College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences discuss new possible minors


With the recent adoption of the global cultures minor, the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences has been discussing several other possibilities for possible minors to be adopted into the university curriculum. These programs are Africana studies, film studies and emergent & game technology.

All new academic programs must be first approved by the Academic Program Committee and then by a vote of the full faculty. This process usually takes a few months or more. It is important to note that all three ideas are in their very early stages; emergent & game technology is the only one that has paperwork almost ready for submission.

Africana studies and film studies are both in an early enough stage where there is no formally written proposal as of yet. In order to have a minor, a faculty group needs to take into account numerous factors before they can draft a proposal.

First, the university needs to understand what resources are needed to deliver the program effectively. Of those resources, they must then determine how many of them are already available and identify how many are needed. Then, they would need to determine what the student demand is in order to make sure that demand is met. Finally, a proposal would be drafted based on that information.

“We are continually looking for new programs that we think will serve students well in their intellectual growth, in their job prospects, and that will help to attract and retain them at Wilkes. [Each of] these new programs have potential for that,” said Dr. Paul Riggs, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences.

Africana Studies is an umbrella term for programs in higher education that study Africa, the African-American experience and other African diasporic communities around the world.

It is important to note that if Wilkes is able to develop and offer a new minor in Africana Studies, then it would be the only college or university in Northeastern Pennsylvania with that option.

“Our hope for Africana Studies is that students will have the opportunity to fully engage with this discipline. This includes learning and understanding key bodies of knowledge in the field, applying that knowledge to problems in the discipline and ultimately conducting original research to investigate new questions. We already do this in lots of courses, but the idea is to move to the next level and make it more systematic and robust,” said Riggs.

Erica Acosta, associate director for diversity initiatives, said she thinks it is important for students to have the opportunity to look at the “other side” of history.

“We have a Westernized approach to history. I would like it to be all-inclusive. For example, the narrative of the Africans and the Blacks that currently live here and how did that come about. Often times we are not showcasing their experience in our history or literature. In doing that it is a more narrow focus, and having that minor will allow students of all ethnic backgrounds to learn a little bit more about the history within that community,” she said.

“It can also help us try to have better conversations with people of color. Just to understand them and have more dialogue. If we understand their story, their history and their narrative, we can, in a beautiful world, get along better,” she continued.

Whereas global cultures focuses on understanding multiple different cultures on a global scale, Africana studies would focus on the experience of Africans exclusively.

While there are already several specialized topics courses related to Africana studies, there is a consensus that there would need to be a full-time faculty member where this is their area of focus.

“We might decide we would need a specialized faculty position or two that we don’t currently have. These kinds of things take time to do well. As excited as we are to have the possibility of the program we want to make sure we’re delivering it effectively and that we’re doing a good job of it,” said Dr. Helen Davis, associate professor of English.

Film studies would look at the various ways of exploring the narrative, artistic, cultural, economic and political implications of cinema.

While there is a focus on gaining proficiency in videography or cinematography, a primary concern would be analyzing film in detail and why certain techniques were used instead of others.

“In the case of Film Studies, we hope to encourage students to think about film as an important art form that deserves serious inquiry. We also know that the ability to create film and video is a marketable job skill these days when so much marketing is being done on social media. Employers are looking for recent graduates who are creative and who have hands-on experience with film and video production. We hope that a Film Studies minor will help our graduates compete for these jobs more effectively,” said Riggs.

Students should expect to look at the modes of film studies, close analysis of film, methods of film production and the history of film and media. There would also be analysis of movies with an emphasis on period pieces, regional creation, genre and creators.

“Film is a reflection of our society,” said Eric Ruggiero, associate professor and Digital Design & Media Arts (DDMA) chair, “There is an impact of pop culture on history.”

He said that the minor was currently in the “gelatinous stage,” and that several faculty are pooling ideas together. He said the minor would be a blend of hands-on work as well as film theory, and that students should expect to analyze film in detail.

“Ultimately, it becomes another opportunity for students to explore something they’re interested in,” said Ruggiero.

The final minor in the works is emergent & game technology minor, which would be available as a DDMA cognate minor in addition to being an interdisciplinary minor. A cognate minor is a required minor that applies to the DDMA curriculum, and every DDMA major needs to select at least one cognate minor.

Currently, DDMA students can choose from a selection of art, business administration, computer science, English, entrepreneurship, marketing and theater arts.

Ruggiero and Dr. Andy Ren, associate professor of DDMA, worked over the summer to develop a plan for the minor. Ren was hired this past fall and had currently been teaching several emergent & game technology courses as topics courses in order to get a feel for how they would be received by students.

“Part of my proposal was talking to our admissions folks and our marketing folks. I wanted to make sure that admissions would get feedback from potential students to see what their interests looked like and they were very positive in their interactions. They said they had students interested in this,” said Ruggiero.

Emergent & game technology is not limited to video games. It encompasses a wide variety of 2D and 3D interactive media. Ruggiero said one example of this could include a virtual reality tour of a building. Students who take the minor will be exposed to programming, game design, production, animation and storytelling.

“Students can gain a lot of next-gen skillsets. Being able to take the core of what they learn in DDMA and augment it with this new technology. That’s why it’s called emergent. It’s new, it’s evolving technology,” said Ruggiero.

Much like Africana studies, the adoption of emergent & game technology would position Wilkes as the only school in Northeastern Pennsylvania with such a program.

All three minors likely won’t be adopted into the Wilkes curriculum for several years. Each minor will be interdisciplinary and available to all students.

One positive is that it seems like there is a framework available for each minor; they are not starting from scratch.

Several global cultures courses could be cross-listed with Africana studies. The communication studies department offers two courses in broadcast production and an art of film class, all three of which could be included as possible courses for the film studies minor.

DDMA has already been offering emergent & game technology classes as topics courses, which according to Ruggiero have been received well by students so far.

In the past two years, Wilkes added a theatre design and technology major, a sport psychology minor, a sustainability management minor, a minor in actuarial sciences, a five-year B.A./M.B.A. industrial-organizational psychology major and a global cultures minor. Several of these programs, such as the sport psychology minor, are the first of its kind in Northeastern Pennsylvania.