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St. Olaf to offer new film and media studies major, engineering concentration


A new film and media studies major, along with an engineering studies concentration, were  approved at the April 16 virtual faculty meeting. Both programs will begin rollout during the fall 2020 semester. 

The College finally designated a full major to film and media studies after 25 years of only offering miscellaneous courses to count towards the separate concentrations. The new major will consist of 10 courses and allow for a rotation of topics within film and media.

“The way we’ve constructed it [the major] is with an eye on flexibility … we rotate topics so that students can feel more media-based or more cinema-based,” associate professor of English Linda Mokdad said.  “So that we keep it open enough so that the program can change and shift and we can accommodate new forms.” 

The merger of media and film studies reflects an industry trend, according to Director of Media and Film Studies William Sonnega. 

“Merging film and media at St. Olaf is consistent with national and international trends in the field; the two areas are deeply integrated and share many common interests, especially in production where we see shooting and editing today used for myriad purposes, from 30-second marketing videos to full-length documentary features,” Sonnega said. 

Currently, St. Olaf offers separate concentrations in media studies and film studies. The two will blend together to create the new major. Over the next few years, the two separate concentrations will be phased out, as a joint film and media studies concentration will take its place. Current students who concentrate in these fields will be able to complete their requirements, while future students will complete the new coursework. 

Students currently enrolled at St. Olaf who fulfill 10 media- and film-related courses will be able to complete the major. Due to certain major requirements that won’t be offered next year because of a lack of class space, students will be able to find comparable classes.

“I’m really excited about developing this program that will be multifaceted, that’s going to engage with both film and media in really interesting ways, and a program that will be in league with other programs across the country,” Mokdad said.

The new engineering studies concentration will require around 11 courses, with the goal of equipping students for graduate school and work in the engineering field. The required courses will come from different departments, such as math, chemistry, physics and computer science. Students will also be required to take electives, allowing them to specialize in a specific type of engineering. 

Over the next year, two new courses will be offered that will count toward the rollout of the concentration, including Thermodynamics and Computer Aided Engineering. Students can look for additional courses in the following years.

Over the last decade, the College’s physics department has made a push to support engineering students, offering additional courses such as the engineering design practicum for those pursuing graduate school. 

Alden Adolph, assistant professor of physics and advisor to engineering students, hopes that the new concentration coupled with the liberal arts education will further support students who have an interest in the field while fostering “unique engineers.”

“I’m really hopeful that this program will help educate and train students who will be unique engineers, who will understand the societal context of the problems they are working to solve, who can employ all the different perspectives they are exposed to while at St. Olaf,” Adolph said. “I hope they become engineers that are more than math and science and understand that engineers are solving the problems of humans.”