Journalism students leave major at higher rate than other departments

Approximately five percent of journalism students switched out of the department during the 2018-19 academic year—a rate around four times higher than other major programs, according to data the Journalism Department shared with the Beacon. 

Journalism Department Chair Janet Kolodzy said 34 students left the journalism program during the 2017-18 academic year. This amounted to about nine percent of students in the program that year. Journalism students most frequently leave to pursue majors in the Communication Studies Department, the Marketing Communication Department, and the Writing, Literature and Publishing Department, Kolodzy said.

Kolodzy said she would be shocked if students did not re-examine what they wanted out of their college experience at Emerson.

“While [the college] likes students to stay within the majors they walked in the door with, we also know that they’re learning,” Kolodzy said. “That’s what college should be all about.”

In 2015, USA Today ranked Emerson College No. 1 in journalism schools, according to a press release from the college.

Kolodzy said 419 students enrolled in the journalism program for the fall 2018 semester. There are currently 394 students enrolled in the program for spring 2019. Six students have switched into the program so far this academic year, and 22 have transferred out.

Approximately two percent of visual and media art students and one percent of WLP students left their programs during the 2018-19 academic year, VMA Department Chair Brooke Knight and WLP Program Coordinator Emily Paramore said in separate interviews. Both department chairs confirmed that these numbers were consistent with previous years’ rates.

Communication Sciences and Disorders Department Undergraduate Program Director Amit Bajaj and Performing Arts Department Chair Robert Colby said no students have transferred in or out of their departments this year.

Marketing Communication Department Interim Chair Nejem Raheem and Chair of the Communication Studies Department Gregory Payne could not provide an exact number of students who switched in and out of their programs.

Payne said some students in the School of Communication showed interest in double-majoring in journalism.

“I think we have a lot of interest in journalism, but because of [the] requirements, it’s difficult to double-major,” Payne said.

Freshman journalism major Kate Cunningham said she is in the process of changing her major to WLP. She said she met with her advisor last semester and dropped her digital journalism class to take a required WLP course.

Emerson allows incoming students to declare their major and take the required 100-level classes for it during their first year.

“I think this is a little bit of the nature of the beast of Emerson, which is that we tell students, ‘You know what you want to be, you can come here and be it.’ That’s what we say: Choose your major—you don’t have to wait,” Kolodzy said.

If students wish to change majors, they must submit a Major Change Request form and receive signatures from their former department chair and the chair of the department they wish to enter.

“I realized I wanted to go into magazine journalism, and there’s not much of that in the journalism department,” Cunningham said. “But in the WLP program they have magazine writing and magazine publishing, so that was a big factor for me.”

Freshman Alyssa Ryan said she heard about the new public relations major during freshman orientation in fall 2018 and spoke to her advisor and then Payne about transferring from journalism into the public relations major within the School of Communication.

“I met with [Payne] and he was so excited. He was like, ‘Yes, you can switch now—we are so excited about this new major.’ And he signed the paper right away,” Ryan said.

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