by Kassidy Taylor
The University of New Hampshire at Manchester announced today new Bachelor of Arts degree options in Digital Language Arts, Literary Studies, and Professional and Technical Communications, launching in fall 2017.
The Literary Arts & Studies program emphasizes interdisciplinary learning, connecting themes and concepts across different fields of study. Nancy Targett, provost and vice president for academic affairs at UNH, says this interdisciplinarity is key to engaging students academically as well as preparing them for success after graduation.
“By creating a program that transcends both academic and professional boundaries, UNH Manchester is redefining traditional English education,” Targett said. “Literary Arts & Studies is interdisciplinary by design and it will provide students with clearer pathways to employment in multiple sectors.”
Students in the Literary Arts & Studies program choose one of three specialized bachelor’s degree options: Digital Language Arts, Literary Studies, or Professional and Technical Communications. This allows students to tailor their degree to their interests while developing transferable professional skills, says UNH Manchester Dean Mike Decelle.
“Each Literary Arts & Studies option is built upon what employers consider most crucial to success in the job market,” Decelle said. “This program is uniquely designed to prepare students with the marketable skills that are in high demand in a broad array of professional fields, both in our region and nationwide.”
These new degree options reshape and expand upon traditional English education by focusing squarely on the skills employers most want from graduates. Seth Abramson, assistant professor and writing specialist, said the program was developed in response to large-scale polls of employers that identified the five most in-demand skills: critical thinking, creative thinking, written communication, oral communication, and the ability to collaborate as part of a team.
"When you build a program from the ground up, focusing on skill development rather than narrow bands of knowledge, you're free to create some extraordinary classroom experiences,” Abramson said. “I've had students tell me that they leave class with 'the good kind of headache.' That's when I know they're really stretching the critical, creative thinking, and communicative skills that they're going to need every day in a professional workplace."
The Digital Language Arts degree option focuses on creating innovative digital-age projects in both art and business through courses in digital creative writing, visual narrative, and digital-age culture and theory. The program was designed to shape the in-demand 21st century skill-set, which Abramson says isn’t widely taught in higher education.
“What we wanted, and what we built, is an option that focuses not just on how to conceptualize and solve problems in virtual space, but also on how to create audacious artifacts and communicate effectively using new media,” Abramson said. “Our students generate weekly the sort of ideas that will change how we think, work, and interact in the decades ahead."
Susanne Paterson, program coordinator and associate professor of Literary Arts & Studies, describes the Literary Studies degree option as “English reimagined for the 21st century,” focusing on digital literacies, professional communications, and experiential learning.
“It is the only bachelor’s-level option in the area which requires its students to develop applied skills in a hands-on environment,” Paterson said. “Graduates will be well prepared for careers in communications, media, corporate events planning, and human resources, as well as graduate study in professional or academic fields.”
The Professional and Technical Communications option centers on the communication skills that are crucial in any industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 10 percent rise in demand for technical writers, a title that also earned a median income of $70,240 per year. Paterson said this program will prepare students to fill the need for strong communicators that exists across many technical and professional fields.
“Our graduates will be the ones to write the press releases, organize events, and create and disseminate social media to tell the world about what the company does,” Paterson said. “No company can thrive without people who communicate what it does to other people outside the business.”
A focal point of the Literary Arts & Studies program is experiential learning, with an internship requirement that allows students to gain applied skills, content knowledge, and professional experience. Students also have the unique opportunity to contribute to one of two campus-based publications: The Manchester Independent, a digital newspaper covering the Greater Manchester area, and Best American Experimental Writing, an annual anthology of innovative literary art. Abramson says it is experiences like these that set the program apart from traditional programs in English and communications.
"I can't think of many undergraduate programs in which a student can graduate having worked for a city newspaper or a nationally recognized literary anthology; interned for credit in a diverse range of civic, creative, and corporate environments; and studied in such a wide range of real-world practice areas,” Abramson said. “We're able to make use of Manchester's vibrant culture not just to educate our students but to contribute meaningfully to the social and economic welfare of one of the largest cities in New England.”
For more information about Literary Arts & Studies and its degree options, visit manchester.unh.edu/literaryarts or call UNH Manchester’s admissions office at 603-641-4150.
The Literary Arts & Studies options are not available on the Common Application for the 2017-18 academic year. Students may apply as “English" or "Undeclared” then call the admissions office at 603-641-4150 to declare a major in Digital Language Arts, Literary Studies, or Professional and Technical Communications.
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