The potential merits of a journalism department at Vassar

Courtesy of Roger H. Goun via Mediashift.

Landing a summer internship or trying to realize a career path are consistent concerns hanging over the heads of Vassar College students. Hiring managers may be very specific in what they look for. It can be exceptionally difficult to obtain a job or internship offer, particularly from companies or workplaces that are renowned in their field. Many of the qualifications work opportunities call for involve research, communication, interviews and a certain degree of technological expertise. What better way to meet these demands than to introduce a journalism department and major at Vassar? 

Job opportunities typically present to the online public the qualifications that they desire or require, and if a student is interested in journalism as a career path, “Journalism Major” may be one of them. Matching that job qualification can be a very important part of increasing the probability of getting interviewed or hired because it shows the hiring manager that a student has taken a curriculum that covers the tenets of that particular field of study. Journalism in the workplace, whether it be covering local sports or interning in a major newsroom, requires a wide set of skills dealing with understanding how to appeal to others, communicating effectively and with integrity and mastering technological means of completing tasks. 

In a school that prides itself on its “increasing emphasis on a multidisciplinary approach to intellectual inquiry,” journalism would be an ideal multidisciplinary major at Vassar. I imagine that the curriculum’s format would be similar to that of International Studies, but journalism would expand to even more branches of Vassar academics. The curriculum would not only include components from different departments, but also different curricular divisions. Theoretically, courses within this kind of a curriculum can include Computer Science, History, Economics, Art, or other relevant courses that are cross-listed with journalism.  

When thinking about journalism, one may conjure up images of a pen and notepad, or standing in front of cameras and speaking. But there are more aspects to the practice of journalism than solely reporting, writing, anchoring and broadcasting. Key components of the journalism field also include methods of distribution and production for which the Computer Science, Mathematics and Art Departments could prove handy alongside departments within the Social Sciences division that promote writing and research skills. Washington and Lee University, an institution with a smaller undergraduate enrollment than Vassar, has a Journalism department that includes options to take courses in Data Science, Politics, and Philosophy. The breadth of a journalism curriculum would allow Vassar students to develop skills they feel are most important to them, even having the opportunity to choose between STEM or humanities in a journalistic respect. 

Introducing journalism courses at Vassar would not just be about helping students secure work with CNN or Vox. It’s a field of study that covers many different functions and possibilities. Interested students should have the opportunity to occasionally take one or a few journalism courses pertaining to their STEM or humanities interests without having to commit to a degree. A sociology major can take journalism courses to help develop data gathering and interviewing skills for future research projects, for instance. The existence of a journalism major would actually be helpful for students who are dead set on non-interdisciplinary majors such as Political Science, History, Computer Science or Art, but also want to hammer out some of the eight units required outside of their curricular division of concentration while at the same time benefiting from relevant skills that would directly benefit their careers. As part of a major, second major or minor, taking journalism courses can be a healthy skill-building complement to a more rigid concentration like Political Science. 

All around, a journalism department at Vassar has the potential to bring many unique advantages to the student body. It would allow students to build real world skills, dive into different departments and curricular divisions, complement their more specific passions and possibly match the desires of more hiring managers. Such a major, degree, department and curriculum could mark its place as an expansive path for Vassar students. Columbia University offers a dual degree in Journalism and Computer Science, so why can’t we do something similar by introducing a new multidisciplinary powerhouse ourselves?

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