When Jerry Chomyn joined Humber College back in 1988, both the world of media and education were about to change rapidly. And for the last 30 years, Chomyn has worked diligently to make sure Humber and now the University of Guelph-Humber’s Media Studies programs were consistently ahead of those changes.
Chomyn’s innovative leadership is being acknowledged with the Builder’s Award at the Radio Humber Hall of Fame ceremony this month, an honour that Chomyn didn’t expect to receive – especially so soon.
“It’s very, very humbling and much appreciated,” said Chomyn, Media Studies Program Head at the University of Guelph-Humber. “It’s really neat to get this award while you’re still alive, because usually when they say ‘builders,’ it’s people who have died.
“Being recognized by the people in the program that I used to co-ordinate and teach in – it’s just a big thrill.”
After three decades, it’s hard to quantify all the contributions Chomyn has made to the Media Studies programs at UofGH and Humber.
When he started, one of his main focuses was creating a robust connection between the industry and the institution and bringing as much practical reality as possible to the coursework. One of his first steps toward that goal was to overhaul Humber’s radio station.
“That was pretty monumental, because when I started there was total disorganization. Students just showed up when they wanted to, brought their own music, talked about whatever they wanted, and followed whatever schedule they wanted. So no one knew when the station was on or what it was about,” he recalled.
“So the first and foremost thing for me was to take the radio station and reorganize it and run it the way a radio station would be run on the outside.”
The advent of the internet, of course, completely turned the media industry on its head. Mainstream media is still adapting to the digital age, so educating media professionals has likewise required constant innovation and creative thinking.
Chomyn says he’s worked hard to anticipate shifts in the industry and ensure that his students were prepared for the rapidly changing landscape.
“There’s no magic to being a visionary. I consume a lot of media, and I’m a student of media as well as a consumer,” he explained. “From a very early age, I’ve consumed, critiqued and studied media. When I got my first job as a program director, I went and spent a week with the top music director in North America, because I wanted to learn what made that station so successful.
“If you look at the history of media, we’re going through some of the same things they went through when radio was first invented. They didn’t know what purpose it would serve. They certainly didn’t foresee the day when everyone would have one.”
The other major project Chomyn wanted to realize was finding a way to properly recognize excellence in media content creation. That’s why he created the Radio Humber Hall of Fame, and eventually the Emerge Media Awards here at the University of Guelph-Humber.
“I just recognized that there were so many students doing so many great things,” he said. “Young people now are doing amazing things. We couldn’t even dream of the things they’re accomplishing.”
One of the perks of his job is that he has the opportunity to follow some of his past graduates wherever they go. All he has to do is turn on his radio.
“It is the single biggest rush that I get,” he said. “Whether I’m in Toronto, in Saskatchewan, in Halifax or listening to American stations online, I hear people that I taught or who were in our classes,” he said. “There’s literally thousands of them out there and it never fails to amaze me.
“That’s the big rush, to know in some way I helped shape communications in Canada in my short little time here.”
Learn more about Media Studies at the University of Guelph-Humber.
Learn more about the Radio Humber Hall of Fame.