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Changes underway in the CSTA department

October 19, 2007

The new academic year at UW-River Falls brought some departmental changes along with it.  The former Speech Communications and Theater Arts department (SCTA) is one department which underwent many changes and reorganizations, as it is now referred to as the Communication Studies and Theater Arts (CSTA) department.

“The change was made to more clearly reflect the mission of the department,” Robin Murray, chair of the CSTA department, said.  “Communication Studies is a broader term, and while we do teach the Fundamentals of Oral Communication and other general studies courses, our students learn a great deal more than how to write and present a speech.”

Murray said that the change was fronted by faculty and members in the department.  Following UWRF regulations, Murray and the department presented the name change to a number of panels and committees during the approvals process before it was actually changed. 

In addition to the name change, the department also made some changes in curriculum and reorganization, keeping the focus on the students and working to create programs that serve their needs and prepare them for the future.

“The faculty listened to feedback from students and created new curriculum plans that will help students track their courses into career paths that are more useful to them than the previous [curriculum],” Murray said.

CSTA professor Jennifer Willis-Rivera enjoys the curriculum changes and notes that it has not really affected much of what she was already doing as a professor.
“I’m really happy about the changes to the department,” she said.  “Changing our name helps us to reflect what it is we actually do.  Speech communication gave people the sense that most of what we do is public speaking when, in truth, most of what we do is study how communication happens around us and how it shapes our everyday lives.”

Willis-Rivera, who is in her fourth year of teaching at UWRF, said that so far, students taking classes in the department are happy about the changes because the new name makes it easier to explain what exactly it is they’re doing. 

Murray agrees and doesn’t foresee any problems that can’t be solved.

“New students will automatically work in this program,” she said.  “Continuing students have the choice to continue with their previous degree program or pick up the new one.”  According to Murray, there are currently 155 students majoring in CSTA, with 64 minoring in it.

Willis-Rivera said she is glad to have been a part of the departmental restructuring.  “We have a great department with dedicated and active students and faculty,” she said.  “This is a department that is moving forward to reflect the discipline of communication as a whole, and I’m excited to be a part of this change.”