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The University of Michigan Department of Communication Studies announced via email to students last week that it will be making changes to its undergraduate major requirements, effective fall 2017.

Currently, students who wish to declare a communications studies major must complete Communications 101, 102, 121 and 122 as prerequisite classes. Beginning next fall, only 101 and 102 will be required for the major.

Communications 121 and 122 — research methods classes — will still be offered during most semesters going forward, but will be considered 200-level classes and will no longer be required for the major.

Communications Prof. Kristen Harrison, the department’s associate chair for undergraduate studies, said the goal of the change is to make the major more accessible and tailored to students.

“Our curriculum was so bottom-heavy, meaning we had so many requirements at the lower end of the undergrad level, that undergrads were having trouble breaking into the major,” Harrison said.

Harrison stressed the change is meant to accommodate more students, rather than hurt those who have already completed the four prerequisites currently necessary for the major. Students who have already taken 121 and 122 can keep the credits they earned, which will be transferred into elective credits.

“No matter who you are or what you’ve taken, you can use everything you’ve taken up until now and nothing will be lost,” Harrison said. “Whatever you’ve done, you can transition into the new (requirements) … We will let students apply 121 as if it were 221, and then it will go towards the major electives.”

The major electives Harrison mentioned are another significant part of the changes. According to Harrison, feedback from graduating seniors and outside consultants suggested students wanted more upper-level electives that allowed them to explore their specific interests further.

“We’ll probably create more courses at the 300-level, more topic-specific lectures … we used to have only a few of them, but now there’ll be much more choice with them,” Harrison said. “I think students will be thrilled with it. It gives them a lot more choice.”

Communications Prof. Scott Campbell, who is the most recent director of the departmental Honors program, is also enthusiastic about the effect these new changes will have on the department.

“I feel … optimistic,” Campbell said. “One of the things we’re trying to do is become a more diverse and inclusive program, and I think by loosening up the requirements, that’s one of the ways that will help us achieve that goal.”

Campbell said, while the changes have no direct effect on the Honors program, he hopes allowing students to take more topic-specific courses earlier on in their college careers will allow them to develop stronger interests and will drive more students to complete Honors theses.

“Students can go deeper into communications studies (now),” he said. “They can really load up on a particular area … and so if you’re an Honors student and you have a focus and you have the ability to take as many electives as possible in a particular concentration, then that’s going to make you more of an expert on what you write your thesis on.”  

While the department has announced the changes to current and prospective communications students, most of the information will be outlined at informational meetings that will be held throughout March.

Students are already excited about the changes. LSA freshman Alissa Martin is taking Communications 101 this semester and has thought about becoming a communications major before. The new changes, she said, make her even more interested in the major.

“I think it makes the major more appealing,” Martin said. “I don’t know a ton about other majors here, but it seems like four prerequisites was kind of a lot and that was a little daunting, so hearing it’s been cut back to two makes me feel a little bit better.” 

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