By ANNA DEMARR
A new major could be joining the University of Mary Washington academic selection on Friday, Feb. 20, when the University Faculty Council will review and vote on the prospective Communication and Digital Studies Program.
Beginning this past summer, Anand Rao, associate professor of communication, along with other UMW faculty, developed a program that will combine both communication courses and classes in the digital studies program.
After being proposed in the summer, the program has gone through several review boards, including the English, Linguistics and Communication department, the College of Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee and the University Curriculum Committee.
The final step in the approval process, the University Faculty Council’s decision, was originally scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 17, but due to inclement weather, UFC and UMW have been corresponding via email, and the final decision will take place on Friday. If the program is approved, students will be able to declare a communication major as early as Fall 2015.
The communication major has been popular in the past as a create-your-own degree special major option. The special major path at UMW is not intended to be easy and requires a lot of time and effort. Offering communication as a special major deterred many students to other programs or even other universities. However, with the high demand for this program, it was decided that making it an official major would be both necessary and beneficial.
There is a large support network of both faculty and students for the prospective major.
“I would love to come back for reunion weekend one year and hear that someone is a communication major and they are doing something similar to what I did, since we don’t really have that right now,” said Ray Celeste Tanner, a junior communication major.
Rao commented that the program will be accessible not only to traditional students, but also to non-traditional ones, such as adult students or those managing full-time jobs. According to Rao, courses will hopefully be available at night, online and possibly weekends in order for non-traditional students to complete the degree alongside their busy schedules.
Communication and digital studies are ideal degrees to set students up for post-graduation, said Rao. Many communication majors go on to jobs in public relations, marketing or event planning; and with the digital experience, he noted, they will be strong candidates for many companies.
“[Graduates of the program] will be well positioned to go into any business setting and do a lot in terms traditional communication, but also working in new and innovative ways,” said Rao.
The major itself will be made up of specific courses in communication, digital studies and other spread out through specific areas of English, art, history and political science.
Across the nation, communication has been one of the fastest growing majors, but there are few that combine both communication and digital studies.
“We are well positioned to do it,” said Rao. “With the strong program in digital studies and the resources of the ITCC and other areas on campus, we are going to be able to do some really amazing things with it.”