By Carol Woodland, Staff Reporter
An exciting change is coming for students pursuing an Associate of Arts in English degree from CNM said Stephen Mathewson, chair of the English department.
Starting in fall of 2014 students will be able to pursue an AA in English completely online, he said.
“So you can take all of the core requirements within English but also within CHSS ( Communication , Humanities and Social Sciences) for the AA in English online,” Mathewson said.
Online courses will offer classes that include British, English and World Literature, as well as a class on literature analysis, Mathewson said.
The AA degree in English is also undergoing a revision to make transferring to the University of New Mexico a clearer process by synchronizing CNM with UNM requirements, he said.
“If students check UNM’s degree requirements online, they will see what ours will be. It’s a much more streamlined process especially at the sophomore level, and in the fall of 2015 our degree will match UNM’s revisions,” Mathewson said.
Currently students can choose from numerous different literatures and writing classes that include special topics course, such as Science Fiction Literature that will be offered at the West Side campus, a script writing class offered through the Theater department, and Film as Literature class which is already offered every semester, Mathewson said.
Despite the selection of course offerings, there has been low enrollment for some of the classes, English Professor, Rebecca Aronson said.
“This semester we didn’t have a poetry class on the Main campus because there was a dip in enrollment,” she said.
Aronson said she thinks that there are many great reasons why students should take Poetry or Creative Writing classes ranging from practical reasons to more expressive purposes.
“I think that on the imagination side, it’s a chance for people to express themselves, or sometimes just vent, follow their imaginative paths and do a freer kind of writing than academic writing,” she said.
In addition, students can gain a deeper connection to their lives and ideas when students write down their thoughts and aspirations, Aronson said.
Examining literature in English class can be an unexpected way to learn about culture by looking at literature from other countries or from the past, Aronson said.
“I think that poetry really is a good reflector of culture, time and place. You’re going to learn things about culture and what’s happening, and what that part of the world is like,” she said.
Reading literature from other countries can also help to get students informed about things they might not necessarily be learning from the news, Aronson said.
Mathewson said he thinks the skills students take away from English classes are essential in any professional environment.
“Not just writing emails, I think students don’t realize how much writing happens at work: proposals, grants, annual reports, revenue statements, those types of skills are universal,” he said.
Good writing skills, critical thinking, and analysis of all types of texts are all valuable skills developed in English classes, Mathewson said.
Writing for digital media, creative non-fiction, and professional writing are some of the biggest markets for English majors to start careers in right now Mathewson said, he also said he thinks that technology has been a catalyst to this growth.
“There’s sort of this misconception that texting is going to destroy writing, where actually the opposite is true,” he said.
Professional writing, which most people think of as technical writing, is not necessarily writing technical manuals and medical or government documents, Mathewson said.
From writing grants and proposals to critical analysis of nontraditional nonfiction, there are many interesting niches within professional writing, he said.
Though the field may be growing quickly writers still need to develop strong English skills in order to succeed in any field, Mathewson said.
“Digital media sort of exploded in a lot of ways, but within that explosion you still need to punctuate correctly and make sure subjects and verbs agree,” Mathewson said.
One way students can dig a little deeper into English is by taking 2240, a class in traditional English grammar, Mathewson said.
“In the last year or so Erin Lebacqz has revived 2240, which is a class that a lot of folks in education curriculums take but a lot of English majors take as well. It’s not really a writing improvement class, but sort of the theories behind grammar,” Mathewson said.
The track that students are taking to earn an English degree is evolving and changing to meet the needs of today’s workforce, Mathewson said.
“I think that it’s certainly changed from when I was a student. It’s become much more expansive and the traditional arrangements of English departments are no longer what they were,” Mathewson said.
For students still unsure of whether or not to pursue English as a degree, the English department has put together a video at the CNM YouTube website (youtube.com/users/ CNMonline) called “Why is Writing Important?,” and shows people from all different walks of life talking about how to use the skills students have developed in English classes, Mathewson said.
Aronson said that students sometimes avoid or fear taking English classes and should not have to feel that way because learning English is just like any other subject and that with practice people can learn to be great writers.