Input from prospective students as well as increased emphasis on experiential learning have led Bethel College to add a new major and two new minors to the curriculum.
Key to the new graphic design major and the sport management and computer science minors are internships or other practical opportunities that will give students real-life experience with which to apply what they learn in class.
"We've been hearing from Admissions staff over the past several years that there is a lot of interest from prospectives in graphic design," said Rachel Epp Buller '96, assistant professor of art. "But there are lots of programs, so what's Bethel's niche? How can it be distinctive?"
The answer to that, she said, was to make Bethel's graphic design program "interdisciplinary. It can apply to those who want a narrower focus on studio design or can go broader and [complement] a major in communication arts, for example - those who want to go into multimedia, or e-publishing, or video production, or stage set and theater design.
"Graphic design could be very valuable to someone majoring in business administration or marketing," she added, citing the example of a 2011 business graduate who minored in art and is now working in graphic design.
"We modeled the new major somewhat on Bethel's Individualized Major option," she said. "[That means] there is a core of courses, then the courses you are interested in, and then the capstone internship - applying liberal arts to a career."
The new major launches in fall 2012 with an Introduction to Computer Graphics course, designed to give students a broad experience in producing work for electronic publishing and, with no prerequisites, aimed at any student interested in electronic publishing in any form (journalism, social media and so on).
Epp Buller, who after three years of teaching part-time, off and on, at Bethel was recently hired as a full-time assistant professor of art, and David Long, professor of art, will teach the program's core courses, including Studio Fundamentals, Introduction to Computer Graphics and art and design history courses. Bethel will then hire a half-time faculty person to teach the upper-level graphic design courses.
The internship will be specifically designed to complement students' knowledge of the field they plan to enter after graduation. They will be encouraged to think broadly about possible applications of their interests, which could include commercial advertising, media broadcasting, designing literature for a nonprofit organization, exhibition design, design for theater productions or developing websites or social media for local businesses.
The new minor in Bethel's curriculum, sport management, is a popular area of academic study, with working in the sport industry an attractive career choice for many students, said Diane Flickner, associate professor of health and physical education. Like graphic design, the minor will launch in fall 2012.
Careers in sport require knowledge and skills in both sport and business, Flickner said, so the sport management courses will focus on those business aspects: sport in culture; sport communication; interscholastic, intercollegiate and professional sport; facility management; sport ethics; sport marketing; sport law; and sport finance. The program is designed to help students apply business management skills to the world of sport.
Coursework for the sport management minor will provide both a theoretical background and a range of practical experiences designed to enable graduates to be leaders in the sport and fitness industry or to pursue further education at the graduate level. Internships could be in public and media relations, advertising, sales promotion, marketing, facilities management or administration, among other possibilities.
The computer science minor, while similar to the one that existed previously, now has a sharper focus, said Karl Friesen '86, adjunct professor of computer science. "The goal of this minor is to provide students with solid computer programming skills," he said.
"These skills are broadly applicable to many disciplines beyond the traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines," he added. "Most legal contracts and business processes are essentially programs. The process of analyzing medical symptoms and arriving at a diagnosis is similar to the process of detecting and repairing software errors. Even stage directions in a theater production may be seen as a form of programming.
"The practicum required by this version of the computer science minor is new," he continued. "Its purpose is to allow students to use their skills outside of a classroom setting so [they] will develop confidence and trust in the education they've received. One possibility would be to work as an intern at a local business or on campus, where the student helps solve someone else's problem. An alternative might be to participate in the annual Intercollegiate Programming Contest, where effective teamwork is as important to success as good preparation."