Four new programs at Central Wyoming College recently received approval from the Wyoming Community College Commission and are now available for student enrollment.
Kathy Wells, vice president for academic affairs at CWC, shared the news in an email to staff late last month, commending the faculty group that "worked diligently on the curriculum design."
"Getting new academic program proposals ready for the long internal and external approval process is not an easy undertaking," Wells wrote.
"Kudos to all those who spent hours upon hours preparing these exciting options for CWC students - it truly was a collaborative team effort."
The new degrees include an associate of applied science in new media, an associate of arts in communication, and both an AAS and an AA in film.
"These degrees flew through the process without any major hiccups," Wells said, though she noted that a fifth degree - an AAS in communication - was delayed so it could undergo a "much needed major revision."
"(It is) poised to more efficiently prepare students to enter the workforce in a variety of areas," she said in her email.
During a recent meeting of the CWC Board of Trustees, Wells explained that the AA in communications is meant to facilitate student transfer to a four-year degree, while the AAS prepares them to enter the work force.
Both programs were designed to equip students with an understanding of communication theory and application in areas ranging from managing interpersonal relations to understanding the role of media in society, her board memo read.
Faculty worked directly with the University of Wyoming to ensure the AA degree would transfer to the four-year setting, and Wells said the program was developed in consultation with industry professionals, who indicated that they look for staff with strong communication skills.
The new media degree was developed using research into the demands of the digital media industry, according to Wells' memo to the board.
The program description talked about the popularity of social media combined with a societal shift that led to a preference for on-demand news and entertainment.
As a result, students looking to enter the media industry must represent a "new type of journalist," Wells wrote - the multimedia journalist.
"The multimedia journalist must be able to shoot video, take photos, write for both digital and print media outlets, and use social media to post, promote and blog about a story," she said in her memo.
The program at CWC will emphasize hands-on training in audio, visual and print storytelling through interactive media.
The film degrees were designed to prepare students for the creative and technical aspects of the cinema, but they also focus on history, theory and criticism.
Wells said the Film Program Advisory Board was instrumental in the evolution of the program, which includes an AA intended as a transfer degree and an AAS that is meant to provide students with a skill set that leads directly to employment.
The board "overwhelmingly" recommended a four-year degree for anyone pursuing a career in film, but they also said programs need to be "very hands on and experiential."
Based on that feedback, CWC made sure the AAS degree in film focuses on industry relevant hard-skills courses rather than general education requirements that are necessary to transfer to four-year schools.
The new degrees will be delivered by current faculty and will not require additional funding.
In fact, Wells said, the new makeup will likely be better for students who previously had to take a combined radio, television and film communication degree at CWC even if they were only interested in one of those areas.
"Students who had, for example, an interest in radio broadcasting (were) spending a lot of time here, chewing up their very precious ... financial aid," Wells said.
"This will allow us to better prepare the students more efficiently and with better focus."