DS View: Excommunication

UND’s Communication program has improved by becoming more learner-centered, but as teachers leave it may revert.

It’s finally time to put four years of communications program classes into practice, and if this program has taught me anything it is to think critically and communicate genuinely.

Honestly, I’m worried about the future of this program. Although it made crucial steps toward graduating from program to department in the last few years, it will lose much when professors Richard Aregood, Brett Ommen and Kyle Conway leave after this semester.

When I declared communications as my major in 2011, adviser David Kiefel handed me a curriculum sheet that looked to me like a BINGO card. Students were required to earn credits from 10 different sections and had little room to focus on what they actually wanted to learn.

Signing up for classes was already hard enough with students leaving their meetings with Kiefel having learned more about his band’s performances at Charlie Brown’s than the program itself. Factor in the confusing, impractical curriculum and constantly changing department heads, and we have a mess of a program.

While Aregood joked that it resembled a Chinese takeout menu, the curriculum sheet represented a program that focused on the bells and whistles of education rather than the nuts and bolts. Students were led through a maze of disjointed classes, their studies scattered like a shotgun blast. Luckily, the curriculum changed last year and now reflects the “heavy on practice, less on grades” focus used by Aregood, Ommen and Conway.

All three of these professors focus on practice. Ommen challenges students to practice rhetoric — a challenging, but useful style of logic. Conway makes his students create videos and helps them master the skills needed to produce media. And Aregood, the print journalism guru, has his students read and write print until their eyeballs sting.

So what will happen when these professors leave?

Will the program relapse and return its focus to diversity and formality? Will future journalists drag their feet through advertising and public relations classes? I sure hope not.

I’m hoping to return to UND in 10 years and find a department that says, “Screw grades and formalities; let’s fill students’ resumes and get their names on some work. Let’s create things to show future employers that our students have skills.”

My advice to current and future communications students is not to rely on the program to prepare them for the professional world. Find outlets like Studio One, The Dakota Student and other internships to gain experience and build a resume. Listen to your professors, learn how to communicate effectively, but don’t expect an A in Media Writing to get you a job.

And for the communications program, my advice is to realize that while this degree covers several discourses, most students are looking to focus on one. Let them do that, and help them stand out amongst the sea of students at other universities.

Sam Wigness is the features editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].