In defense of the practicum: why credit doesn’t matter to me

By Joe Cahill
October 7, 2010

Joe Cahill

People who know me might call me a masochist.  They might call me a glutton for punishment; a cog in a thankless machine in a constant state of change.  I’ve spent countless days, nights and weekends cooped up in the mostly windowless, vacant halls of the East Wing in Founders Hall, rendering video, recording, interviewing and yes—even screaming.  I’ve torn my hair out and yelled at computer screens.  At times in my four years at Cabrini, I’ve driven my body to the point of physical and mental exhaustion—all for classes that grant me one or two credits each.

This is the life of a communication major.  This is the life I live and I have never in my life been happier.

Don’t think of me as crazy, which, granted, I very well might be.  If anything, I’m impassioned and dedicated to what I do.  Saying that my major hasn’t given me, or anyone, anything in return for hard work is simply asinine.

For almost three years now, I’ve been involved with Cabrini’s radio station, 89.1 WYBF-FM “The Burn.”  I started out taking the introduction course, moved through the ranks of a DJ and general member of the station’s staff, rose to assistant production director and, shortly followed by being appointed production director.  I went from creating sound bites and working with equipment behind the scenes to where I am now, working as the station’s music director.  In that time, I have been extremely blessed and privileged enough to see my hard work pay off in the form of a Philadelphia March of Dimes Achievement in Radio award and a College Broadcasters Inc., national nomination for a documentary I helped create, along with fellow senior communication majors Gianna Shikitino and Kerri Dougherty.

Radio is a practicum, a term often misunderstood by many. A practicum is not a normal class. At no point in radio have we examined texts by Sartre or Camus to discuss themes of existential philosophy and literary techniques. Why would we?  We’re involved with the organization and management of a noncommercial, FCC-licensed radio station. Typical classes might follow international business ethics or study the future tenses of verbs in foreign tongues. Radio, like most practicums, is not a common class.

Practicums are more like internships as opposed to classes. By their very nature, they require duties outside of the classroom and are meant as professional experience as opposed to strict academic learning.  These are not by any means exclusive to communication majors.

The Education Practicum, more commonly known as Student Teaching, is the largest practicum on campus.  According to the Cabrini College Student Handbook, students enrolled in Student Teaching must complete 40 hours of work for fifteen weeks, totaling 600 hours of in-class work.  This does not take into account grading, tutoring, traffic or other obligations tied to teaching that exist outside of the standard required times.  For this, education majors earn a total of 12 credits.  If one follows the normal path for radio for four years, they end up with 14 credits.

Labs and practicums are something those who work hard at truly appreciate.

-- Sarah Luckert/Staff Photographer

“Labs are the most worthwhile part of courses,” Frank Bearoff, senior chemistry, biotechnology and molecular biology triple-major, said.  “They put theory into terms that are more easily understood.  I tend to learn most from the labs and my independent study has been the best part of my education here.  I’ve developed marketable skills in my field and in the end, I will acquire career skills.”

To liken radio or any other practicum to yoga or another throwaway one-credit course is a bold-faced insult to the hard work that I and others have done and continue to do here at Cabrini College.  I’m sure that if I did a sun salutation every day for my four years of college, I would have a more toned, svelte physique.  None of it, however, would give me professional skills that I can use when applying to jobs when I graduate.

Individuals who can’t handle the work of these courses simply shouldn’t take them.  They are, as I can attest, a lot of work.  Credit-wise, the college has given me what I need.  My major and my classes have given me so much more.  If you’re a hard worker and you dedicate yourself to what you love, like I along with so many others have done over the years, I promise that perseverance will pay off more than you can ever imagine.

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Joe Cahill

2 thoughts on “In defense of the practicum: why credit doesn’t matter to me”

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