The benefits of multiple tracks in degree programs

The freedom to choose focus tracks is not a privilege prospective communication majors at the University of Guam can enjoy.

Instead, they now have the choice between a focus in communications studies or mass media and journalism. This change in the Communication program was made official in the undergraduate course catalog for school year 2016-2017.

Prior to the revamping, students had the option to choose among four separate communication tracks: communication studies, mass media, journalism, and public relations.

The reason for the change was due to the unavailability of instructors and consequently, the postponement of certain classes until instructors were available to teach them. Issues like these have the potential to push back expected graduation dates.

During the “Good to Great” audit, Tom Brislin, Ph.D., the associate dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at University of Hawaii, suggested to combine the four tracks into two tracks to help alleviate the problem.

However good its intentions, some students and professors in the program express their reasons for wanting to revert to the previous program.

Justus Casino

For former UOG student Justus Casino, it is an issue of concentrating on one discipline. Casino transferred to the University of Maryland at the beginning of 2017 as he feels that it offers a more comprehensive Mass Communication program.

“If I wanted to do mass media and specialize completely in that and I don’t have any intentions of doing journalism, adding journalism on to that is simply hindering my overall education and the burden falls on me to make up the gaps in my education,” says Casino.

Raymond Anderson, Ph.D., an associate professor of the Communication department, shares this concern. He stresses that the scope of each individual focus is too large to be condensed and that the skills students could develop are now sacrificed.

“Whether you get the faculty or not, it should always be about the program and maintaining the program,” Anderson said.

Raymond Anderson

Students who follow preceding undergraduate catalogs retain the choice of individual tracks or combining tracks in any way that suits them. This was not the case when student Sophia Madlambayan declared her major in Communication.

“I feel that it restricts the flexibility students had with the four separated concentrations,” Madlambayan said.

Two buildings down, the Chemistry department is doing the opposite.

Maika Vuki, Ph. D., a professor of Chemistry, is excited for the addition of three new tracks to the Chemistry program, a movement that has already been approved.

The added tracks are pre-pharmacy, teaching, and chemistry and biology as a dual degree. The program’s new plan entails reducing the number of credit hours for general education requirements to make room for more core classes as well as tracks.

The addition of classes does not mean an extended stay at UOG. Vuki says the plan is designed to help students graduate within four years with a maximum requirement of 124 credits.

Vuki sympathizes with students who are double majoring in different schools of learning.

“I would like to see that disciplines can work across and try and streamline any courses so that students don’t have to take 130-150 credit hours just to try fulfill the two subjects,” he said.

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