English department plans big changes
Michelle Adams, Managing Editor
“More courses. Easier registration. Faster graduation.”
That is the plan for the new and improved English major and minor, set to launch in Fall 2016.
Under the new curriculum, English majors will be able to graduate on time much easier. They will also enjoy more interesting classes, like LGBTQ literatures and film, and more elective and capstone options. Additionally, non-majors will have a greater availability to English classes, as students will need only a C- in English 101 to register for any upper-level course, many of which will now satisfy General Education Domain 2 requirements.
In previous years, the English major was especially challenging to schedule. Many required classes were offered only once every two years, meaning that “transfer students, and students who declare a major in their sophomore or junior year, [were] at a disadvantage,” and could not graduate on time, said Department Chair, Michelle Brown, Ph.D. This, combined with outdated courses, made the major unappealing to many students.
“We used to lose majors because [before], students would come in as a transfer, and say, ‘I need to graduate in two years… but it looks like with the timing of the requirements, I’m going to be here for three and a half, so is there something I can do, can I take something sooner?’ And [previous leadership] would say, ‘Nope, sorry, just be here for three and a half years!’ – for $40,000 a year,” Brown said. “So the students would say, well okay, I guess I can’t be an English major, so I’ll go be Mass Comm or I’ll go to George Mason or even drop out of school [because they could not afford it], and to me, that’s not how we should run the major.”
In an attempt to allow students to graduate more quickly, Brown has taken on several Independent Study students each semester, but she and the department decided it was time for a change.
“What we’ve done is replace the specific courses with menus of courses, so instead of having to take English 201 Advanced Essay,” which is offered only once every two years, “now you have to take one class in writing that’s beyond English 101… and at least one of them will be offered every semester,” explained Brown. “What that means is that now you can pretty much satisfy any given requirement within one semester.”
Starting in the Fall of 2016, requirements for English majors will include the English 101 prerequisite; the English 209 “jumpstart” into the major, which will be offered every semester; as well as 12 hours of 200-level survey courses, 21 hours of 300-level or higher electives that will include at least one Literature Before 1800 course, one Critical or Area Studies course, and one Writing course; and two options for a Capstone project. The English minor will experience similar changes, but with only one Survey course required, and only 12 hours of electives total.
As a bonus perk, “the courses required for the old English major will still count toward the new English major,” Brown noted. “If you are an English major already, and you’re planning to continue being an English major, the changes in the program will not set you back. They will either keep you on track, or possibly put you in a better position to matriculate on time.
“I admit that it’s an imperfect system,” Brown said. “Moving to this will help.”
Feature photo courtesy of Huffington Post