Given the recent nationwide popularity of programs centered around skills such as computer programming and graphic design, the Department of Writing & Rhetoric will be offering a new digital media studies minor next academic year to supplement a wide variety of students and majors interested in adapting to the ever-changing digital landscape.
Debra Riley-Huff, head of web and digital scholarship for the J. D. Williams Library, is one of many faculty members involved in developing the new digital media program.
“You know, you come to the University and you go through your major, but as soon as you go out into the real world you’re expected to have some tech skills,”Riley-Huff said. “So, we wanted to give students a path to acquire a healthy set of technical skills that they could use entering the job market.”
Although the minor is offered through the Department of Writing & Rhetoric, the program is actually a collaboration of multiple schools such as the Department of Computer and Information Science as well as the Department of Art and Art History.
Students who choose to take in the minor have the options of three available tracks— a computing emphasis, a digital communication emphasis and a digital art emphasis. Each of these tracks has the potential to supplement a variety of majors.
The courses required for each track of the minor are currently available for enrollment in the fall. The minor hasn’t officially been added to the catalog of minors that the University offers, but Riley-Huff said this is expected to change in the near future.
“The idea is if you are a science major and you know that you are going to have to be able to design things that look nice and make presentations, and you take the art track, you are going to come out with design skills,” Riley-Huff said. “These are the kind of skills we want students to have.”
Students across multiple areas of study said they are looking forward to applying these sorts of skills to their professional lives.
Mechanical engineering major Jason Zhang said he sees the program as an opportunity to pursue design and engineering simultaneously throughout his career.
“It’s hard to get work if I choose an art major,” Zhang said. “I chose mechanical engineering, but I want to be a designer in the future, if I can. Once I heard that there is a minor about art and computer science, [I thought], wow, that’s really exciting.”
In addition to the more specialized side of the minor, all students who choose to participate in the program will take the two general course requirements— introduction to digital media studies and introduction to computational media.
“[Students] are going to learn very basic programming skills,” Riley-Huff said. “The programming language that is taught in that class is called ‘processing,’ and it’s becoming a very popular language that is easy to learn and is used a lot in doing digital media stuff. Once you learn one programming language it is very easy to pick up others because it’s just changes in syntax.”
Riley-Huff said the introduction of this minor is instrumental in ensuring student access to technology on campus regardless of their major, something that many core faculty members have been pushing for over the years.
“I can’t speak for the University administration, but we are wanting to see the University go in that direction, because that is what the students are asking for,” she said. “We do think that we need more technology on campus. For example, let’s say a student wanted to use a 3D printer. If they are not a part of the Center for Manufacturing Excellence, they’re kind of out of luck. Everybody, no matter what your major is, should be able to access technology.”