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23 April 2014

School of Communication molds curriculum for new age

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Today’s technologically evolving landscape is redefining the job market. To keep up, UM’s School of Communication (SoC) has made changes to its curriculum that will begin fall 2104.

“The whole School of Communication is looking at a different communication and media landscape out there,” said Terry Bloom, the department chair of  Journalism and Media Management. “There are different dynamics that are going to be meaningful to Millenials as they hit the job market.”

Two years ago, the school took its first step by departmentalizing. Last fall, a basic core was implemented within the different journalism majors.

The changes continue, with the disbanding of the visual journalism major and minor. Instead, visual journalism classes are being integrated into the general journalism programs.

Visual journalism professor Alberto Cairo supports the change. He feels the “label” of a visual journalism degree is secondary to the work that students produce.

“What matters to employers is not that you’re are a visual journalism major,” he said. “It’s that you are a journalism major and then you have a strong visual portfolio.”

Some of the graduates of the visual program are taken aback by the change. Visual journalism alumna Sydney Polke said that it “saddens” her to hear the major is no longer offered. She believes there is merit to integrating some of the classes.

“I do believe that it is a very smart decision to include those classes into the core requirements for other majors,” Polke said. “Journalism is constantly evolving, and the visual aspect is becoming so crucial.”

The end of the visual journalism major is just the beginning. Bloom said there’s still more changes and additions that are being discussed.

In the meantime, SoC majors will take less credits. The requirement will drop from 42 to 39 credits, allowing students to take more classes outside their majors.

The school is also hiring a new tenure-track professor who specializes in data journalism and social media. This will help cater to the digitalizing of the media fields.

“All journalism is multimedia,” Bloom said. “That is a fact. It’s very social. It’s very mobile. It’s very digital. And those are the areas that we’re looking to grow in.”

Cairo also believes in the importance of expanding focuses for students studying journalism, in particular.

“At the foundational level, it’s a holistic experience,” he said. “You are exposed to all the things that are part of journalism today.”

Both Marcus Lim and Avisha Gopalakrishna are SoC freshman. They have experienced the new core curriculum, but each had a different impression of the changes.

Lim, a print journalism major, felt overwhelmed by all the different media being covered in his classes. He cited Photoshop and Avid Media Composer as two programs he is studying and feels that students are given insufficient time to master them.

“We need things to be specialized; it’s better to specialize in one topic rather than be a jack-of-all-trades,” he said.

Gopalakrishna, a public relations major, had a different take on things.

“Public relations requires everything across the School of Communication: writing, sound editing and visual editing,” she said.

For Bloom, learning all of these skills is useful, considering the changing job market for prospective journalists.

“We used to identify ourselves, certainly in journalism, as a newspaper person or a TV person,” Bloom said. “Now, you kind of have to be a news person.”

But she sees that these changes go deeper than job preparation.

“It’s not just the job market, but it’s the type of student that’s going to be coming into the University of Miami,” Bloom said. “What they will have learned in first grade and third grade and eighth grade is going to put them in a different starting place than the freshman of today and so we have to keep up with both.”

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