Course changes ahead
Enrolment in arts programs is dropping—and Wilfrid Laurier University’s English program is no exception, according to associate professor and undergraduate academic advisor Andrea Austin.
“It’s true that enrollments for EN120 and EN121, Reading Poetry and Reading Drama, have been declining, but in part English majors across Canada have been declining as well,” continued Austin.
The declining enrolment in these courses means there will be course changes within the program, and this is causing concern for English majors.
“There is a stigma that you can’t do anything [with an English degree], so I have no doubt that enrolment is dropping,” said third-year English major Ivana Ivankovik. “Which means less funding and less course options and worse class times for students who are in English—it’s nerve-wracking.”
But the changes occurring in the English department may not be as foreboding as students may think, according to Austin.
“We are changing our first-year curriculum, but we are doing so in a way that actually increases our course options rather than decreasing them,” said Austin.
Program enhancement is an ongoing process for all departments, but especially in the arts, to try to boost enrollment.
“We had felt that we had had that system of genres (fiction, poetry, and drama) in place for a long time and it was time to do something a little more contemporary, a little more current, that more students would enjoy and it would open up some of our courses to non-majors as well as English majors,” said Austin.
“It’s smart to add more courses,” commented Ivankovik. “Because the problem with English right now is that the stuff they teach is 100-years-old except in contemporary courses. They need to provide courses that are more relevant.”
Two new topic courses that will be added to English studies will be Literature and the Environment and Literature and Catastrophe. Additional courses the department is looking at include Literature and Monsters, Literature and the Body and Literature and Heroes.
“I think our first-year options are expanding and are actually very exciting,” shared Austin. “But the concerns over scheduling done by the new automated system is out of anyone’s hands and affects everyone, not just the English or arts programs.”
A new automated system has been put in place this year to schedule all courses at Laurier. The system is meant to save time and money on scheduling, as well as take advantage of unused spaces throughout campus.
Professors and students alike have expressed concerns that the new automated scheduling system will mean more classes split over a Monday, Wednesday and Friday schedule and early morning classes for the courses with lower enrolment; however, the system uses an algorithm that doesn’t discriminate based on programs.
“Overall I think we are making it better and I think the changes were needed to offer more variety,” concluded Austin.