The UWF Department of English is beginning to rethink its curriculum. The department is taking a look at possible changes that would keep it competitive among its counterparts at other universities amid nationally evolving circumstances in both the academic and professional world.
“The humanities have gone back to an earlier era on a national level to more moderate sized curricula and at the same time are developing an increased interest in writing, so the department needs to respond to that,” Chair of the English department Dr. Kevin Scott said.
What makes UWF’s program more structured and extensive compared to other English and humanities programs is a 49-credit-hour degree with various course requirements in writing and different literature genres. While a smaller curriculum would involve less requirements, whatever alterations would come to the degree’s setup would not negate the fact that literature would remain at the heart of the program.
“There is no impulse to turn the English department into some kind of more vocationally minded department because that would be a move away from the kinds of things that made English departments so strong in producing the kinds of students and skills that have given us the reputation we have,” Scott said.
And that reputation is one of growing demand in the corporate world. While business degrees were once insisted upon by the professional class, the value of an English degree has soared because of the skills it grants, referred to as the four C’s: communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity. No humanities degree, Scott said, cultivates those soft skills in a more transferable manner than English.
The tangible benefits for English majors can be seen in the recent research Scott cites which shows humanities graduates that start earning less overtake their peers in ten years in income earned. This is because the aforementioned skills students earn in their degrees, such as team building, helps them get promoted.
The work for English departments now is finding how to retain the core of their discipline and produce a program that capitalizes on this new found appreciation for the liberal arts student. But in terms of concrete ideas for how to do so, UWF hasn’t gotten there yet. Right now, they’re in the thick of the challenge.
“I think there are some interesting models out there for us to look at,” Scott said. “I’m confident we’re going to get there. Change is always challenging, but the department does acknowledge that if we are to retain out strength, we need to continue to evolve as well.”