Several new majors and minors in communication and computer science are designed to better prepare students for careers in these rapidly changing fields starting in the fall of 2016.
Last summer, Communication Department faculty Dean Beckman and Dr. Steve Schild began discussing ways to update their curriculum. They consulted with Dr. Shelly McCallum-Ferguson of the Business Department, Lisa Truax from Art and Design, and Dr. Lori Charron in Communication. Their goal was to examine Communication Department majors to see how they could be improved.
Their research and efforts led to the new Digital Media and Journalism major and minor, a blend of digital communications and reporting that aims to prepare students for storytelling on multiple platforms. This program takes the central components of Electronic Publishing and Journalism, two majors that will be phased out, and combines them into the requirements for the new major, leaving the other courses as electives. New courses have been created to reflect the growing and changing communications industry, including Social and New Media Communications, an introductory level course focused on social media that will be available to students of all majors.
“We really looked at what employers are demanding, and then made sure that our students are getting those skills and that knowledge directly from the curriculum,” said Beckman.
A second major in the Communication Department is Strategic Communication, along with a related minor in Leadership. These focus more on the theoretical and ethical foundation of communication, rather than on the technical skills, making them ideal for pairing with majors from a variety of departments, according to Beckman.
The Mathematics, Computer Science and Statistics Department added a major in Computer Data Science, which is broken into three tracks: Programming, Analytics, and Geographic Information Science (GIS). Each track includes an internship or final project in order to ensure that every student graduating from the program has a portfolio to show to employers. Minors were created for Computer Science and GIS.
The Programming track is similar to the previous Computer Science major, which was focused on that subject alone. Analytics trains students to process large amounts of data, commonly known as “big data,” and create information from which companies can make decisions. GIS is a similar program, but focuses on data that is geocoded, or has a location attached to it.
“These programs give students the skills they need in the workforce and the moral compass that Saint Mary’s programs have been known for. Data can be used or abused and we want to make sure it’s used in an appropriate way,” said Dean of Business and Technology Dr. Tom Marpe.
These majors and minors will be available for new students in the fall. Current students will be able to take the new courses as electives.