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​SJMC creates new interdisciplinary major

June 24, 2014

Less than a year after first pitching the idea, Jennifer Glover Konfrst, assistant professor of journalism, and a team of faculty have strung up a new pennant: strategic political communication. The major, which will begin accepting students in fall 2015, was approved by the Drake University Board of Trustees this spring.

The new major follows an intentional trend toward interdisciplinary learning, combining journalism, rhetoric, and political science. While it is the first to formally join these disciplines at Drake, the faculty involved—Glover Konfrst and Kelly Bruhn, assistant professor of journalism; Rachel Paine Caufield, associate professor of politics; Joan McAlister, associate professor of rhetoric, and Alyssa Samek, visiting assistant professor of rhetoric—say they’re just paving a path that students have already tread.

“This program is a response to students who have been doing this for years,” says Glover Konfrst. “We’re formalizing the curriculum and adding intentionality to the combinations these students make, and opening new opportunities for them.”

By exposing students to multiple perspectives, the major will prepare them for immediate practical application—something Des Moines provides in droves.

“If you want to work on campaigns, work in Iowa, not Washington,” says Paine Caufield. “Central Iowa happens to be in a position to play a national role, so there are experiential learning opportunities in Des Moines that don’t exist anywhere else.”

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication has experience creating interdisciplinary opportunities for students, including a recent mobile app creation class that joined SJMC students with peers in graphic design and computer science.

“We know the importance of moving forward and changing as we go,” says Glover Konfrst. “We train people to be flexible, so who would we be if we weren’t demonstrating this as a school?”