Scripps changing twofold

For my Journalism 231 course, we had to write a story and include a multimedia component. I did my story on how Scripps College of Communication is changing its curriculum in 2012 when the entire university changes from quarters to semesters and when the communication school moves to a new location. Below is my story and a video of the current and future communications buildings with audio from an interview with Dr. Robert Stewart.

Ohio University is making a major change in the fall of 2012 with a switch from quarters to semesters, but for the Scripps College of Communication, it will be an even greater change as they implement a new face on curriculum and offices.

Professors and students alike have mixed feelings about the changes. However, it is a necessary change because the entire University Council needs time to approve each school’s curriculum, said Dr. Robert Stewart, a journalism professor, current associate director of undergraduate studies and next year’s associate director.

“I have to confess, I was really not looking forward to a lot of these changes,” Stewart said. “Now, I see that there are some real good opportunities, and frankly, we have to change. We have to move forward because the industry is changing; everything is changing.”

The faculty has approved the newly proposed journalism curriculum that will begin in 2012, and much of the course ideas were based on feedback from journalism companies and alumni to incorporate more real-world journalism experiences by requiring a much wider variety of skills, Stewart said .

“The main change that is happening is breaking down the sequences into these two broad categories,” Stewart said. “Instead of having six distinct areas, there will be two broad areas.”

The two broad areas, which will be called “tracks,” are replacing the current six sequences. The “strategic communications” track will combine the advertising and public relations sequences while the news writing/editing, online journalism, magazine journalism and broadcast news sequences will be included under another track, called “news and information.” After students have decided which track they want to take, all the rest of the courses are in a “bucket,” as Stewart called it, to pick from a variety of courses. Then, there is a capstone class to finish the curriculum that can integrate all students from different interests.

“Now it’s just a matter of the fine tuning with what’s going to happen in each class, who’s going to teach it and making sure that the kinds of things that we think are important for students to walk away with are going to happen,” said Michelle Honald, assistant professor and public relations advisor for the journalism school.

While the academic side will provide the broad variety of skills to learn, many students can find the detailed and hands-on experience they are looking for through the on-campus opportunities such as WOUB, ImPRessions and The Post.

Since the curriculum is in place, the faculty will then receive training in how to advice the students that are going to be part of the transition, Honald said. Stewart agrees that members of the faculty have to be good role models through this change. The more the faculty plan ahead, the more they will be prepared to handle the current freshmen and the incoming students from now until 2012.

However, two students, Patrick Holmes, a journalism freshman in the online sequence, and Heather Bartman, a freshman in public relations, have yet to feel advised on the switch and are unsure of their next steps. They are both concerned that it will be during their senior year and do not want to get sidetracked or stuck behind.

“Because this will happen my senior year, I worry that it will cause me to graduate later,” Bartman said. “Also, my senior year I want to focus on finding a job and perfecting my resume and portfolio, not worrying about how my credits transfer.”

Because the entire university will be going through the same process and all faculties will do their best to help students, Honald advises students to not panic but also not get behind in their studies.

“I can only suspect that there is going to have to be a little bit of latitude to get people out of here on time, because that first year of students are going to be guinea pigs,” Honald said. “And I’m sure there will be challenging cases but only hope the administration will have some flexibility in terms of making sure we can let [current freshmen] graduate.”

However, Bartman said that from what she knows about the new curriculum, it is beneficial to future students because it will be more suited for what journalism students will be facing as a career right now and in the future.

Going from quarters to semesters is going to be difficult enough, but physically moving across campus and integrating all communication schools in the old Baker Center is an added obstacle.

Based on current planning, the new building will be occupied in two phases, Stewart said. Faculty will be moving into the building at the end of the first semester in December 2012 for the first phase. Within two years, phase two will include the transformation of classrooms.

“With five schools in the college, the fact that we would all be in the same building, I think allows for a lot more collaboration, which seems only good for faculty and students,” Honald said.

While the phases are in transition, the current communications buildings will be used for other purposes. For example, the E.W. Scripps Hall will still be used for classrooms and many of the faculty offices in the current Scripps Hall will be designated for student organizations. Also, the Lasher Learning Center in Scripps will turn into a “sand box” classroom for the capstone courses where students can come together in an innovative space, Stewart said.

“Part of my job as the director during this period will be to find ways to boost the good energy and help control some of the bad energy,” Stewart said.