Academic Excellence

Flexibility & prudence drive Com dept. to eliminate specialty options

For years, communication students have earned their baccalaureate degree by focusing on one of seven study options.

“But that’s been problematic,” first-year Department of Communication and Creative Arts Head Tom Roach said. “The options have been restrictive for students and sometimes have stretched faculty resources.”

Faculty develops new plan

Convinced there had to be a more prudent way to satisfy student and faculty needs, C&CA faculty decided to build a better mousetrap, so to speak. Their plan? Eliminate the department’s seven options. Their proposal to do so was approved by the Faculty Senate last fall and will be implemented this fall.       

“Because each option has different requirements, from time to time we would have to schedule a low-enrolled class to make it possible for students to graduate,” Roach said. “In our new plan, the curriculum can be integrated, and students can build their own specialized plans of study.

Associate Professor Mary Beth O’Connor and alumnus Joe Wielosinski
The department’s move to more flexible academic programming figures to benefit students and faculty members alike. Pictured are alumnus Joe Wielosinski and Associate Professor Mary Beth O’Connor.

Greater flexibility for students, department

“We will continue to offer all our courses, but we no longer will require students to complete the eight to 13 core courses required to satisfy option requirements. With the options eliminated, there will be greater flexibility for students and the department.”

The new plan calls for students to take five required core courses and select an additional seven courses to satisfy their baccalaureate communication major.

Students can personalize their education

Roach explained that by purging the options and the related course requirement rigidity, students can better personalize their education based on career objectives.

“A degree of structure remains built into the system, because most upper division courses have prerequisites,” Roach said. “A student wanting a public relations focus has to take intro to Public Relations and Intro to News Reporting and Writing to get into Advanced Public Relations. The student also can pair those courses with other courses, perhaps from advertising, design, photography or communication research. We haven’t eliminated structure; we’ve just made the structure more flexible.”

Addressing a problem, creating opportunities

Continuing, Roach said, “Our department has been like many others in that we developed more and more programs and options over the years, resulting in more and more courses and requirements for what has become a declining number of students. As a department we attempted to address the problem last summer and came up with this idea.

“So effective next fall, our only common, baccalaureate, departmental requirement will be a wide range of five core courses. We believe this flexibility also lends itself to creating multi-disciplinary capstone courses and even degrees for students with interests outside our department. We have begun those discussions.”