. He currently serves as the Associate Dean for Loyola School of Communication.
As Associate Dean for the School of Communication, Slania works to keep the school and its students on pace with the ever-changing communication industry and in touch with Chicago.
*Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
RogersEdge Reporter: How have you seen the School of Communication change over time?
Slania: It’s been a really interesting ride. When I first started adjuncting in 1998, it was the Department of Communication, and it was part of the College of Arts and Sciences. Five years later, the then President of Loyola, Father Michael Garanzini, S.J., wanted to create a School of Communication and locate it down here at the Water Tower Campus. The School of Communication was opened here on the first three floors of The Clare building. That started in 2008. It was energizing, and it still is energizing. I think what’s great about the School of Communication is that we’re nimble, we’re entrepreneurial, and we’re always trying to come up with new ideas. It’s just a lot of energy and excitement–that’s what I’ve really loved about being here.
RER: I see that you’ve played a big role in a lot of community-engaged projects. Why has getting students engaged in the community been so important to you?
Slania: I think that one of the cornerstones of a Jesuit education is to be engaged in the community and to serve the community. Any kind of these journalism projects, whether it was Mosaic Magazine, Loyola Longform, or the RogersEdge Reporter, are all giving [students] those opportunities. It’s all a lot of fun; it’s like you create a project and you send students out. The great thing about the work for the students is they can come out of this with publishable articles with their byline on it. I think it’s a great experience not only for Loyola students to get out into the neighborhood, to get off campus, but it also gives them actual work that they can put into their portfolio.
RER: These have obviously been pretty influential projects. What else has the School of Communication done that has been influential?
Slania: We’ve tried to be innovative with our curriculum and tried to create courses or programs to stay on the cutting edge of what’s going on in the business. We have an AI advertising course, we have more social media type courses, we have more animation and design courses, and we do a lot in the film and video area. We’ve always tried to see what the latest developments in communication are and teach our students about them. That’s been something that’s been really good about us is that we try to stay on the cutting edge of what’s going on in communication.
RER: How does the School of Communication manage to stay on the cutting edge of everything that’s happening in the communication industry?
Slania: We’re blessed with having great full-time and adjunct instructors. We have a number of notable instructors in journalism, advertising and public relations, film, and communication studies who are actually out there right now doing the latest work in their fields and bringing it back to the classroom when they come to teach for us. This is the way we stay fresh, by having our full-time faculty research and understand what the trends are, and then by having our adjuncts bring their knowledge from the outside to the classrooms to teach the students the latest that’s going on out there.
RER: If you had to describe the School of Communication’s biggest values, what would you say those would be?
Slania: I think, first and foremost, what we’re really trying to do is teach our students to be good practitioners and good professionals. We want to teach them the skills. We want them to be good researchers, good interviewers, and good writers. We want them to be well-rounded so that when they get into the world they can be very competitive. We want them to be employed right away in their field, whether it be journalism, ad/PR, film, or whatever; we just want them to be ready to go and do great things.
RER: How have you seen the School of Communications and its programs benefit students?
Slania: We’re located downtown, in the third largest media market in the United States, so our students have access to some of the top internships in the country. We have six major TV stations in town, and we have interns, at any given semester, at most of those stations. We have two major newspapers in town, and we have interns there. We have 30 radio stations in town, and we have interns at some of those radio stations. We have big and small public relations firms our interns are at. We have advertising agencies. We have film companies that are producing shows like Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Chicago Med. We have interns at all of these places. You can’t get that at a university that’s in the middle of a cornfield. It’s pretty easy for students to get a job just because they have so much experience in the classroom and in the actual real world that by the time they get out of here they’re very competitive. That is the thing I’m most proud about: our internships and our job placement.
RER: What are the School of Communication’s biggest goals for the future?
Slania: The goal is really staying on top of what’s happening in the field of communication and to make sure that our faculty members understand the changes that are taking place. Whether it’s generative AI, changes in social media, or changes in video streaming, let’s stay on top of those things. Let’s teach our students the latest developments so that they can continue to be competitive and get jobs when they graduate. That has been our number one mission. That will continue to be our number one mission moving forward.
RER: What advice do you have for School of Communication students?
Slania: To any student: write for The Phoenix. Get a two-hour radio gig at WLUW. Get involved with the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists). We have the Ad Club for advertising students. We have the PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America). We have the Rambler Sports Locker. Try to take advantage of all of the different clubs, organizations, and courses where you can continue to build your portfolio. We have lots of opportunities. I encourage students to take advantage of all of the classes, clubs, and organizations that allow them to flourish.
To learn more about the School of Communication and all of its great work, visit the School of Communication website.