The UNC School of Media and Journalism announced a new curriculum structure last week aimed at facilitating a more diverse learning experience, combining the current eight concentrations into two areas of study: Journalism, and Advertising and Public Relations. The school will also offer a special third area of study in Business Journalism, a program that requires permission from both the MJ-school and the Kenan-Flagler Business School.
The change will be implemented for undergraduates who entered the school during or after the fall 2017 semester. Those entering the school previous to fall 2017 will maintain their current curriculum track.
When Charlie Tuggle, the senior associate dean of the school, first began planning the curriculum change over a year ago, Tuggle sought to increase flexibility for students within their focuses. The old curriculum offered eight specializations for students to base their degree in, ranging from Broadcast and Electronic Journalism to Strategic Communication. Tuggle said this system is incompatible today, when people entering the media industry should have a broader set of capabilities in multiple areas.
“Looking at where the industry is and where it’s heading, you no longer have a very defined, ‘I’m a still photographer,’ or, ‘I’m a page designer,’” Tuggle said. “That just doesn’t work anymore. So how can we design the curriculum such that it meets what the industry is and what the industry continues to become? We do that by broadening things out.”
The change has not resulted in any courses being removed from the school’s offering, but instead has restructured the current courses into three categories: Concentration, Conceptual and Capstone. The Concentration courses focus student’s areas of study into three levels based on course number, with 100-200 classes comprising the first level, and increasing from there. Students will have to take two courses from each level. These levels are meant to give students the option to either focus primarily on one media-based concept, such as photography courses, or explore various skills in the media world, like graphic design or TV reporting.
Students will also take two courses in the Conceptual category, another grouping of courses that immerse students in the history and different sectors of the media world. The Capstone course requirement is meant to conclude students’ work in their area of study by allowing them to experience hands-on challenges and create portfolio-worthy work.
Tuggle chose associate professor Laura Ruel to be the new director of journalism and professor John Sweeney to be director of advertising and public relations. Ruel said the new curriculum will enable future students to be fit for a multitude of opportunities in the job market.
“The jobs are all changing,” Ruel said. “A couple years ago, every newspaper started needing a videographer, and we didn’t have that. Our students are going to embrace this change by coming out being able to use these new technologies and new skills to do news and tell stories.”
Tuggle noted that the many course numbers had become illogical in the old curriculum, with some courses having a higher number than courses that they were prerequisites for. Rick Clancy, a public relations professor, sees the reorganizing of these courses as another improvement.
“From the student perspective, I think the curriculum is designed on one hand to provide greater flexibility for them in their selection of courses, and also an easier path that’s more comprehensible,” Clancy said. “From an administrative point-of-view, I think it’s a little easier for some of us to manage and direct students on what the next step may be.”
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