November 29, 2011

Theatre, Film and Dance Consolidates Into Single Major for Undergrads

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Individual majors in theatre, film and dance will be consolidated into a single Performing and Media Arts major for undergraduates beginning in fall 2012, the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance announced Monday.

The department outlined the new major in an email sent Tuesday to all students enrolled in department courses, characterizing the program as a symbol of the “collaborative spirit of our department’s three areas and [reflective of] the changing nature of our fields and professions.”

Students who declare a major in one of the three distinct fields by spring 2012 will be able to finish a degree in that major, according to the department. These students will also have the option of switching into the new program.

The consolidation comes after a series of restructuring in the department in response to budget cuts handed down by the College of Arts and Sciences in spring 2010. The cuts — around $1 million total — led the department to create a new model to adapt to lost funding, The Sun reported in September.

Charles Fay, senior department manager, stated in an email Tuesday night, however, that the new major is not “an attempt to ‘make up’ for the budget cuts of 2010” but rather the result of a “new vision for the department.”

Prof. Amy Villarejo, theatre, film and dance, the chair of the department, also said in an email Tuesday that “cuts to our budget are long behind us.”

“The new major is an outgrowth of the planning and discussion that generated a new model for the department,” Villarejo said. “Periodic reviews of a department’s curriculum and major requirements are necessary to stay current and responsive, and this department hasn’t undergone one in more than 20 years.”

Villarejo told The Sun in September that a diminished staff was one of the primary factors for consolidating the majors.

According to Fay, under the new major, students will still be able choose a concentration in either theatre/performance, dance/movement or cinema/media.

“‘Theatre,’ ‘film’ and ‘dance’ are sequences that remain in the curriculum,” Villarejo said. “A student who wished to pursue a major that looks very much like the current major in theatre, film or dance could do so in the new major.”

Fay said that the single major will streamline the three distinct majors into one and will “encompass all of the same instructional attributes as the three separate majors we currently have.”

There are currently no plans to make changes to the theatre, film and dance minors, the department stated in the email.

According to Tuesday’s email from the department, much of the current curriculum will remain the same — most of the courses offered now will continue to be offered next year. The only new major requirement will be a senior studio that Villarejo said will allow seniors in all areas of study to work with one another and some faculty members.

James Miller ’12, a theatre major, said the senior seminar will provide students with opportunities to collaborate with faculty to create their own work, which he said will be a positive addition to the curriculum.

According to Miller, the new direction of the department has given students “more opportunities to take charge of their own work … simply because there aren’t the resources to have other people doing certain things” within the department.

Miller said budget constraints have resulted in fewer staff doing the same amount of work as before.

According to Fay, the Performing and Media Arts major was unanimously approved by the department faculty and subsequently approved by the full body of Arts and Sciences faculty on Nov. 23.

Completion of the major will require a total of ten courses, including the 4000-level senior studio, and an additional three practical or laboratory courses, according the department’s description of the major in the email.

The department will also seek to add two new faculty hires in fall 2012 — an assistant professor in dramatic writing and screenwriting and one in media and film production — Tuesday’s email stated. A postdoctoral fellow with expertise in “non-Western dance forms” will likely join the department for a two-year appointment beginning next fall, Villarejo said.

According to Villarejo, the department is reviewing a pool of more than 300 applicants, from which the top candidates will be selected to visit campus in spring 2012. She stated that the department’s hopes to select the final appointments by the end of the spring semester.

The new faculty positions are “not vulnerable to future budget cuts,” Villarejo said.

“They represent a real investment in our department and its direction by the College and University,” she said.

Fay echoed Villarejo’s sentiments.

“What is tremendously exciting is the flexibility students will have to blend and merge their interests, to tailor their course work in close alignment with their intellectual and career objectives,” Fay said. “[The new major] will allow students to reach across and beyond traditional boundaries.”

Original Author: Rebecca Harris