Revamped Communication Degree Reflects Central Role of Media

Learning how to navigate our media-saturated environment is crucial to understanding how we live in today’s world. And while Carleton University has offered an undergraduate program in Communication Studies for nearly 40 years, media have become even more central to how we work, shop, study and play.

Following a provincially mandated review in 2013, the program spent two years reimagining and revamping its undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree and the changes are now in place for this fall’s students.

In addition to offering a slate of new courses addressing emerging areas of scholarship and professional practice, the name of the degree also has changed. All new students will be admitted into Carleton’s Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies (BCoMS).

There’s been rapid growth in demand for the undergraduate Communication program. The numbers have increased nearly fourfold to about 1,300 students. Josh Greenberg, director of the School of Journalism and Communication, attributes this growth in part to what he describes as “media ever-presence in our lives.”

“As media and communication have become more central to our politics, our economy, our environment, and to how we live, we felt it was time to have a degree whose name recognized that centrality,” says Greenberg. “The move toward a stand-alone degree in communication and media studies also responds to increased competition as more universities and colleges are developing programs in this field.”

Greenberg notes that the revised program preserves the BA degree’s longstanding values of critical inquiry and engaged learning, and ensuring students acquire an understanding of issues in their historical, socio-cultural and political contexts. But it also takes “a more assertive approach” to teaching students a core set of professional skills that are important to the media and communication industries today, from critical policy analysis to digital media practice, speech writing and more.

Additionally, over the past decade, the school has hired several new professors, whose areas of scholarly expertise align to Carleton’s strategic priorities and respond to changes in the media environment and the interests of students. Greenberg notes that recent hires are already emerging as leaders in such diverse areas as comics, communication and food, software studies, media theory, visual media and open data. The school also recently added a Canada Research Chair in Digital Media and the Global Network Society.

“The expertise of our faculty reflects our objective of being the most dynamic, interdisciplinary communication and media studies program in Canada. We want our students to develop a foundational understanding of media and communication industries, technologies and practices, including their histories, regulatory contexts and cultural consequences. We want them to be confident and capable in their careers. And we want them to become leaders in their communities.”

The response from students to the revamped program has been strong. Greenberg reports that total applications increased by 70 per cent and new enrolments are up 60 per cent over the previous year.

“While that presents challenges, we are really excited to roll out the revised program and to see how it continues to develop.”

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