Rich Yates

Rich Yates, chair of the Media Communications Department, is proud of the modern facilities the department has to offer and the skills students gain.

“I get to see [students] go from being frustrated with their skills to realizing that they will be very valued by an employer…You see the light in their eyes when they ‘get it,’ and that is the best moment,” he said.

Yates is a professor who has been teaching graphic design in the department since the fall of 2018. He became the Media Communications Department chair in the spring of 2023, after the death of Professor Michael Crowley. 

“Everybody loved him. You could tell he genuinely cared about the students and his colleagues and tried to take the department and school forward,” Yates said of Crowley, who had been with the college for more than 30 years.

The department currently has two full-time professors, including Kristen Perez who instructs in the areas of video production, social media, and public relations. Three adjunct professors also teach news writing, photography, and radio. 

“We work very well together. We try to make it a very comprehensive experience for the students,” Yates said. 

Part of the student experience at BCU involves the department’s facilities, which Yates says are on par with those at much larger colleges. Those include the Elinor McDevitt Freeman Writing and Design Center, a laboratory where Macintosh computers are replaced every few years, and the radio station that got all new equipment in the summer of 2023. The photography and television studio will be updated in the near future. 

There are three majors in the Media Communications Department including graphic design, mass communications, and sports information. Minors are available in those three, plus photography and social media.

Graduates with those degrees have gone on to jobs in a wide range of industries as graphic designers, public relations practitioners, journalists at newspapers, radio and television broadcasters, social media marketers, and sports information directors. 

“We always work towards students being prepared for an entry-level position in those jobs, if not more,” Yates said. “Also, so that those who pursue graduate school will be equipped for that next step.”

Yates was raised in Leavenworth, Kansas, and completed his undergraduate degree in Fine Arts with a graphic design emphasis at Emporia State University. After graduating, he worked in the design field in three jobs over 10 years, including as a graphic designer for a manufacturing firm in Wichita, Kansas, as an online web designer at a newspaper in Topeka, Kansas, and as the lead designer for a venture capital firm in Kansas City.

That was followed by a return to college, where he was at the University of Minnesota earning a master-level degree from the College of Design. In the first of those semesters, Yates was a University of Minnesota teaching assistant, and for the following five semesters, he taught as a grad assistant, where he learned that he enjoyed teaching.

Yates was a professor for five years at Morningside College, before coming to Briar Cliff in the fall 2018 semester. He has enjoyed his time aiding BCU students in a host of ways.

This is part of a series of Faculty Stories profiling all the chairs of BCU academic departments in 2023.