Weimer Hall

UF's College of Journalism and Communications.

Alligator File Photo

UF is the first U.S. institution to create a center for communications devoted to social change.

The College of Journalism and Communications launched the Center for Public Interest Communications on January, said Ellen Nodine, the program director of the center. It will focus on promoting social good through communications.

There was no money associated with the creation of the center, as it is not a physical building, Nodine said. The center is a designation that will allow the college to fundraise specifically for public interest communications research.

Nodine said that this type of communication is different than public relations because it does not represent one company or industry.

“We are using the information from a lot of different fields in order to create the messages that are most effective to move populations to action,” Nodine said.

However, she said she hopes to create a public interest communications specialization within the public relations major in the future, she said.

The center’s goals are to further develop the public interest communications curriculum, increase research in the field and continue to grow the community through the frank gathering, an annual conference for social change in Gainesville, Nodine said.

Before the center was established, funding for public interest communications had to go through the college, but now it can be directed to the center.

The center had been in works for three years, Nodine said. The college has previously offered a few public interest courses under the Department of Public Relations before that.

Diane McFarlin, the college’s dean, wrote in an email that Ann Christiano became the first chair for UF’s public interest communications eight years ago. She has developed public interest communications initiatives at the college since.

Christiano’s position was created when Frank Karel, a 1961 UF College of Journalism and Communications alumnus, and his wife gave an endowment to the college to fund the field before Karel died in 2009.

“We are very proud to be the academic epicenter of (public interest communications) and excited to watch the field grow in both popularity and distinction,” McFarlin said.

Shannon Claflin, a 21-year-old UF public relations junior, said she is proud of her college for making this stride to expand the curriculum and create the center.

Claflin said she’s interested in possibly taking a course in public interest communications because she wants to work for a nonprofit after she graduates.

“I think it would be beneficial for me to take some of these courses and look into what the program entails,” she said.