ESIA concentration cut stirs concern

A semester after the Elliott School of International Affairs cut its international media and communications concentration, students and professors said GW suffered an unfortunate loss.

The concentration combined ESIA and School of Media and Public Affairs classes and was the only program of its kind at GW. Students took classes including Media and Foreign Policy, International Communications and Strategic Political Communication.

“The program was a way for the University to combine the strengths of two of the best (schools) at GW,” said senior Jonas Mann, who declared the concentration before it was cut. “If the Elliott School, SMPA and the administration had put more effort into making the courses available, the program could have succeeded.”

Elliott School officials said they decided to cut the program because students were often unable to register for required SMPA classes.

“Elliott School advising had to resort to approving courses tangentially involving international media and communications in order to give students enough credits in the concentration to graduate,” said Hugh Agnew, associate dean for Curriculum and Student Affairs at the Elliott School.

Mann said he had some trouble getting into required classes but that “substitutions (he) made worked out better in some cases.”

Senior Lindsay McAfee, a student in the concentration, said she did not encounter registration problems because her position as a student admissions representative gave her early registration until this year.

She said prospective students on tours often ask her about her course of study and express interest in the international media and communications concentration. She said it is upsetting to tell students the concentration is no longer offered.

“I think it’s kind of a joke because it’s part of an up-and-coming aspect of international affairs, and it’s ridiculous that they’ve done away with it,” she said.

Students who declared the concentration prior to the ESIA decision in April will be able to complete their studies. SMPA will continue to offer some of the courses necessary to fulfill the requirements, and students can also enroll in independent study classes or seminars with international media-related topics.

Agnew said as demand from SMPA majors increased for the classes, “it exceeded the capacity of their faculty to meet both the needs of their own majors and the demand, on the margin, of the Elliott School students seeking to complete the international media concentration.”

Albert May, SMPA acting director, said he has only “been tangentially involved in (the ESIA decision).”

“All I can say is that we are open to discussions with ESIA, which have been ongoing. Beyond that, I really don’t have a comment,” he said.

Professor Steven Livingston, who helped design the concentration a number of years ago and teaches some required SMPA classes, said he was “disappointed” with the decision.

He said he was surprised by the Elliott School’s decision and “wondered why there wasn’t more effort put into finding a way to calibrate the number of students in the concentration according to more realistic expectations” of what SMPA could accommodate.

“An alternative solution might be found in limiting the number of students who can declare the concentration in any given year,” Livingston said.

Agnew said having an application process would “raise more difficulties than it solved” because ESIA would have to find a method for selecting students to declare the concentration and because availability of space in SMPA would not be guaranteed every semester.

He said there are currently no plans to restart the concentration, which attracted about 15 students each year.

“A decision about reinstating the concentration would depend,” Agnew said, “on what resources become available to SMPA to ensure that enough student spaces in courses they offer are available for Elliott School students on a regular, ongoing basis.” n

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