Correction appended: An earlier version of this story listed 2006 as the year the Nicholson School of Communication got its name, when in fact it was named in 1996.
Shining gold letters adorn the outside of a brick building towering above. The letters curve along the large, rounded front wall that faces Aquarius Agora Drive. On the outside of the large brick walls, the letters spell out “Nicholson School of Communication,” and on the inside of the building is the future of communication.
Since the university was established in 1968, UCF has had a communication program. The school was known then as Florida Technological University, and the Nicholson School of Communication didn’t have that name. It was not until 1996 that the UCF Board of Trustees decided to name the communication building after UCF Board of Trustee members Anthony and Sonja Nicholson, the program’s top donors. This made the Nicholson School of Communication the first building at UCF to be named after any person, according to the NSC website.
Anthony Nicholson is a business entrepreneur and real estate mogul who has invested in telecommunication and publishing for years. Nicholson has been a part of a variety of communication outlets from founding Hi-Res Magazine for Dell to owning a radio station called Pirate Radio in the ‘90s. He even formed a production company that produced a video starring actor Patrick Swayze called “Swayze Dancing,” according to the NSC website.
But before the NSC became what it is and where it is located today, the communication program at UCF was tucked away in a small area of what is now known as the Millican Hall Student Financial Assistance Office. The majors included journalism, radio and television, as well as theatre and speech, and the faculty consisted of only a handful of members.
As enrollment increased at UCF, so did the demand for communication degrees. This required a relocation of the communication program to what is now called Colbourn Hall in 1975. More than 20 years passed until UCF constructed a building specifically for the program in 1997.
Jeff Butler is the longest standing faculty member of the school of communication at UCF.
“The faculty can research together more effectively and students can learn the building and where to go when they need advisement so it’s good for the students and the faculty,” Butler said. “The building tends to give us a sense of unity that we didn’t have before we had one. It gives us a sense of purpose.”
The Nicholson School of Communication currently has about 2,000 students enrolled and nearly 40 faculty members to attend to these students.
In the 40 years he has been with the communication department at UCF, Butler has seen the program change significantly.
“We’ve not only grown in size, but we’ve grown in quality, as well. An unquestionable change I’ve seen is our standards for research for contributing to the field of communications are infinitely higher,” Butler said. “We [also] have a much stronger faculty than when I started. Our faculty treats each other with respect and it’s a very pleasant workplace. That filters down to the students.”
Communication is a universally popular college major; The Princeton Review listed communication as one of the top 10 most popular college majors in the United States.
Assistant Director of the NSC Boyd Lindsley graduated from UCF with a bachelor’s degree in advertising & public relations. He went on to receive his master’s degree in interpersonal/organizational communication, now known as communication. Most of his time as a college student was spent at the Nicholson School of Communication.
“Our major can prepare you for so many career options,” Lindsley said. “Try finding a job posting that doesn’t identify good communication skills as one of the top 10 requirements. [The NSC faculty] take the notion very seriously that they are creating the next generation of communication professionals.”
Today, the NSC has many things to offer a UCF student. Undergraduate degrees from the school include interpersonal/organizational communication, advertising & public relations, journalism and radio/television. The NSC also offers a Master of Communication degree.
In 1989, all of the majors except interpersonal/organizational communication became limited-access programs. These programs require an application from a student in order to be accepted into the program, and once accepted, the student may take special classes allowed for those only in the program.
Connections with universities around the world are being made by the school to broaden the UCF network for students and faculty alike. Study abroad opportunities in the communication field are available at universities in Australia, Sweden and Austria and many more are in the works, Boyd said.
A new and improved production studio is underway as well for the radio and television department of the NSC. There will be new computer equipment and editing facilities along with high-definition upgrades to the studio production facility.
Information specialist and current advertising & public relations major Leann Yutuc says students need to realize that communication as a major is more than just journalism or radio and television broadcasting.
“Communications are so transferable. You can go into [human resources], market research, work in sales — it’s not just writing,” Yutuc said.
From housing the UCF Speech Team and Debate Team to broadcasting UCF’s very own online radio station, Knightcast, and very own television channel UCFTV, the NSC is the glue of the UCF community.
“UCF has grown from another second-tier state university to a major player in the field of communications,” Butler said.
This is part two in a series that focuses on different UCF campus buildings. You can read the first installment about the Rosen college here.