Theresa Thomas

The University’s School of Journalism is making big changes to keep up.

“The digital media revolution is a runaway rocket ship,” said the school’s director, Glenn Frankel. “The best you can do is to see the trajectory. You can’t get in front of it.”

The school held a town hall meeting Wednesday to answer questions about the new curriculum it will roll out in this fall. The purpose of event was to inform journalism students so they can take advantage of the big change, Frankel said.

“Our student advisers say that students know the change is coming, but [the students] don’t know the specifics,” Frankel said. “We’re trying to be as transparent and information oriented as we can be. We are, after all, the School of Journalism.”

The curriculum will be a huge overhaul, said Theresa Thomas, an undergraduate academic adviser in the school. The changes in the classroom reflect changes in the professional field, she said.

“With all the layoffs [in journalism], employers don’t want to hire one person to do photo, another person to do video and another person to do the write-up,” Thomas said. “They want one person that can do all those things.”

To train students to be journalistic Swiss Army Knives, multimedia will be incorporated into every course beginning this fall, Thomas said. That emphasis on using various platforms of communication will also be built into the Belo Center for New Media, she said.

“The new building will have a multimedia newsroom,” she said. “It will replicate a professional newsroom as close as possible.”

The Belo Center will house the School of Journalism and will be completed this summer at the corner of Whitis Avenue and Dean Keeton Street, according to the College of Communication’s website.

Thomas said the focus on job-related skills might attract more students to the major. Current students have gladly welcomed the upcoming changes, Thomas said.

“Overall the reaction from students has been very positive,” she said. “They hear same things that we do about the changes in the field [of journalism]. They think they new curriculum is the way forward.”

Journalism sophomore Irma Garcia said she is eager for the new curriculum to go into effect.

“Sophomores have more choice between new and old courses,” she said. “I’ll benefit because I can jump into the new curriculum for my upper division courses.”

High demand for classes makes registration a hassle for students, but recent budget cuts make it more difficult for students to get into classes necessary for graduation.

Limited classroom space and lack of funds to hire more class instructors restricts course availability, said Theresa Thomas, senior academic adviser in the College of Communication. She said some classes with reputations for being easy fill up faster than other classes that satisfy the same requirements.

Thomas said compared to astronomy, physical science has a reputation for being one of the “better sciences,” but more students plan to take the course than it can hold.

“There just aren’t enough seats for every student to take it,” Thomas said.

Thomas said there is less space available in courses that First-Year Interest Groups reserve seats in, such as Psychology 301. She also said Spanish 601 is in high demand every semester since so many students take it to fulfill a language requirement.

“There are only so many sections of it, and they can only put so many students in it because of the way the course is taught,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the $92 million cut in state funding from the last legislative session makes it more difficult to pay enough faculty to teach, which is a problem across the University.

“Within every major, there are classes that are high demand so they have to funnel all of their students through it,” Thomas said.

Government sophomore Glen Olivarez said he stayed on the waitlist for Introduction to Theater for a few weeks last year until he got into the class. Olivarez said he specifically wanted to take theater to fulfill his fine arts credit because he’s been involved in theater since sixth grade. He said it frustrated him as a freshman to try to sign up for Spanish 601 since he could not get a spot.

“It was never open,” Olivarez said. “I didn’t even have a chance.”

He said he had to wait to take Spanish until he had a better registration time this year, and he still had difficulty in finding a section that fit into his schedule.

“Some kids can’t graduate on time because they can’t get the classes they need,” Olivarez said. “They need to take into account that this goes towards your degree, and if you don’t get in you have to wait a semester.”

Architecture and engineering senior lecturer Hillary Hart said the degree plans within some colleges and schools are less flexible. She said some examples are engineering sequences.

“They have to be taken in order, so if you don’t get them you’re messed up,” Hart said.

She said the lack of funding is the most significant factor that makes it difficult for students to get the classes they need.

“We don’t have enough faculty — that’s the bottom line,” Hart said.

Printed on Monday, November 7, 2011: Lack of funds, faculty makes registration more difficult