School of Communication unveils new Discovery Program for undeclared first-year students


Dean of the School of Communication Raul Reis

By Bailey Allen, Former news editor

Emerson’s School of Communication is debuting a new Discovery Program for incoming first-year students who intend to study communications, but are unsure which major in the school they want to pursue.

The School of Communication Discovery Program will be available to undeclared first-year students beginning in the Fall 2021 semester. Students are required to take one foundational course in the Discovery Program, alongside typical first-year requirements in the fall semester. Then, in the spring they can choose from eight possible electives spanning the School of Communication’s four departments: Communication Sciences and Disorders, Communication Studies, Journalism, and Marketing Communication. 

Dean of the School of Communication Raul Reis said the department developed the Discovery Program to accommodate all incoming students, some of whom may not know what area of study they want to pursue immediately.

“We ask ourselves, ‘Are students not coming to Emerson because they have to choose a major? Would they have come here if they didn’t have to choose a major right away?’” Reis said. “We don’t know for sure and it is kind of early for us to tell, but we always wonder if that is the case.”

Students in the program will be required to take the new Communication Discovery Lab class, SC-100, in their fall semester, and can take up to two of the eight offered electives in their spring semester. 

“It’s built as a lab because we want it to be hands on,” Reis said of the new SC-100 class. “We want it to be interesting, so there will be group projects and guest speakers. It’s all going to be project-based.”

After gaining experience in Communication Discovery Lab class, students go on to take one or two electives from the departments that interest them most. The electives include classes like Argument and Advocacy in the Communication Studies department, and Disability and the Media in the Communication Sciences and Disorders department.

Students can skip taking electives in the spring if they feel ready to declare their major after completing their first semester in the program, Reis said. 

“If they can’t make a decision, they will take classes in the second semester and make up their minds after that,” Reis said.

As a result of students’ uncertainty surrounding their declarations, Reis said he has noticed many first-year students changing their majors once they’ve arrived on campus. For instance, during the 2018-2019 school year, approximately five percent of journalism students transferred to a different major, a rate about four times higher than other majors, according to previous Beacon reporting.

Reis said he speculates that if they could’ve enrolled in the Communication Discovery Program, they might have been more prepared to eventually choose a major in a more informed way.

“Some students choose, for example, marketing and then they switch to journalism or they’ll choose journalism and then they’ll switch to communication studies,” Reis said. “It happens all the time because one of the different things about Emerson is that you have to choose a major. You can’t come in as undecided.”

The SOC Discovery Program will be given as an option to students if they select “undeclared” on their application, according to Reis. Although the SOC Discovery Program has yet to see any official admits, Reis said over 40 students expressed interest in the program during a recent webinar.

“The [acceptance] letters have just gone out, so we will have to wait and see if students are signing up for the class,” Reis said.