Academic changes to take place

Emily Buerger

For the 2007-2008 academic year, at the recommendation of Dr. Jonnie Guerra, the vice president of academic affairs, the English and communication department will split into two separate departments, the fine arts and graphic design departments will merge into one department and the Honors Program will have two directors, Dr. Paul Wright, assistant professor of English, and Dr. Leonard Primiano, associate professor of religion.

The decision to split the English and communication department came directly from the administration.

Dr. Seth Frechie, associate professor of English, will be the chair of the new English department and Dr. Jerry Zurek, the current chair of the combined department, will be the chair of the communication department.

“I thought the college had an opportunity to enhance both the major in English and the major in communication by housing them each in a separate department with separate leadership and giving each the opportunity to develop a distinct identity,” Guerra said.

Frechie also felt that it would help to develop an effective humanities atmosphere as opposed to the professional culture that he feels the communication department facilitates.

The departments will continue to have a level of integration between the two curriculums. Some courses, like the creative writing course, will be slash-listed for both majors.

Frechie emphasized that placing communication majors in upper-level English classes without any literary background lowers the standards that English majors expect.

“This has undermined the intellectual character of our upper division English offerings,” Frechie said, “and that’s a situation we will be able to address under the new plan.”

Also, Guerra hopes for the English major to become the kind of strong humanities major that history already is.

“I applaud the initiatives underway for the communication major and outlined in the department’s program review. However, the college and students would benefit from a different set of aspirations for its English majors,” Guerra said.

According to both Zurek and Frechie, not all faculty members felt that the split of the department was necessary.

“I don’t see it as a clear cut decision and I don’t see it as all the evidence going in one direction or all the evidence going in the other direction,” Zurek said. “I felt that when we were together we were a really impressive bunch of faculty. You know there were 10 of us and I think we worked very well together.”

“I believe that there are faculty members in the department who would have preferred that we remain a combined English and communication department,” Frechie said.

The idea for the combination of the graphic design and fine arts department was derived from the lack of studio art majors and limited classroom space. Don Dempsey, assistant professor of graphic design, will be the chair of the new department. The current chair of the fine arts department, Dr. Adeline Bethany, declined the offer to co-chair the merging departments.

“I don’t have any problem really with the departments merging but I am very, very saddened by the retirement of the studio art major, which I instituted in 1980,” Bethany said.

“Right now we are at a disadvantage, competing with programs at other schools because we have such limited space,” Dempsey said. “We can’t offer courses like printmaking, ceramics and sculpture because we don’t have the facilities to do so.”

Currently, Bethany and Dempsey are looking for another full-time professor to join the soon to be fine arts and graphic design department. There has been no curriculum or guidelines decided on for the combination of the two departments.

“I’d like to see more students take advantage of the minor in studio art, because it can be an excellent addition to their liberal arts education,” Dempsey said.

Although studio art will only be offered as a minor, Bethany hopes the major will be reinstated eventually.

“You can not keep down the arts, you can not keep them down,” Bethany said. “They have been here since the cavemen.”

As co-directors of the Honors Program, Wright, the current acting director, and Primiano have several ideas for the improvement and growth of the program.

“We want to create an honors culture and an honors ethos that extends beyond the honors program per se and in fact spills over into the entire campus, so that all students feel a kind of modeling going on, and so that honors isn’t just an isolated experience or a separate world only for certain students,” Wright said.

“I, therefore, want the program be one that also attracts students who show incredible intellectual potential and motivation after their first year at Cabrini, and one that invites faculty to keep vigilant about such students and their emerging talents,” Primiano said.

Plans to revamp and update the program’s website are in progress. The plans include highlighting possible grant opportunities, scholarship information, vocational and graduate school information and providing tips on writing. In addition, Wright and Primiano plan to hire a student assistant for the honors program.

“We want to continue the existing strengths and vitality of the program as it stands, but we also want to grow it,” Wright said.

Katherine Brachelli and Meghan

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