Photo by Olivia Ross
By Lorena Grajales, Editor-in-Chief –
UTC’s department of communication recently decided to offer students the option to transition their degree classification from a Bachelor of Arts to a Bachelor of Science, starting Fall 2021. The change will eliminate all foreign language and computer literacy requirements, and in its place implement skills classes to better prepare students for the real-life workforce.
The proposal began in August of 2019 and was first handled through UTC’s College of Arts & Sciences, then acquired approval from the provost, later passed on to the Board of Trustees and finally to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
Although the transition will be optional for most students, it will be mandated for incoming freshman. Those who decide to transition will be placed in a one-credit online technology class, solely focused on developing software skills in Adobe Audition, Premiere, Illustrator and more, previously taught briefly in Media Writing II.
Next semester, communication students will have the option to choose between taking Media Writing II, or a Public Relations writing class. Additionally, a domestic global diversity course and an additional 4000-level skills class will be added to the B.S. curriculum. This derived after the department received feedback from UTC alums, who said they felt they required more experience.
UTC alum and WDEF News 12 Now’s news reporter and producer, Joeli Poole, said that although her knowledge of Spanish is valuable, the university needs more courses focused on students’ career goals.
“That would have been huge, I would have truly loved that…I would have loved to just take a class where you could just work on In-Design and Photoshop because nowadays, that is everything in the media business,” said Poole, who graduated in Spring of 2019.
Triplets Chris, Chauncey and Caleb Figgures – all juniors in the communication department–said they will be taking advantage of the updated curriculum, after struggling with Spanish in prior semesters
“I feel this is a great change because Spanish is a really difficult subject to learn and I believe it will make it easier on me,” said Chris Figgures.
“I will be changing to a BS so I can finish faster, and also have more hands-on work when I take multi-journalism and technology courses,” said Caleb Figgures.
“I feel excited, I feel like it’s a big change for people to graduate quicker. It’s a huge leap” stated Chauncey Figgures.
According to Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Jerold Hale, UTC lost potential transfer students because of the curriculum, who would in turn attended other schools where the language requirement was avoided.
“…many of the competing communication programs in the region have B.S. degree programs and UTC was unable to compete with those programs for transfer students because the B.A. requirements led transfer students to choose competing programs.”
Hannah Hall, a junior from Athens, Tennessee graduating in Spring of 2022 said that although she will not be changing her degree classification, she believes that taking more communication-focused classes would open room for students to discover their passions.
“I think not changing is only benefiting me because I’m not having to take more hours…otherwise I would actually like to switch just because I would rather take more communications classes, but it’s just not smart at this point. If I was a freshman I definitely would.”
The elimination of the foreign language requirement raised concerns on possible adversity faced by the department. Communication Department Head and Associate Professor, Dr. McGhee said she feels for the possible negative effects the decision may have on the foreign language department but will continue to encourage possibilities that will strengthen students in her range.
“I’m sympathetic, I really am…but we just have to move forward and do what’s right…It was not my intention to hurt another department, but it is my intention to prepare our students.”
Department Head of Modern and Classical Languages and Literature, Joshua Davies shared his initial thoughts on the change, and how the overall pursuit of educating students in his department may be altered.
“I was concerned for several reasons, most of all because the change means a considerable reduction in the number of students learning languages at UTC.” He continued, “In the short term, the change will make it harder for us to carry out our departmental mission of helping as many UTC students as possible to learn another language and develop the special intercultural competence that only language study can provide.” Davies said.
Associate Professor of Spanish and Coordinator for the Humanities Program, Jose Luis Gastañaga said it is essential for students to recognize the importance other cultures and realities through a learned language, but remains hopeful for adjustments to come.
“…We are living in an increasingly more globalized world. I think that students who don’t have a second language are at a disadvantage. But on the other side, this could be good news for the students who are going to be in the classroom because we may have smaller classrooms and be more effective in our teaching,” he said.
Davies and Gastañaga both mentioned that the department is implementing new strategies to get students more involved next semester, including offering a Latin American Studies major, a new general education course, adding the opportunity to learn Portuguese and Greek, while suggesting for UTC to allow students to have the option to take a language to satisfy degree requirements.
Students with questions or concerns regarding their decision to change or not from a B.A. to a B.S., should consult with their respective academic advisor. To view the updated communication curriculum and read more about the transition option, click here. To learn more about modern and classical languages at UTC, click here.