SMPA changes to take effect in fall

The result of four years’ worth of planning is coming to fruition next fall as the School of Media and Public Affairs phases in changes to its curriculum.

The major change to occur to the school’s programming is the consolidation of three majors to two. The changes are taking effect after a task force was assigned to investigate and make recommended changes to the SMPA curriculum; an implementation committee revamped SMPA courses to update the school’s programs to stay relevant in the fast-changing world of today’s media.

“We spent a lot of time looking at options to reorganize the school,” said Steven Livingston, interim director of the SMPA. “As a result of the process, we now have merger of the (electronic media) and journalism programs into the mass communication and journalism program.”

Professor Al May, the interim director of SMPA when the task force committee’s report was released, said students will see even more changes to the curriculum in fall 2006.

May said the new journalism and mass communications major coupled with the old political communication major is an effort to “rationalize two core majors” within the school and provide commonality.

“Students will have more choices, more courses, and a less rigid curriculum,” May said.

One other change is the new registration system for all SMPA classes. While in previous years students would select from a field of journalism, political communication, electronic media or SMPA courses when registering for classes in the Banner system, all SMPA classes starting in next month’s registration period will be listed under the SMPA name.

The SMPA Web site says that this year’s freshman class is the last that will have an option to graduate under the old SMPA curriculum requirements and that beginning with the freshman class of 2010, all SMPA students will be under the new system.

The investigative task force was first discussed in 2002 when University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and Executive Vice President Donald Lehman decided to update the SMPA curriculum. A year later a task force was created and headed by professor Lee Sigelman, who was recently named interim dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Citing a lack of coherent focus within the school with three separate and non-integrated majors, the task force committee report outlined strengths and weaknesses of the school and recommended changes.

“The programmatic and curricular structure of SMPA looks out of date because it is out of date,” said the report, which was released in 2003.

Following the recommendations of the report, Lehman assembled an implementation committee in the spring of 2004; in the fall of 2005 it began to replace some of the SMPA classes with new courses and began to phase out the electronic media major.

The SMPA is holding a meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Jack Morton Auditorium for all SMPA majors to discuss changes to the curriculum and update students on the search for a new director of the school.

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