Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor
Beginning this fall, Berry’s department of communication will be experiencing several key changes. In an effort to make the four current major concentrations, public relations, visual communication, multimedia journalism and sports communication, more marketable and appropriate, the department is reorganizing and adjusting many required courses. As Brian Carroll, chair of the department of communication, explained, every four years the department reevaluates its educational progress, and determines any improvements that could be made to benefit students. This past August, Berry communication faculty held a retreat in Chattanooga to do just that. According to Carroll, they looked at several key structural and curricula-based improvements.
The individual communication concentrations will undergo several renovations. Structurally, these mainly impact the current visual communication and multimedia journalism concentrations. Visual communication will be changing to filmmaking and cinematic arts. As Carroll explained, currently, the visual communication concentration encompasses photography, graphic design, and videography. Furthermore, recent investment in better filming equipment, such as lights and camera lenses, for the VikingFusion studio has only expanded the on-campus opportunities available for students pursuing film-related careers. By focusing solely on videography, the department aims to make the concentration more applicable to student interests and future aspirations.
“When you designate yourself as a filmmaking and cinematic arts major, you know exactly what you’re doing, who you are, and what you’re learning, in a way that you didn’t previously with visual communication,” Carroll said. “We’ve been chipping away at that for a long time, so this was the moment of clarity for us.”
According to Rachel Siler, freshman communication major with a concentration in visual communication, that goal of enhanced and direct clarity is being achieved. The change in focus to cinematography is more specific and more applicable to her future plans, Siler said.
“It explains better what I want to do,” Siler said. “I want to be a film director. With visual communication, you can see the correlation between film and visual, but it’s a little bit confusing. It makes more sense to call it filmmaking and cinematic arts. Now when I’m talking about my major, people understand what I mean.”
The photography classes being removed from the new filmmaking curriculum will be relocated to fit under new version of the multimedia journalism concentration, which will be renamed digital storytelling. According to Carroll, the department recognizes the prevalence of storytellers across numerous fields. Widening the concentration to encompass more avenues for storytelling serves to reflect that growing market.
“Without changing the heart and soul of what we do, we relocated several courses to rethink what it means to be a storyteller in the 21st century,” Carroll said. “We see storytellers across communication fields. Public relations, marketing, obviously journalism. They’re telling stories using digital tools and digital publishing platforms. We’re recognizing that in industry and creating a wider berth for that in skill set.”
Furthermore, the department will be adding several new courses to adapt to today’s media environment. These include classes like podcasting and broadcasting, which will become part of the public relations, digital storytelling and sports communication curriculum. A course on social media analytics is also being added, which will live in the public relations and digital storytelling sector. While these courses will be specifically tailored and required for certain concentrations, they will also provide more options for course electives across all communication majors and minors.
According to Carroll, Berry’s sports communication education is undergoing changes as well. Although there are not significant course changes, like in the case of the new filmmaking or digital storytelling majors, the purchase of new equipment is creating new opportunities for those interested in sports communication. With the assistance of Tom Kennedy, dean of Evans School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and the athletic department, the communication department purchased a new switcher, which will allow for the live broadcasting of various sporting events. These live broadcasts will be aired on the both the Viking Fusion and Athletic Department web pages.
“We’re going to start doing live sports in a big way in the fall,” Carroll said. “20 plus sporting events here at Berry next year will be broadcast and covered live with stats, graphics, replay.”
The changes are coming into effect next fall. Current students can continue to pursue the requirements as they were initially understood; however, they can also choose to take the new courses.
The main goal of the department changes is to ensure that students are adept across various types of media. In order to ensure that communication students receive the most benefit from their time at Berry, the department is working to provide ample and diverse opportunity.
“Certainly from a skillset perspective, we want them to be armed and ready for a lot of change, very adaptable, and then trained across any number of media so that any industry changes around them,” Carroll said.
So far, Carroll said, the changes have been receiving positive feedback from both current and prospective students.
“We’re getting really good early responses from prospective students,” Carroll said. “They seem to resonate with digital storytelling and filmmaking and cinematic arts.”
Siler echoed these sentiments, again expressing her excitement for the future changes in the department.
“Now I’ll be taking a lot more courses on things related to my interests in film,” Siler said. “This semester I’m taking a script-writing class, and I like that. Junior year, too, I can take film writing I and II, which is super exciting. I think the changes are really good, especially for me, because they are more specific to what I want to do.”