Department Evolves to Meet Student Needs

WASHINGTON, PA (Jan. 15, 2014) – A Washington & Jefferson (W&J) College academic department has changed its title and transformed its course offerings to meet student needs.

The Department of Theatre and Communication is now the Department of Communication Arts, and although some course offerings will remain the same, the department now offers new and updated courses and programs to enhance the degree and reflect a more robust level of career preparation.

Associate Professor and Chair Anthony Fleury said the department decided to overhaul its offerings to emphasize the liberal arts aspect of the program, as well as meet an increase in student requests for communication and public relations-specific courses.

“This is a redesign of the theatre program that is especially well-suited for the W&J students,” he said. “This provides a way for them to explore and study theatre arts while earning a communication degree.”

Theatre Professor Bill Cameron said while theatre remains an important part of the department's mission, W&J students with a passion for theatre tend to be equally interested in studying film or having a show on WNJR. The changes reflect the department broader focus.

"We’ve created curricular and co-curricular experiences that allow our students to develop a range of skills and proficiencies in the field of communication and to see connection between the disciplines. It seems to me that this is what a liberal arts education is all about." he said. 

Students entering the program can either major or minor in Communication Arts, with an optional emphasis in one of four areas: theatre, film studies, rhetoric, or public relations. A general minor in Communication Arts also is available.

With the new department title comes new course offerings. Students in the program will be required to take Research Methods in Communication Arts, a new course focused on library and interview research, which Fleury said is useful in numerous contexts within W&J courses, as well as in market research or writing that students will encounter in their careers.

The new course Radio Drama and Documentary, based on Cameron's popular intersession radio drama course, is designed to develop skills in oral expression, communication technologies and critical thinking.

Another new course, Writing for Stage and Screen, will be taught by Professor Scott Frank and combines two of his former courses: Playwriting and Screen Writing. Due to numerous student requests, Advanced Public Speaking: Professionalism and Activism also will be offered. Associate Professor Karin Maresh will offer two new writing-intensive communication history courses, which also will cover the connections between mass media and theatre.

Two one-credit courses—Radio Performance or Production, and Theatre Performance or Production—can be taken up to four times and include activities such as performing in a play, helping backstage of a production, or working with community radio shows.

There also will be opportunities for students to take courses through Pittsburgh Filmmakers one of the oldest and largest media arts centers in the United States, and transfer the credits to the college’s program.

“We’re moving in a direction where a lot of our students have been expressing an interest. They've spoken, and we’ve listened,” Fleury said. “This Communication Arts curriculum is designed especially for students who want to develop a broad skill set while immersed in the academic study of creative expression."

Students work in the studio during Radio Drama, a 2013 Intersession course.