Beginning Fall 2017, the UNC School of Media and Journalism will now offer two areas of study — Advertising and Public Relations and Journalism — within its bachelor of arts in media and journalism. Previously, the MJ-school organized its course offerings through eight specializations.
Under the leadership of Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Charlie Tuggle, Associate Professor Laura Ruel will serve as the director of journalism and Professor John Sweeney will serve as the director of advertising and public relations.
This curriculum change affects students based on the semester in which they first entered the University. Undergraduate students who entered the University prior to Fall 2017 will remain under the academic worksheet guidelines of the eight-specialization system: Advertising; Broadcast & Electronic Journalism; Editing & Graphic Design; Interactive Multimedia; Photo & Video Journalism; Public Relations; Reporting; and Strategic Communication. Students who entered UNC in Fall 2017 or later — including both first-year and transfer students — will utilize the newly updated 2017 academic worksheets.
Though the core course requirements are unchanged from previous academic years, the remaining requirements have been restructured into three new sections: Concentration, Conceptual and Capstone. These sections were created to help students better navigate the curriculum and build the skill sets necessary to thrive in today's dynamic media environment.
One of the biggest developments — the creation of capstone course requirements — will drive students to apply concepts and skills from earlier classes and develop portfolio-worthy work in hands-on and client-based challenges.
"I want our students to start thinking in terms of the new curriculum regardless of which worksheets they use," said Tuggle. "The new curriculum should benefit all of our students in how they plan their future semesters."
RESPONDING TO THE INDUSTRY
The restructured curriculum has been in the works for a few semesters. The MJ-school curriculum committee held a retreat in Spring 2016 to work through the ideas and concerns of faculty, staff, students and other constituents. Since then, the committee has also worked to update MEJO course numbers to better reflect the intended flow of skill-based courses.
Though the curriculum is constantly evolving in response to growing and changing industry expectations, the two areas of study were specifically put in place to reduce the siloing of departments within the MJ-school. In today's job market, graduates are expected to bring both a wide-ranging background and specialized skill set to the table.
"Top candidates in the media and journalism industry are typically going to be specialists that can function as generalists," said Susan King, dean of the MJ-school. "Those types of communicators are the least likely to get boxed in by traditional structures."
With the new curriculum, students can still take a deep dive into an area of interest — like broadcast journalism or graphic design — while also developing complementary skillsets. This setup will increase their appeal in the job market and keep them flexible in ever-changing roles.
In addition to appointment and walk-in hours available through MJ-school academic advising and MJ Career Services, Tuggle, Ruel and Sweeney will hold weekly walk-in advising hours to assist students in need of guidance.