New Minor Crosses Disciplines to Meet Student Needs

New Minor Crosses Disciplines to Meet Student Needs

The college is working with the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the Volgenau School of Engineering to offer a digital media and web design minor. This shared project brings together related courses in web design and development that are now distributed across Mason, resulting in a curriculum where students can investigate each of the contributing disciplines and explore new fields complementary to their majors. The minor also affiliates faculty working in similar areas across colleges, thereby enriching their own scholarship.

“The strength of this program is that it takes the distinct elements of good web design—visual, technical, and written content—and offers students the option to study these very specialized aspects with experts in each field,” explains Lisa Kahn, CVPA associate dean for academic affairs.

Douglas Eyman, director of Mason’s doctoral program in writing and rhetoric, noted that each of the units contributing to this program offered a course that could be considered an intro to web design course. The new minor combines the work and gets students to think in a different way on the subject.

“Think about writing,” he says. “To be effective in a web context, you need all of the different skillsets: tech, interactivity, and how text and images work together.”

This combined specialization promises another benefit as well—meeting demand for skilled professionals in web design, development, and management. “This inter- disciplinary program recognizes that technical, communication, and design tools each underlie effective web design, and mastery of these skills will contribute to students’ success,” said Y. Diana Wang, information sciences and technology faculty member in the Volgenau School of Engineering.

This project is one of the first to result from Curriculum Impact Grants, an initiative of Mason’s Provost’s Office designed to encourage innovative programs that rely on interdisciplinary, cross-unit curriculum, offering students new ways to consider some of the most critical issues facing society. In fall 2017, 23 proposals were advanced; 16 were selected for funding, and 11 of these involved faculty from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences acting in concert with other units on Mason’s campus. The digital media and web design minor is among the first to be ready for students to enroll.

“These interdisciplinary programs recognize that problems don’t always come in neat disciplinary boxes, and employers constantly tell us they are looking for students whose skills and knowledge cross multiple and diverse domains of instruction,” said Robert Matz, interim dean of the College Humanities and Social Science and the organizer of the project. “I’m so glad to have such productive conversations across campus, and terrific collaborators in the colleges of engineering and visual and performing arts.”