Budding journalists will have a new path on campus as the Journalism and Media Studies minor launches in the fall. Classes ranging from the basics of professional writing to the newest media technologies will ready students for the changing world of information distribution.
"Enrollment in the classes has been high with some filled weeks before the semester starts, which shows how excited students are for the program," say Prof. Wael Kamal, who is developing the interdisciplinary program. "We're starting small with the core classes and will expand in line with demand."
Kamal, who has worked in the film and communications fields in addition to his academic expertise, built a similar program for an Egyptian university from curriculum development to creation of a television studio. He plans to bring the same real-world experience to the new University program.
"The goal is to give students hands-on experience to learn what it's like to be a journalist and work in media," says Kamal, who will show the modern pace of media in courses like Convergent Journalism. "The students will get their assignment, interview, write, record audio and video, make slideshows, design a simple website and then post and publicize their work through social media. Since journalists are required to have those skills, it's almost like a one-person show now. You present your story in as many ways possible."
Interdisciplinary to the Core
With so many skills required by the transforming media world, Kamal finds it best that the minor is an interdisciplinary program.
The core class, Introduction to Journalism and Media Studies, will cover an introductory survey of the theory, history, structure and function of mass communication in the United States. Students can take approved courses in English, art, political science and other departments to complete the minor.
Kamal, whose work spans disciplines from communication to photography to political science, enjoys bringing his passions together in his teaching.
"I consider myself lucky in that I've studied and worked in film and communication before coming to teaching," Kamal says. His photography and film work have earned him awards and a ticket into the small but elite television and movie community in Egypt − experiences he brings to class, wherever it may be that day. "It's exciting to be starting a new program and I've been welcomed by everyone. UMass Lowell already feels like home."
True to his task of building an interdisciplinary program, Kamal has been busy connecting with several departments since arriving midway through the spring semester. He has plans for future courses and projects involving the art, peace and conflict studies and political science departments to name just a few.
"We've shared ideas and our syllabi to see where we can integrate our courses, where we can bring the branches together," says Kamal, who is also working on international partnerships, an aspect of the University he sees as a vital and growing asset.
Future plans to exchange student work with their peers in other countries to explore the use of new multimedia in bridging culture gaps − and proving them unnecessary − are high on his list for coming classes.
It's been a busy few months, but he's enjoying the fast pace, true to his media roots. "I don't want to leave an opportunity like working at this University without serving the students and institution as best I can."