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Communications studies department remodels curriculum

Students no longer required to choose a concentration

This year, the communication studies department has restructured the requirements for the communication studies major. The department made these changes to reduce the stress of having to pick a concentration.

In the past system, students had to choose one of four specific concentrations: mass media, organizational communication, public relations or a general communication studies degree.

With the past requirements, students had to choose which classes they wanted inside their concentration and had few opportunities to take classes outside of their concentration.

In the new system, students do not have to choose a concentration. Having this freedom allows students to incorporate classes that would not have fit in their schedules before. Dr. Cynthia Carver, division chair for professional programs and communication studies, said that flexibility is the reason they changed the requirements of the communication studies major.

“Students do not have to pick [a concentration],” Carver said. “They can pick a couple emphases.”

The different emphases offered in the new system are applied media, cultural communication, communication methods, film, gender, multimedia journalism, organizational communication, public relations, relational communication, rhetorical studies and social media.

While each of the emphases have classes that are suggested to take, it is up to the students to tailor a combination of classes that they feel would be interesting to them or would be helpful in their career path.

“The student, with their advisor, chooses how to make it theirs,” said Dr. Aileen Buslig, chair and professor for communication studies and theatre art department.

Communication as a profession has been growing across the nation due to the greater need for a combination of skills, which cannot be found in one concentration, according to Carver.

“Life has become more complex,” Buslig said.

The removal of a concentration requirement has been in the works for a couple years, according to Dr. Stephanie Ahlfeldt, associate professor of communications.

The new requirements will only be affecting freshman and people who decide to change their catalog year, according to Ericka Peterson, registrar. A person’s catalog year is the year in which they entered college and the number of credits they enter with. If they wish, students can change their catalog year to a more recent year. In other words, a student with a catalog year of 2014-2015 could change their catalog year to be 2015-2016, or the newest option when it is available, in which case the new communication studies major requirements would apply to them.

Students in the 2015-2016 catalog year, mainly first-year students, do not need to claim a concentration. Students before this catalog year along with sophomores, juniors, and seniors who do not wish to be a part of the new system, are still under the past system and the new changes will not affect them. These students still have to pick a concentration and they do not have to take a senior seminar.

One of the additions to the new system is having senior seminars. These are similar to the capstone courses and count as the capstone core requirement. In the older version of the major, students could choose any senior capstone in any department on campus.

In the new version, students will have to take a communication senior seminar. The different communication senior seminars available to any major are documentary and historical film, health communication, computer-mediated communication and integrated marketing communication. They will be available as senior capstones to all students.

“Each course is designed to encourage students to take everything they have learned in their past three years and engage with the broader community,” Ahlfeldt said.

A methods class was also added to the required classes list for communication studies majors. The methods class will be offered earlier in the major to enhance students’ knowledge with case studies, a skill needed for upper-level courses.

“While most of our students have taken a methods course, we want to increase that number,” Carver said.

Because of the drop in enrollment, the communication department has had fewer students in the past couple of years, according to Carver.

“I wouldn’t say our motivation was to increase numbers,” Carver said. “Our number of majors may have more to do with the interests of students.”

Ahlfeldt said the department is not going to stop looking at ways to enhance the communication studies major.

“We are constantly discussing what we can change,” Ahlfeldt said.


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