Around the time parents of current university students were born, the fax machine was considered advanced communications technology, the “big three networks” dominated North American television, Marshall McLuhan was the leading voice in media theory and talking about “digital” anything usually referred to fingers.
To say things have changed would be an understatement.
To address the issues and questions that have arisen from these rapidly-changing technologies and their impact on our culture, Redeemer is pleased and excited to introduce a new program in Media and Communication Studies. Launched in September 2015, the program will equip students to interpret, assess and engage in culture-making through the interconnected world of digital media.
“As a Christian university called to explore and transform all areas of life, Redeemer wants to speak into the increasingly pervasive role that media and communications have in the lives of individuals and culture as a whole,” notes Doug Needham, provost and vice president academic. “It’s reflected in the demand we have from students to offer a program that will prepare them for the digital environment in which they live and work.”
Dr. Naaman Wood is the first full-time professor in the program and he recognizes the importance of Christians to be engaged in the field.
“Media, be it social media, television, cinema, popular music, radio, podcasts, or the like, are one of the defining features of our contemporary lives,” says Wood. “However, it has been the tradition of many Christians to either avoid media altogether or engage it uncritically. Instead, we must discern, with great wisdom and patience, the contours of mediated life. Our response to that engagement should reflect both gospel healing and words of prophetic critique. And it should speak not only to our fellow Christians, but to the wider world.”
That constructively critical approach to the study of media and communications at Redeemer is designed to prepare students for both theoretical and practical aspects of the program. “We want students to be able to demonstrate a Christian understanding of communication and the media,” says John Van Rys, chair of the department. “That includes the ability to interpret, assess and interact with mass media. Ultimately, we want to prepare students to be culture makers, digital natives who contribute productively and with integrity in day-to-day life and in the dynamic workplaces of media and communication industries.”
The new MCS program includes streams in Professional Writing, Media and Culture and Digital Media and Production. All three combine the strengths of Redeemer’s broad faith-based liberal arts curriculum with applied courses in media and communications. The practical aspect of the program will be enhanced through experiential internship opportunities, giving students the chance to learn from both scholars and practitioners in the field.
“Students will have a unique balance of critical thinking skills and hands-on production experience,” notes Susan Van Weelden, Redeemer’s dean of social sciences. “Their understanding of society and culture will give them insight into the stories that need to be told, and how to communicate them truthfully and with integrity. The technical expertise they develop will enable students to tell those stories using today’s expanding range of media.”
It is an approach that will prepare students for whatever media they encounter now and in the future.