Under semesters, new topics-based courses in the School of Art will enable painters, sculptors, photographers and other artists to work side-by-side in their medium of choice toward a common theme.
Photographer: Stephanie Morrison
Feb 3, 2012
By Monica Chapman
Junior journalism major Kellie Snyder entered Ohio University with a plan in hand. She knew where she was going and what courses were going to get her there. So you can imagine Snyder's concern when the Scripps School of Journalism announced plans to drop its six current sequences – including Snyder's public relations sequence – in favor of two broad-based tracks.
It's a phenomenon that is happening across other programs, too. University departments have fine-tuned and, in some cases, overhauled their curricula as the University converts to a semester calendar. The timing is no surprise: If you have to revamp curricula from quarters to semesters, why not make systemic changes at the same time?
The School of Art is among the programs that took advantage of that opportunity.
"Logistically it just made sense to make these changes now. And they are changes that the faculty has been thinking about for quite some time," said Rosemarie Basile, assistant director of student services in the School of Art.
School of Art
Like journalism, The School of Art is also favoring a broad-based approach to the specialty tracks that have been in place since the last major curricular revision in the 1980s.
The school will be replacing several discipline courses with topics-based courses. As an example, Basile points to a new human figure course – where painters, sculptors and graphic designers will work side-by-side toward the course's common theme. The interdisciplinary approach allows students more flexibility to experiment with different mediums in the classroom and provides for more versatility in the job market, she said.
"In fact, our old studio program was very interdisciplinary. But the program configuration didn't really reflect that. So the new studio BFA will allow (students) to concentrate in an area but acknowledge that they are taking courses in multiple disciplines," said Basile.
For Basile – who is advising more than 450 students through the transition – the biggest challenge is scheduling.
Since the third week of fall quarter, she has devoted each Thursday to Q2S advising, filling the entire workday with 15- to 20-minute appointments. An invaluable tool in her process is a Doodle calendar, whereby students can slot themselves into her schedule.
Though Basile admits to some panic among students regarding graduation timelines and curricular change, frequent communications are helping to ease those concerns.
"We're being very cautious. We don't want to make any assumptions on a student’s career plans and then find that something got missed along the way," she said.
School of Journalism
Associate Professor of Journalism Ellen Gerl said she tries to assure advisees in the School of Journalism by pointing out that the big picture has not changed.
"They're in the same major they've always been in. And we've worked with them individually to show them that the courses they've taken easily fit into the changed curriculum," she said.
Gerl said she drafted about a dozen TDCPs over the winter intercession, based on conversations with advisees in the fall.
"As the point person to help other faculty with the transition advising, I wanted to tackle my own first to see where there might be questions," she said.
Gerl is advising journalism faculty to allow a minimum of 30 minutes per TDCP advising session – 10 minutes longer than a typical advising session. Despite the time commitment, Gerl said the TDCP process was "not as onerous as everybody expects."
Her only stumbling block was adding information about minors and certificates – which is not yet all available through the Q2S website's "minors and certificates" link.
Journalism's new curriculum reflects changes in the media industry, where the lines between various media platforms have blurred in recent years. Gerl said the broad-based tracks intend to better equip students for the industry, where "journalists are being asked to do it all."
The calendar conversion is softened by the fact that students will need a few less hours to graduate. Under semesters, the minimum number of hours required to graduate decreases to 120 semester hours (equivalent to 180 quarter hours). Currently, 192 quarter hours are required to graduate.
"So once you start showing (students) the numbers, it makes them a little less frantic," Gerl said.
College of Health Sciences and Professions
Changes are also in store for majors in the College of Health Sciences and Professions.
Under semesters, the Child and Family Studies program will adopt three distinct concentrations, strengthening its focus on public health. Based on recommendations by the Child Life Council, several new courses are also being added to the curriculum.
"We were doing a lot of that informally … But we used the opportunity as we move to semesters to formalize the child life concentration, as up to date as possible, in a way that meets the national standards," said Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies and Jenny Chabot.
Chabot said the changes help to simplify the curriculum, making it more understandable from a students' perspective. And because most hospitals operate on semesters, Chabot said OHIO's calendar conversion will greatly enhance her ability to place students in internships.
But, she added, concerns do exist among her 55 student advisees.
"There's just general worry," she said. "But I think students are going to have to put some trust in the systems … (Faculty) are all willing to be flexible as long as a student steps up to the plate."
The Health Services Administration major also will be implementing new course requirements to replace 24 hours of electives that students used to enjoy.
"It makes for a more strenuous program. But the students that I've talked to are very positive about the changes. They know they will be better off in the long run," said Rebecca Zuspan, who serves as assistant dean for student services in the College of Health Sciences and Professions.
In light of the increased numbers of online students in the college, Zuspan has turned to advising via Skype. Positive feedback led her to extend that opportunity to Athens campus students over academic breaks.
"The online students like it because it puts a name with a face. It's more personal. I enjoy seeing the students and feel like I get to know them a little better," Zuspan said.
"For students completing the TDCPs, the forms must obviously still be signed and returned to us, and this is being accomplished through postal mail, fax, and scanned email attachments," she added.
For Snyder, the TDCP process has eased many of her concerns regarding the transition.
"It just helped me become more focused in the moment. It made it a lot more clear to me what I needed to schedule right now," she said.
With a new plan in hand and a new sequence, she is forging ahead toward her original goal – a Bachelor of Science in Journalism.
Throughout winter quarter, Compass will feature tips and information on advising students through the Q2S transition, based on input from top student advisers.
Articles in this series include:
Check back Thursday for a video addressing top student concerns on the Q2S conversion.
For more information…
OHIO is one of 17 public universities and community colleges across the state converting to semesters in accordance with the University System of Ohio's strategic plan. Questions about the quarters-to-semesters transition at Ohio University can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit http://www.ohio.edu/q2s/.