Campus journalism school now offers summer minor for undergraduates

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Update 12/18/15: This article has been updated to reflect new information from David Thigpen, acting director of undergraduate programs at the journalism school. 

For the first time since 1981, UC Berkeley undergraduate students will be able to take advantage of the resources at the campus Graduate School of Journalism through a summer journalism minor program.

The minor, approved in June, will be offered during the summer semesters through two back-to-back six-week sessions. Professional journalists and industry experts will lead the courses, with an emphasis on hands-on field reporting and communication through social media.

According to David Thigpen, acting director of undergraduate programs at the journalism school, the idea was driven by recent changes he saw in society and media.

“The definition of literacy is changing,” Thigpen said. “We’re all living through an information explosion now, so literacy involves not being just a consumer of information but being a skilled producer of information.”

One of the courses will center on mastering social media, Thigpen said, using online social platforms to generate conversations and acquire information.

“It’s definitely the most prevalent way that journalistic media is spread today,” said campus junior Frances McGinley. “It’s good that they have a curriculum that is modernized (and) preparing would-be journalists about the reality of how journalism works.”

McGinley, a social welfare major, said she is looking forward to the program and plans to enroll this summer.

“We are bombarded by news, but also social media is becoming more and more central to people’s lives,” Thigpen said. “It is central to the way businesses are run and news organizations, too.”

The new minor program returns after the major was discontinued in 1981 so that the campus could focus on expanding the master of journalism program. While there is a media studies major for undergraduates, the courses focus on analyzing and studying media rather than reporting and producing news content.

Hoping to pursue journalism when she arrived at UC Berkeley, McGinley said, she was disappointed that there were no courses accessible to undergraduates. According to McGinley, the summer minor presents a unique opportunity for students looking to learn more about the news industry.

$2000 scholarships are available through Summer Sessions for all Berkeley students who enroll in the minor in 2016 and complete it before graduation in one or two summers, according to Thigpen in an email.

There has been a positive response to the announcement from faculty and students, according to Thigpen. Citing a growth in popularity for visual media programs at other universities, Thigpen said he is confident that there will be great interest in the minor.

“We see a demand for modernizing students’ communication skills,” Thigpen said. “Even if you’re a biology major, a history major, an engineering major, you are going to need to be a skilled communicator.”

There are currently multiple organizations on campus for students interested in journalism, including The Daily Californian and CalTV. According to McGinley, the new curriculum will increase accessibility for more undergraduate students interested in journalism courses.

“Even if I don’t pursue journalism, you can learn valuable skills from this (program),” McGinley said.

Senior staff writer Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks contributed to this reporting.

Contact Haruka Senju at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @haruka_senju