The process for revising the curriculum for the MA—Journalism degree

We worked for five months.

Of course, whenever someone makes a statement, especially a statement that contains numbers, one needs a basis for comparison in order to interpret the statement. So, is five months a long time or a short time? I say it is a remarkable brief amount of time because it has taken the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina 3 years to revise its undergraduate curriculum.

The faculty collectively made the decisions.

This means that we didn’t break into committees in order to be more efficient. In general meetings, each person presented her views (I was the only male). Oftentimes we presented our views passionately. At times I was tooooooo “passionate,” and I apologize for raising my voice. But we cared. This also means that the administration, i.e. the dean, Baadur Koplatadze, did not intervene. Again, to understand such statements one needs some context. I would say that it is quite remarkable that faculty governance ruled supreme, and that signs of authoritarianism were absent.

We learned some lessons.

Of course we would do some things differently next time. Who are satisfied with their first efforts? Next time, I would begin by learning the requirements of the country’s Ministry or other administrative unit governing education. I would make sure that I completely understood every single requirement, and I would not trust the government’s websites; instead I would interview an official at the beginning of the process of revising the curriculum. Thanks to Tamuna Gabisonia, we did check with the Ministry of Education, but, through no fault of Tamuna’s, not right at the beginning. Next time, I would strongly impress upon the faculty the need to follow the sample syllabus precisely. Tamuna Gabisona (thanks, again) had provided a sample syllabus to all of the faculty, but, unfortunately, the faculty had to revise their syllabuses multiple times in order to meet the Ministry’s requirements.

We did at least two things right.

I share the following in the interest of helping others rather than bragging about our success. We balanced the interests of our (current) faculty, with the (past) identity of our school, with our current (and future) students’ needs, and with the (idealistic) expectations of the Ministry of Education. What does that mean? In brief, it means that we struck a balance between skills-oriented practical training in journalism and a more research-oriented master’s degree program. We also began the curriculum review process by revising the program’s mission statement; then we created program-level learning outcomes; then we created courses; and finally we created course-level learning outcomes. In fact, there were 20 steps in our action plan (one more time, thank you Tamuna Gabisonia), which I wrote about in an earlier blog.

Good luck to all schools of journalism and mass communication as they revise their curriculums to meet the future needs of students entering a rapidly changing media market!


About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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