WRITTEN BY CODY SANDUSKY AND ADAM PRESSWOOD
MBU students can now pursue their career interests with greater specificity thanks to new journalism and theatre majors.
Prior to the 2012-13 academic year, students interested in the fields of journalism and/or theatre at Missouri Baptist University had no other option but to pursue them as minor courses of study.
Starting this fall, however, MBU has begun offering majors in both journalism and theatre.
The introduction of these majors illustrates the degree expansion that MBU is currently experiencing. Dr. C. Allin Means, associate professor of journalism and communications, described the new journalism major as the final piece in the school’s flourishing Communications Department, which already offers majors in Public Relations, Broadcast Media and Communications Studies.
“For one thing, it will provide that fourth necessary component for a solid, well-rounded Communications Department,” said Means, who began teaching at MBU in fall 2011. “Journalism is thriving again as new media technologies offer so many different ways to get a story out to the public. It’s a great time to be teaching journalism and to be majoring in journalism.”
Means said the chance to create a journalism major was one reason he chose to teach at MBU, and that he desires to create an opportunity for Christian students to learn how to succeed in the journalism field. “I think it’s important to train Christian journalists in a day and age when I’m seeing a troubling deterioration of ethical journalism at large,” Means said. “In a way, it’s a mission we’re fighting for, one student at a time.”
Bryanna Hampton, a May graduate who minored in journalism at MBU, is optimistic about the new program, and believes the degree needs to be promoted in order to succeed. “I think it’s a good move,” said Hampton. “I think that student interest needs to be increased and awareness needs to be increased to make the new major successful.”
Means described the process of creating a new major and having it approved as “lengthy” and “thorough.”
He also spoke highly of the support he received with regard to the creation of the new journalism major.
“It was a rigorous and time-consuming process. But it was worth it,” said Means. “Missouri Baptist University does not take the process lightly when it comes to proposing a new major on campus. We are very thorough so that we deliver to students exactly what we say we’re going to deliver.”
The journalism major allows for the addition of four new classes that have never been offered at MBU before, including Photojournalism, Design for Print Media, Design for Web Media and Opinion Writing.
Means said he is excited about the new classes he proposed and recently had approved by the MBU faculty and Board of Trustees, and that he looks forward to teaching them.
“I really do like them all. A lot of thought and research went into the curriculum I’ve designed for the journalism major,” said Means. “They’re good classes in that they address the classic art of journalism and non-fiction storytelling as well as new media delivery systems that modern news consumers are attracted to.”
Means also pointed out how much he enjoys working in a department whose graduates are so employable in the job market.
“It is rewarding to teach classes in a major that prepares our students for jobs when they graduate,” said Means. “The job market is exploding in journalism, broadcast media and public relations right now. Last May we got every one of our graduates placed in jobs in their fields. It’s always great to be able to say that.”
Means said he sees a bright future for the field of journalism.
“The careers in journalism, broadcast media and PR are definitely out there. I’m seeing 20 or 30 new postings each day for jobs in journalism at www.journalismjobs.com. That is unprecedented in my lifetime,” said Means, who spent 13 years in the newspaper business before teaching at the college level, where he has spent the past 13 years. “The industry is strong, diversified and growing.”
Joy Powell, assistant professor of theatre arts, said she and her colleagues spent the past five years discussing the need for a new theatre major, and made the decision to pursue the matter during the spring semester of 2010.
“To be competitive with other universities that offer these types of majors, this was the next natural step in order to meet the needs of our students,” said Powell, who began working on her doctorate degree this fall at the University of Missouri.
Plans for the new theatre major were officially set in motion after Powell attended a conference of the National Association of Schools of Theatre in the spring of 2012.
“We built our curriculum so that when our program grows we will be able to pursue accreditation with them,” said Powell.
Powell said that she views the new theatre major as an indication of the extent to which the program is supported by the administration, which officially approved both new majors at the May 2012 Board of Trustees meeting.
“We’re excited because our program is growing,” said Powell. “The addition of this new major means the administration understands the value of what we’ve already done enough to invest in the future of it.”
Powell was quick to stress the fact that the new major is not the result of her efforts alone, and that she benefitted greatly from the assistance of Dr. Larry Smith, professor of music and fine arts chairperson, Dr. Ladd Faszold, professor of music, and Sarah Dickey, fine arts administrative assistant.
“Over the course of the last five or six years, we have developed a full-time music schedule,” said Smith. “We felt that it was time we had a theatre major to go along with the music major.”
Faszold, who was division chair prior to Smith, added: “We worked for a long time to make the theatre major happen, because it is an important part of what we can offer our students.”
Like Means, Smith described the process of creating the new major as “thorough,” adding that the Journalism and Theatre Departments were the first to undergo a new and stringent approval system that the Academic Affairs Committee implemented last fall.
The creation of a new theatre major has brought with it the addition of a number of technical theatre classes including Script Analysis, History of Musical Theatre, Theatre History II, Theatrical Costuming, Acting III, Theatre Media, and Voice and Movement for the Actor.
“We already felt that we had a program in place that merited the creation of a theatre major,” said Smith. “What we needed was the curriculum. That was the element that was missing.”
Although the new major is still in its infancy, an encouraging number of students have changed their degree programs and become theatre majors.
“Our primary goal is the recruitment of new students,” said Smith. “Once we start promoting this, however, it is possible that a number of current students may switch majors.”
“We’re very excited about the possibilities this opens up for student recruitment,” added Dickey. “It will open up opportunities for students who want to perform but don’t necessarily want to major in music.”