Communication department divides into different degrees, emphases

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The communication degree and department at Dixie State University is changing due to growth of the department. 

The communication degree will be split into two degrees with a media studies degree and a communication studies degree and will be implemented in January.

Brent Yergensen, associate dean and department chair for the communication department, said one reason the department is splitting is because the department has become large enough to need more management. He said another reason the department is splitting is because the two formal emphases have separate curriculums.

“We’re talking about media and communication,” Yergensen said. “They have different professional associations.”

Things will be different when signing up for communication classes. If students apply for a communication studies course, the abbreviation will be COMM. If students apply for a media studies course, the abbreviation will be MDIA.

Yergensen said the communication degree, formally known as the emphasis in human communication, has not seen many changes. But the media studies degree, formally known as the emphasis in mass communication, has seen quite a bit of changes.

David Harris, department chair for media studies and an assistant professor, said there will now be four emphases in the media studies degree.

There’s an emphasis in digital film production, which already exists with the old degree; a multimedia journalism emphasis; a social media emphasis; and a generic emphasis.

“Now we have a generic emphasis, which is essentially just a ‘choose your own adventure’ where you can kind of pick and choose the courses that you want after you’ve taken the core requirements,” Harris said.

Harris said officials in the communication department hope to also start a strategic communication emphasis, which is geared toward advertising, public relations and marketing. He said the department hopes to offer that to students in a year from now.

The degrees themselves haven’t changed as far as the core requirements go, Harris said.

“We removed some of the core requirements from the original degree (and) streamlined [them] a little bit in the media studies degree,” Harris said. “We actually didn’t add any new classes; we took away some classes, and then we focused the existing classes into the specific emphases.”

Yergensen said the department splitting won’t affect students who are already declared in the old communication degree.

“It’s not going to be an abrupt change for any student who wants to remain,” Yergensen said. “Students who we have now in the program [will] continue the course and finish just as it is right now, or they can declare and [receive] the new degree.”

Roberto Jardon, a sophomore communication major from Enterprise, said splitting the degree is the right choice for students.

“As students, we’ve all been through situations where we lose interest in a class or subject because we feel it is irrelevant to what we want to study,” Jardon said. “I feel it is the right step to split the degree and provide more focus on material that directly correlates to the degree we are pursuing.”  

Harris said changing the degree from being broad to being more focused is not a bad thing.

“The name of the degree is not as important as what you learn in the degree,” Harris said.