Communication majors face a sudden change in curriculum


Courtesy of Rick Settoon

The Southeastern Channel’s show “College Night” won Best Video Comedy from College Broadcasters, Inc. The Department of Communication and Media Studies provides students an opportunity to work in a professional environment through avenues such as the Southeastern Channel.

Days after the drop/add period, the Department of Communication and Media Studies released changes to the curriculum.

Communication majors are now required to choose a field of concentration. The new concentrations include Television and Multimedia Journalism, Sports Communication, Strategic Communication, and Corporate Training and Development.

“The university had retained a consultant two years ago to study the department’s curriculum, students and overall operations,” stated department head James O’Connor. “One of the recommendations was to modernize the curriculum and create concentrations that were attractive to students and would better prepare them for meaningful work after graduation.”

O’Connor explained why the concentrations were added to the curriculum.

“They weren’t really able to splurge in each field before,” said O’Connor. “It was restrictive, and the feedback I got from students was that they wanted to focus in a concentration that would prepare them for specific career paths.”

O’Connor also mentioned that the new curriculum is more flexible than before and gives students more options.

“In fact, the new curriculum has more flexibility than before and gives students significantly more options to take course work across disciplines,” commented O’Connor.

Sophomore communication major Natalie Kelly spoke on how the changes to the curriculum were not too different from the university she attended before transferring.

“There wasn’t much of a difference besides the fact that it made me really decide what I wanted to do,” shared Kelly. “There were more majors at Auburn under communications. The curriculum allowed you to take different classes in COMM to see what you really had an interest in.”

Junior communication major, Christopher Arroyo, also shared his thoughts about the change.

“All communication majors in previous catalogues were recommended to pick classes that fit their concentration,” said Arroyo. “The new catalogue allows students to pick a curriculum that is tailored to their interest and future goals.”

With this change in the curriculum, the department has seen an increase of students staying in the field, according to O’Connor.

“Before, we were seeing a pattern of students leaving the major in their junior and senior years,” explained O’Connor. “That has declined already and we are experiencing an uptick in enrollment of about 14% for Fall 2020, compared to the previous year.”

The curriculum changes have elicited mixed reactions from students. Kelly mentioned that she thinks the changes have narrowed her options for the future.

“I am starting to rethink what I want to do with a communications degree because the concentrations don’t offer much,” shared Kelly. “The administration should understand that COMM is broad, and they need to give more options for their students. I don’t even really understand if future employers will take a concentration in strategic communication.”

On the other hand, Arroyo finds the new curriculum more useful and flexible.

“Despite the new curriculum requiring students to choose a specific concentration, there is actually more flexibility for students to take the classes that will help them the most,” commented Arroyo.

“I had majored in public relations before, so transferring here, my focus is strategic comm,” shared Kelly. “I’m still on the fence between sports comm and PR, so I was disappointed to see how strict the curriculum is. I wanted to take classes in both this year to see which one I could see myself doing in the future.”

Arroyo shared that since he had already chosen his classes, it required him to change his plans.

“Prior to the change, I had already chosen which classes I would take to best fit my interests in television/video production,” said Arroyo. “The previous curriculum sheet did not allow for students to take as many production courses.”

The new Communication curriculum has shifted plans for many. Students seeking guidance are encouraged to speak with their academic advisors.