Now on the air: New media studies major

radio studio

The Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies degree is preparing students for a wide variety of mass media positions.

An exciting recent renovation in Dunham Hall is allowing students to learn outside of the traditional classroom. A broadcast room, complete with a combination radio broadcast/recording studio and a multi-camera television studio, opened in fall 2013. The studios support the new media studies major, in which students gain experience producing news magazine talk shows, broadcasting online radio programs and recording podcasts.

The media studies major came about because faculty recognized how professional fields, such as public relations, marketing and journalism, are becoming increasingly media oriented. “Employers are looking for people who not only understand media but are also competent with the tools of media creation,” said Matt Kneller, Assistant Professor of Communication. “We also had seen the enrollment and interest in our media classes and co-curricular activities—like video, radio and newspaper—grow over the years, and we felt there was room to build a more specialized program in media studies.”

Students in the media studies program become well-rounded in a variety of disciplines. In addition to broadcast production for television and radio, students learn about digital graphic design, multimedia journalism and cinematic production. They also will develop all the competencies expected from a communication program, such as writing, speaking and interpersonal abilities. The variety of learning opportunities complements the creative energy that Kneller and his colleagues see in their students.

Matt Kneller

Matt Kneller, Assistant Professor of Communication, (right) consults with a student in the new AU broadcast room.

“The media studies students are some of the most imaginative I’ve met,” he said. “I’ll assign a project in class that I think is straightforward, and I’m always amazed at all the ideas students come up with to tackle the challenge. And many of the students have a really wide array of interests. They keep up on the news and they know movies, music and art.”

The media studies program shares a basic foundation of courses with the general communication major, so students will learn to present themselves at a very high level in addition to engaging in critical analysis of media artifacts. The curriculum combines high-tech learning with the liberal-arts tradition.

“One of the more unique aspects of the program is the senior-year experience,” said Kneller. “Students essentially get a year-long ‘job’ as a producer or editor for our Spartan media outlet, which combines video and radio content with an online newspaper. They do this while carrying out an extensive individual senior project that is tailored to their interests and career ambitions.”

As the media studies major continues to grow, Kneller envisions enhancing the collaborative nature of the program. “We are working to create a culture among the students who go through the program,” he said. “I see seniors and juniors taking leadership roles and helping guide and mentor the younger students. I’d like the experience of being part of our media program to be similar to what happens when a student is a member of an athletic team or other campus organization. It becomes an integral part of their overall college experience—not just another course they take.”