Most students enter the broad major of communication studies unsure about the area they wish to study. A number of students graduate still leery about what to pursue. New changes in the way the major is set up aims to eliminate these indecisions. After Dr. Klinzing retired from Department Chair, the communications department considered making improvements. Currently, there are the core classes students need to be accepted into the major, the lower-level courses, and the upper-level courses. There is no rhyme or reason to the classes offered and no categories in which they are divided. Due to this, the department thought to institute more career direction for the students, but how?
Since the beginning of 2008, faculty members decided to separate the major into four main areas: Media/Public Relations, Rhetoric/Public, Interpersonal Communication/Intercultural, and Organizational.
Media and Public Relations explore mediated communication from broadcasting to public relations. Rhetoric and Public Communication teaches students how to communicate effectively and how to analyze persuasive messages. Interpersonal/Intercultural investigates norms, rules, and values that underline communication in various relationships and cultures, and Organizational Communication gives students the skills for organizational networks, procedures, meetings, agendas, and interview settings.
Upon getting into the major, students can now choose their career direction. Dr. Timothy Brown, Communication Studies Department Chair, said it will help students really think about what they want to do sooner so they can structure their experiences in the upper-level courses.
The department heads put a lot of time into organizing a two-year teaching rotation schedule. There will be different upper-level courses offered each semester in the four focuses. For instance, in fall 2009, Communication on TV & Radio is available, but it will not be available for the spring 2010. Each professor will have roughly four classes to teach, and every semester will change until the two-year (four semester) span is complete; then it will be repeated.
This change is an enhancement for students and for the faculty as well.
Dr. Brown said, “Most professors usually teach the same course over and over again.” The innovative set-up gives the younger professors a chance to teach the upper-level courses, which shifts the responsibilities. Professors are even going to design new courses to introduce into the major as time progresses, so there will definitely be variety for students.
Another advantage to this change is seen with internships. Students will have identified a focus in communications and search for an internship pertaining to that area. Their experience will be even more beneficial and they can apply concepts from the classroom to the internship.
If you are in this major and now thinking you are unsure about which focus to pursue, that is still okay. Dr. Brown said you are not “stuck” in the focus you choose; there is still leeway in the major to pick and choose courses throughout the four main areas.
In addition to the new courses, there will also be a capstone course for each focus. It will be taken after all other requirements are met. The course is an overview of the student’s chosen career direction and will sample assignments from the span of courses in their area.
This new format to the Communication Studies major will come into effect fall 2009. Advisors will have a copy of the two-year rotation schedule so students can plan their semesters accordingly.
Overall, the department is very pleased with the plan they have devised for the major. It will definitely be an asset to students who know exactly the course they wish to follow and serve as a guide for the undecided.
Gina DiDomenicis is a West Chester University student. She can be reached at GD609385@wcupa.edu.