The English Department at West Chester University is the University’s largest department with a faculty of 50 full-time professors and 20 adjunct staff. Over 300 courses are offered to undergraduate students. According to collegeboard.com, nine percent of the West Chester student body is composed of English majors. The Quad interviewed members of the English Department staff to address the types of innovations students can expect from the English department.The first aspect students can expect from the department is a course offering that is “responsive to cultural trends,” according to Dr. Anne Herzog, head of the English Department. In recent history, much of America’s world political involvement centers around the Middle East.
“We have proposed a higher Middle-East curriculum,” Herzog said. Various programs outside of class are scheduled in response to cultural trends. “We run 8-10 seminars a semester,” Dr. Jen Bacon, an English and Women’s Studies professor at WCU said.
Student interest also plays a role in what courses are offered by the department. At the beginning of this semester, two courses were dropped from the English department’s curriculum. According to Herzog, if student interest is low, courses will be cancelled. Keeping them on the course list is “not economically efficient,” according to Herzog. Herzog said that by not keeping classes with low student interest, the university is “keeping your tax dollars down.”
“All students were given previous knowledge,” Bacon said, in regards to the removal of the two classes.
According to Bacon, this does not mean that unique courses are dropped from the catalog.
“We would never cancel a class if it was the only class of it’s kind,” Bacon said.
According to Dr. Herzog, the addition of new majors to the department can require more attention. For instance, some students have wondered why there is no journalism major at WCU.
“New majors are driven by student interest and lobbying,” Herzog said. She adds that it is also based on “data collection across time.” Because West Chester Univesity is a state university, all new majors have to be approved through the state system. On adding new majors such as journalism, Dr. Bacon said that “it’s hard to get approval through the state.”
For areas such as journalism, a major is not necessarily needed to mold a successful career. “Many editors are hiring people without journalism degrees,” a main professor in WCU’s journalism department, Charles Bauerlein, said.
“I took a lot of programs that felt like they were redundant,” Bauerlin said. According to Bauerlein, classes teaching the art of writing different kinds of articles are often very similar.
“We want students to have a well-rounded liberal arts education,” Bauerlin said.
Phyllis Messinger, a current editor for The New York Times, also underlines the importance of thinking outside of a journalism major.
“I’m an advocate for majoring in something else,” Messinger said. She adds that editors are looking for experience in web, audio, and video as well as “journalistic training.”
“Many people will get a Master’s degree in journalism,” Messinger said.
Messinger’s Bachelor’s degree was in history.
However, this does not mean the major could not ever appear in WCU’s course catalog. According to Herzog, “SGA (Student Government Association) has access to the president and provosts.” Any major within the English department can be brought to state attention if there is enough student interest. Dr. Herzog encourages students to bring up any “concerns that we need to hear” regarding new majors, course offerings and staffing to the English department.
Hannah Sutin is a first-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at HS662004@wcupa.edu