Southern’s School of Journalism and Communication (SJC) is in the process of partnering with Universidad Adventista de las Antillas (UAA) in Puerto Rico. UAA does not offer degrees in communication, but this partnership will allow UAA students to transfer to Southern to obtain a communication degree after taking general classes for two years in Puerto Rico.
According to Southern Communication Professor Pablo Fernandez, many students in Puerto Rico are very involved and engaged in media production at their churches and high schools.
“There are some students interested in media production, live streaming, social media content creation and photography, but they [UAA] don’t have that degree offered,” Fernandez said. “So, they end up going to other schools or universities in Puerto Rico or taking other degrees.”
According to UAA’s Vice President for Academic Affairs Zilma Santiago, general director of Bella Vista Media Center in Puerto Rico Nemuel Artiles first suggested the partnership to her and Fernandez in January 2020. At the time, Fernandez was in Puerto Rico working with the media center. Although they never met in person, Fernandez and Santiago soon began to share ideas about how to make the partnership work.
Fernandez said the SJC worked on the partnership for about a year under the supervision of Associate Vice President of Academic Administration Dionne Felix, who ensured all academic standards were met. Then, about one month ago, the leaders of both universities attended a Zoom meeting in which they had a “virtual handshake,” according to Fernandez.
Santiago said Professor Israel Torres, coordinator for UAA’s history program, began working with Fernandez after the meeting to create a more comprehensive academic plan for UAA students interested in transferring to the SJC. According to Fernandez, the current plan for these students is for them to take general classes at UAA for two years, take a few prerequisite and English classes at Southern over the summer and transfer to Southern their junior year to pursue a degree in mass communication, communication, journalism or public relations.
Santiago said the academic plan will be finalized in a meeting near the end of March. Then, UAA will begin promoting the partnership on social media.
“Puerto Rico is very excited about this opportunity as kind of a first step that maybe could open to other partnerships on campus or other programs that could attract students who are interested to come into the United States, either from Puerto Rico or from the Inter-American Division,” Fernandez said.
According to Santiago, this partnership will benefit students from multiple countries because between 25 and 30 countries are represented in UAA’s student body.
“We’re very happy to have this pipeline for our students,” Santiago said. “We have a cultural diversity that also can contribute to the student body and life at Southern.”
Although Santiago does not know how many UAA students are currently interested in transferring to Southern to pursue a communication degree, she is sure many students will take advantage of the opportunity.
“I think that because of the experience of the pandemic, this will be a program that will have a lot of people interested,” Santiago said. “Because, you know, media and communications are things that are very related to the experience we have been facing.”
Santiago believes some current UAA students will be interested in switching academic programs to pursue a communication degree once the partnership is promoted, so students could begin transferring from UAA to Southern in less than two years.