Now that we have “returned” to the old moniker for the program (which is the same as the School: Ph.D. in Communication, Information and Library Studies), I think the topic of our name deserves some slightly different commentary. Although I feel empathy for our colleagues in Media Studies who understandably feel as though their interests are not well reflected in our official program title, it is not hard at all to imagine why some folks would have looked at our proposed name, wrinkled their eyebrows, and said “after further review…let’s not.” If that label of individual discipline names strung together was considered problematic, then the acronym several associated with it was downright awkward (I am sorry, but for me CLISMS always sounded like an acronym more associated with “playing doctor” than “getting a doctorate”).
Even though we may never come up with some ideal official designation or clever acronym for our program that completely satisfies all constituencies, naming and identity issues are important. I don’t pretend to have great solutions to this issue, but it occurs to me that at some point we may wish to examine other interdisciplinary programs similar to ours for possible ideas. In case you are curious about examples, Hawaii has the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Communication & Information Science; North Carolina State offers a new interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media. The University of North Texas appears to have an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Information Science.
More immediately, I’d like to suggest that even more important than our official name is the creation of some sort of tagline or slogan that seeks to capture what is innovative, unique, and compelling about our Ph.D. program. For example, we could borrow slightly from Volkswagen, the dairy industry, or NASDAQ to suggest “Doctors Wanted,” “Got Ph.D.?” or “Doctoral Studies for the Digital World,” but I’m guessing we can do even better in tailoring this to our specific program (and I’m just kidding in suggesting those names). I’m envisioning such a phrase would not have any of the terms used to name our program areas or department homes. This is the approach that I, and hopefully the program executive committee, intend to take in ultimately marketing our program to key stakeholders. If you have ideas for that tagline or slogan that we can add to ours, please share them with me (not kidding here at all). I believe this is the kind of name game that can make us all winners.
The director has left the deck.