– Staff Writer
On December 8, 2010, a board of English faculty announced the decision to drop the English major. The news was sent in a mass e-mail to Roanoke College students Friday. However, what seemed like a rash move has actually been thought through for quite some time.
“We started developing these ideas about five years ago,” said English department professor and chairperson, Katherine Hoffman.
Hoffman further explained that the growth of interest in the English major and communication studies minor has led to this expansion, allowing RC students more flexibility.
Beginning Aug. 31, 2011, there will be three new disciplines in which one can major through the English Department: the renamed English major, literary studies, creative writing, and communication studies. However, the English major will continue to be offered to all current students.
As the program is to be phased out, the department is urging all anticipated English majors to declare as soon as possible. The deadline to do so is December 1, 2011.
Students have nothing to fear, however, about the change.
“It’s the same ole English, but with some twists,” Hoffman said.
She went on to inform that, although being virtually the same, literature studies will share a fundamental course with the creative writing and communication studies majors.
“This way students don’t have to choose their major right away,” Hoffman said.
Students will come away with the skills they would have attained with the original English major.
“Reading, writing, problem-solving, and analytical skills will provide an excellent foundation for any career,” said Hoffman, a former accountant.
Aside from these hopeful directions, stale air must be cleared for the truth. While the idea is getting around that these curriculum changes signal the end of the senior seminar, Hoffman enlightens all by saying, “Of course there will be senior seminar!”
Other advantages to the departmental changes include the ability to minor in any of the aforementioned majors. The two English minors, American and British literature, will now be combined into one literary studies minor, available this fall.
However, like the English major, they will continue to be offered to current, interested students as they are now.
“Students currently enrolled will be able to choose which curriculum they want,” said English Department Associate Professor, Erica Cooper.
Many opportunities will be available with the options of mixing and matching majors and minors. Cooper said that with the developing course-load of the communication studies, students may want to double-major in another field.
The hope among the English Department is that the new major offered will attract more prospective students and allow more options for undeclared students. With already observed growth in the department, Hoffman anticipates it to thrive within the next few years. New faculty members are currently being sought to take on prominent positions within the department this upcoming fall.
Current English major, Dylan Zink ’11, offers encouragement of the switch.
“I think the idea of creating three different majors is a great idea,” Zink said.
For some, she mentioned, it’s been a long time coming. Many flourishing writers on campus pursued English only by default. With the creative writing major opening, many aspiring writers will now be able to focus on exactly what they want.
For others, however, the all-encompassing English major remains the preferred degree. Luckily for underclassmen, the choice is available until Dec. 1, 2011. May 2015 will mark the last English degree from Roanoke College.