The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) has approved Virginia Tech’s bid to create an ambitious School of Communication. The new organizational structure becomes effective August 1.

The school will be the third in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, joining the School of Performing Arts and the School of Education.

In May, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors endorsed a resolution to establish a School of Communication and Digital Media. The proposal was then submitted to SCHEV, which has now approved the school with the proviso that it use the shortened name.

The School of Communication supersedes the Department of Communication, which has graduated more than 6,000 alumni since 1976.

“We’re delighted to be able to achieve this milestone,” said Laura Belmonte, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “To have the department’s outstanding communication programs rolled into a school has long been the dream of Bob Denton, the driving force behind this proposal. Designation as a school will further elevate the program’s great reputation as it continues an even more vibrant period of growth.”

Robert Denton, who will serve as director of the school, is a political communication scholar who headed the department between 1988 and 1996 and, more recently, since 2009.

“Our designation as a school will influence how those in the communication industry perceive our graduates,” Denton said. “The most prestigious journalism and mass communication programs in the country, including those at many of our peer institutions, are in schools or colleges of communication. The name change more accurately recognizes the growing scope of our communication curriculum, the reputation of our faculty across both academic and media circles, and the professional accomplishments of our graduates.”

The department currently offers majors in communication science and social inquiry, public relations, multimedia journalism, and sports media and analytics. In addition, a master’s degree program provides advanced study in society, media, and technology research from various theoretical and methodological perspectives.

Part of Denton’s plan for the new school will be to develop additional majors for undergraduates, likely in digital media production, advertising, and professional communication.

More immediately, the school will offer a second track for the master’s program. Beginning Aug. 1, the new track will provide professional graduate education in reputation management.

“Our traditional graduate program has a strong reputation for preparing students for doctoral studies,” said Denton, who also holds the W. Thomas Rice Chair in the Pamplin College of Business. “Our new reputation management program will build upon the strength of our public relations faculty and move into an emerging area of professional education for strategic communication. We expect the new reputation management program to boost Virginia Tech’s reputation in both communication and business disciplines.”