Communication students at UVU will experience an overhaul of course curriculum beginning fall semester.
In an effort to keep up with the changing field of communication, Janet Colvin, communication department chair, and faculty will add new courses to the department in addition to a senior-level final portfolio project.
“We have overhauled the whole program and really realigned what the three emphases are doing and how it is going to make our major stronger,” Colvin said. “Every year to two years, we have made significant changes to make the program more rigorous, something that draws students to it and can provide students the skills they need when they graduate.”
Although the university has seen a drop in enrollment, the Communication Department has maintained enrollment fairly well as the second largest department within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. With the help of current faculty, the department is making an effort to ensure courses offered are aligned with the skills needed in the job market.
Colvin said the public relations emphasis continues to see steady growth in student enrollment, though the speech communication emphasis has recently experienced the most growth.
“We’ve got 12 full-time faculty, we’ve got 700 students,” Colvin said. “We’ll ask new faculty, and this doesn’t happen at big well-established programs, to contribute right away.”
New faculty joining the department this year will include David Morin, who earned his Ph.D. in Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and Maria Blevins, a current Ph.D. student in communication studies at the University of Utah.
Colvin said student demand plays a big part in getting additional classes and faculty for the department.
“We’ll be doing a job search this fall for a new journalist,” Colvin said. “Hopefully [we’ll] bring in somebody that can really start to build [the journalism] program.”
According to David Yells, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the journalism emphasis will likely see the most change because of the developing nature of media in the digital age.
“With technology, everybody is a reporter,” Yells said. “Everybody with a phone, a text, an email and a Twitter account is a reporter. So how do you incorporate that into your curriculum and prepare students for the new frontier in communication journalism? That’s going to be [the department’s] biggest challenge.”
Some of the new courses this fall will include COMM 2510: Visual Strategies for Communication Majors, COMM 431R: Communication Executive Lecture Series, and COMM 1000: Exploring the Communication Major.
“The new introductory course will help all students interested in the communication major to understand what it is, what the department is, what’s offered and be able to introduce them to the fields of public relations, speech communication and journalism,” said Stephen Whyte, communication professor. “The [major] has speech communication, journalism and PR, and while they’re all unique and specialized, there’s the constant overlap between all of them.
Students will begin creating a portfolio at the beginning of their academic career, adding to it as they progress through the program. By the time seniors have completed their capstone course, they will have a completed portfolio in addition to their senior project.
“We’re going to use that as an assessment for our program as well,” Colvin said.
Although students will see an overhaul, an emphasis in broadcast journalism and broadcast courses are not in the works.
“We have no plans for the foreseeable future to add those in,” Colvin said, “and we probably won’t because of two things: [digital media] has all the equipment, and equipment is really expensive, and the second reason is that BYU and the University of Utah have really strong programs, and we can’t compete without having a big budget.”
In addition to the upcoming changes, the Communication Department will move to the new Classroom Building set for groundbreaking in June.
By Vanessa Perkins