Spotlight on Department Curriculum Changes


We have exciting new curriculum changes happening in the Department of Communication! This semester marks the first time that the Communication Studies Major allows COMM 489 Internship in Communication to substitute for COMM 494 Capstone in Communication. This change allows Communication students to gain more hands-on experience in preparation for their careers. Additionally, COMM 200 Communication Foundations is now allowed as a substitute for ENG 300 Writing in the Disciplines for general education requirements. But more exciting changes are coming in the future too! Dr. Jennifer Mize Smith, chair of the department’s curriculum committee explains that the department is in the process of creating COMM 410 Study Abroad in Communication, a class that allows students to gain upper level communication credit through a variety of study abroad experiences.

While these curriculum changes are great for the department, the process behind them is a bit more complicated than many of us realize. Dr. Holly Payne, Undergraduate Curriculum Committee member, explains that proposals must first be reviewed by the committee in order to determine if they are feasible. For instance, the committee answers questions like “Do we have the faculty to teach this course?” and “How would this impact graduation requirements?”
Once the committee has gathered enough data and determined a change would be realistic to implement, the entire Communication faculty votes on the change. If they approve, the proposal then must be approved by the Potter College Curriculum Committee and the University Curriculum Committee before it finally requires approval from the University Senate. Given this stringent set of requirements, it is understandable that curriculum changes typically take months if not years to make it from the initial idea stage to being implemented.

In addition to formal changes to the department’s curriculum, faculty members are also working diligently to improve assessment in their courses. Dr. Helen Sterk, Department Chair, explains that we as a department are working to align our program objectives with the National Communication Association’s learning outcomes. She explains, “We want to stay current as a department and we want to ensure we are teaching things that are fresh, new, and important.” To accomplish this, the department’s faculty are working to improve assessment of individual courses and the program as a whole.
Dr. Mize Smith explains that this assessment is both qualitative and quantitative, with professors meeting to discuss their courses informally and also employing written and verbal assessments across courses. This includes utilizing common assignments across course sections. She says, “We use this process to see where we fall short and determine where to beef up the curriculum—changing existing courses and possibly even creating new courses”.

We in the Department of Communication applaud the work of our faculty members for working hard to ensure that changes can begin benefiting students for years to come. As the Department moves forward, we continue to seek ways to improve our degree programs. If you have questions or ideas for curriculum changes, please contact Dr. Helen Sterk,
Department Chair, at



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