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Liberal Arts Students Express Concern for Their Program Amid University Changes

Millett Hall | Photo by Marissa Couch | The Wright State Guardian


Wright State University (WSU) liberal arts students express dissatisfaction and concern over their programs as the university promotes popular majors in hopes of greater success. 

Facing challenges and changes 

Over the past five years, WSU has faced significant challenges from the 2019 faculty strike followed by a global pandemic, all while being under financial distress. 

Recently, the university worked to improve its financial situation, bolster its enrollment and refocus its areas of study. 

The university parades success in some of these areas. WSU’s financial standing has a net positive financial outlook and the College of Health Education and Human Services was created with the reorganization of the College of Liberal Arts (COLA) underway. 

This has caused some, like WSU board of trustees (BOT) chair Tom Gunlock, to coin this change as the “New Wright State.”

WSU President Sue Edwards (Ph.D.), explained this new concept at the Feb.18 public board of trustees meeting. She explained to the board how majors in the information, technology, healthcare and education sectors are becoming increasingly popular and how the university would continue to expand these programs. 

Some feel hopeful about the new WSU. Others, especially those in COLA, feel left out.

Concerns in communications

Some students like Chad Dudash, a senior double majoring in media studies and psychology, feel as if the university is prioritizing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs over the liberal arts, causing a negative college experience. 

“The university does not prioritize COLA, in my opinion. We care a lot more about STEM.COLA is underappreciated at this university. So, that’s why I say I had a bad experience overall.”

Dudash

Dudash went on to explain how the loss of faculty members in his media studies program and the closure of the New Media Incubator led to less support.

Despite being a senior, Dudash has only had one in-person class for his media studies degree and plans on taking another in the current spring semester B-term. 

“I’m not learning the material as well,” Dudash said. 

Another senior media studies major, Shelley Fisher, also has struggled with online coursework.

“There’d be semesters where I wouldn’t even communicate with my professor one time,” Fisher said. 

While some of the online learning is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some may be attributed to the loss of faculty and students. 

For fall semester 2021, 25 sections of communications classes were offed for all levels of students. Only five of these classes were offered in person, according to the course catalog. This does not include internships and independent studies offered as classes. 

Looking at Dudash’s other major, psychology, over 62 sections of labs and classes were offered for all psychology students in the fall. More than half of these courses were offered face to face. 

Before the pandemic in fall 2019, the communications department still offered 14 of its 33 course offerings online. While seven of the 107 psychology courses were offered online, according to the fall 2019 catalog. 

COLA reorganization 

The communications and media studies department has seen a decline in both faculty and students. According to the fall 2021 COLA reorganization report, there are only 92 communications majors and 37 media studies majors, as of the fall semester. 

Due to retrenchment, retirements and faculty separations, COLA faculty numbers declined 50% according to the report. In the social sciences sector, the category communications and media studies falls under, faculty numbers have dwindled from 54 faculty members in 2015 to 36 in 2022.

A different perspective

Not all COLA majors have had negative experiences. 

History major, Megan Henry, reported that she feels supported by the university and secure in her program. 

“I feel like all around, I’m surrounded by support from the university because I work there. Everyone that I’ve encountered at Wright State has been wonderful and wants to help you in any way that they can,” Henry said.

Henry went on to explain that the only time she had online classes was when WSU shut down due to COVID. The young student also explained how she had out-of-classroom opportunities in her program. 

Future concerns

Students have concerns due to the decline in enrollment in COLA and the college’s reorganization. 

Both Fisher and Dudash expressed worry regarding the communications department and whether or not it would still be a part of the university in the future.

WSU has not indicated removing the program or any programs under reorganization plans. 

These fears show that COLA students anxiously await the future of the college in hopes that there will still be room for them under the “New Wright State.” 


Jamie Naylor

Editor-in-Chief