School of Journalism investigates student perspectives

Faculty understand the challenge: the field of journalism is changing rapidly, and students who choose journalism degrees need a much wider range of continuously evolving skills. Creating a “Vision” document, with the help of the FIC in Fall 2016, prompted them to articulate those pain points clearly. Department Chair RB Brenner and Curriculum Action Team (CAT) leader Kathleen McElroy worked over the winter break to develop a framework for broad changes to address those challenges, which they shared with the CAT in January. Consensus established, they turned to gathering better information on the student perspective. With support from Project 2021’s research group, the department surveyed freshmen on their motivations for choosing the major, their interests, and their challenges. Focus groups of senior students also illuminated the student perspective of the whole program. The CAT developed a timeline for creating a comprehensive plan, and Project 2021 supported the lead faculty with small planning grants to do the work. In May, faculty and advisors, using the data collected, devoted a week to establishing the concepts, competencies and characteristics that graduates of UT’s School of Journalism should exhibit (e.g. the ability to accurately incorporate numbers to tell stories) and examined their current curriculum through that lens. “Forcing us to think about what we are ultimately trying to do is so valuable,” said Dr. McElroy at the end of the week. “Thinking about those things matters.”