MU School of Journalism to change curriculum this fall

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 | 7:42 p.m. CDT; updated 9:14 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 26, 2010

COLUMBIA — The MU School of Journalism is about to revamp its undergraduate program.

Faculty members of the school's curriculum committee have completely restructured the program to tailor classes to students' specific interests.  The changes begin with this fall’s freshman class.

Instead of moving to a convergence-based media program as some journalism schools have done, MU is doing the exact opposite, said Brian Brooks, associate dean for undergraduate studies and administration. Journalism students will major in one of 25 interest areas.

Incoming students can follow a program in a specialized field, such as arts and culture or science and health journalism, among others. The programs suggest a variety of journalism and non-journalism elective courses to give students a background in topics they want to cover.

If none of these interest areas fit with what students are seeking, they will have the opportunity to create their own.

“It’s designed to give students more flexibility,” Brooks said.

Currently, students choose one of six sequences of study: print and digital news, radio-television journalism, magazine journalism, photojournalism, convergence journalism and strategic communication.  All students are required to take certain classes, such as communications law, regardless of their sequence.

“The real beauty of the interest areas is they break down those boundaries that students have felt. They won’t feel as restricted,” said Jackie Bell, head of the curriculum committee and photojournalism associate professor. Students will still be well-versed in editing and reporting for specific mediums, such as newspapers, but will gain more experience in different types of media reporting, such as video and print, she said.

Incoming students will be required to take a new class in multimedia reporting before entering their interest area.  The class will teach them how to gather video and audio, make information graphics, blog and more.

“They won’t have to stay in one publication, in one outlet," Bell said.  "That’s not how business works anymore."

Because the school already has a large faculty and about 100 different journalism classes, faculty members were able to restructure the curriculum almost entirely around existing courses, Brooks said.

Students already enrolled in their sequences will continue with the current curriculum.

However, they can take suggested courses in the new interest areas as electives, Brooks said.

“We’re going to try to be flexible to help current students get what they need,” Brooks said.

The new program is structured like the School of Journalism graduate program, which has featured interest areas for 15 years, Brooks said.

Restructuring the curriculum has been ongoing for four years, and Brooks said he's excited about the result because it fits the curriculum to the students.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Brooks said. “That’s why we’re here.”

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