The Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte redesigned the journalism and digital media program to become the multimedia storytelling (MMS) major in 2018, prompting a strong response from some students.
The new program offers concentrations in both journalism and media studies, allowing students to focus their studies on the particular area in which they are most interested. The change was initiated by the Knight School faculty, who hoped to create a program that better reflects the digital age. However, many students have concerns about the new label.
“I think multimedia storytelling raises a lot of questions,” said MMS major Alli Vellucci, who is concentrating in journalism and hopes to become a sports broadcaster. Concerned about the impressions of future employers, Vellucci said, “I’m just nervous that they won’t think I’m qualified to be in that position.”
Paula Azuaje, an MMS major who is concentrating in media studies, agreed. “I think it’s worrying for the journalism major students,” she said.
Concerns about future employers may differ between students in the journalism and media studies concentrations, though. Azuaje, who hopes to become a screenwriter and film director, said, “My goal is to go into film, so maybe they’ll look at it differently.” However, when asked about the label, Azuaje said, “It just sounds like a class. It doesn’t sound like a career.”
One of the major concerns of students is that the multimedia storytelling label does not sound professional. They are also concerned that their degree will not be easily understood by companies looking to hire those with degrees in journalism or digital media. However, there does not seem to be concern over the curriculum itself.
“I know I’m getting enough of the journalism in my classes,” said Vellucci. “Our professors are great. I just don’t feel like I’m getting the credit for all the journalism work in the degree title.”
Students like Vellucci, who entered Queens as a journalism and digital media major, have struggled with the change. While students who were already established in the journalism and digital media major were given the choice to remain in their major or transfer to the new program, newer students were not. This led to confusion about what classes students should be taking, and how those courses can be substituted in the new storytelling-based curriculum.
Faculty, however, are excited about the change. “The idea was trying to come up with a better term to capture what we do in media and in the industry,” said Dr. Timothy Brown, dean of the Knight School. Acknowledging the confusion among students, Brown said, “They might not know what storytelling means. We have to explain the concept.”
The term multimedia storytelling seems to be gaining some traction in the industry, Brown said. The dissemination of news and information becomes increasingly dependent on new media, leading to broadcasting, journalism, and media production becoming more intertwined. The new MMS program aims to reflect these changes, and intends to provide a more well-rounded curriculum for students who hope to enter the media industry in any capacity.
Vellucci clarified her concern. “It’s not that I don’t like the name,” she said. “I just think, for me, for what I want to go into, I don’t think it’s what I thought I was signing up for.”
Although the change in the major might reflect the emerging multimedia industry, the newness and perceived ambiguity of the program created student concern. While Azuaje said she will tell others that her degree will be in multimedia storytelling, opinions differ. When asked how she will explain her degree to people outside of Queens University, and especially to potential employers, Vellucci was emphatic. “I will still say journalism and digital media.”
Written by Margaret Thacker, ’20.