In 2003, David Webster, a communications executive who happened to be visiting Charleston, approached Doug Ferguson, at that time chair of the College of Charleston Department of Communication, with an interesting idea. Would the department be interested in forming an advisory council made up of experts from the profession?

The plan was to establish a group of nationally recognized communication professionals to help the department bring the realities of working in the profession into the classroom in a variety of ways. Ferguson discussed the proposal with the faculty and the Department of Communication National Advisory Council was launched. The presence of the council on campus gave communication majors a rare opportunity to directly access top-level national executives and leaders in the field of marketing, journalism and corporate communications.

Now, 20 years later, the program has provided professional mentoring to hundreds of communication majors and helped foster collaboration between faculty and practitioners in preparing students for their careers in the communications field. The Department of Communication National Advisory Council is comprised of a dynamic group of industry veterans dedicated to mentoring communication students. Through this relationship, communication students get unparalleled access to these executives’ expertise and graduate from the College of Charleston with a robust knowledge in how to network and build contacts. Along the way, the Council has helped develop programs like the Bully Pulpit Presidential Communication series, that brings presidential candidates from both parties to campus every four years.

The Advisory Council is on campus this week celebrating this important 20-year milestone. It is comprised of a who’s who of nationally prominent communication professionals currently chaired by Jim Hickey, a veteran of 48 years as a radio and TV journalist, including 32 years with ABC News.

The 20th year anniversary comes as the Department of Communication establishes the new Martin Center for Mentorship in Communication. The Martin Center’s mission is to inspire and develop a future generation of leaders and mentors among today’s outstanding communication students, and to foster more robust relationships between those who educate and those who practice in the communications field.

The Martin Center was made possible by a multi-year founding pledge by Thomas and Wanda Martin.