In addition to its launch of a new master’s degree in public media, Fordham’s Department of Communication and Media Studies has this year unveiled a revamped undergraduate program that features more specialization and a stronger ethical component.
Instead of one major with five concentrations—film, media culture & society, new media/participatory media, journalism, and TV & radio—the department has created four distinct majors:
-Communication and Culture;
-Digital Technologies and Emerging Media;
-Film and Television; and
These majors can also be chosen as minors, and an additional minor in Sports Journalism is also being offered.
Jacqueline Reich, Ph.D., chair of the department, said the media industry has changed significantly since the former curriculum was instituted. The department surveyed 79 peer, aspirant, local, and Jesuit universities to get a sense of how other communications departments were structured, and of their curriculum offerings. They also reached out to students, faculty outside the department, and administrators for input.
Reich said the change from concentrations to majors reflects a desire to give students a better balance between theory and practice. The two introductory courses that all communications majors had been required to take have been combined into one course. Students can now take up to nine courses in their area of specialization, instead of three.
For example, said Reich, a student who wants to concentrate on film has to take courses on understanding film, the history of film until 1950, and film theory and criticism. In addition, they’d have a practical requirement, consisting of a course on screenwriting or digital video production. If they want to be film historians, they can concentrate heavily on film history courses; if they want to focus on filmmaking, they can take more hands-on courses.
To make such specializations possible, said Reich, the department is debuting several new courses, including Data Visualization, Hacker Culture, Political Communication in the Digital Era, Writing the Original TV Pilot, and Social Media for Journalists.
Reich said that what makes the program stand out from other universities is an emphasis on ethics, and promoting “media with a mission.”
“One thing we looked for in our survey was, how many of communications programs have ethics requirements, and the only ones that did were journalism programs,” she said.
All students have to take a course in ethics, law and policy; this semester, for instance, Cameron Russell, executive director of Fordham Law’s Center on Law and Information Policy (CLIP) will teach a required course on privacy and surveillance.
“For us to have an ethics, law and policy requirement for the entire program is very unique, and draws on Fordham’s Jesuit tradition of ethics and social justice,” Reich said.
“We’re very proud of that, because I think that’s what sets us apart. This is our niche. I believe we are the go-to program in New York for students who want to become communication and media professionals who make a difference in the world, and who work for the public good.”