Monday, March 21, 2016

The Struggle of Being a SMAD Major, Revisited

Two things before I start:

1) This blog post is in response to an article published on The Tab. In this post, I'm not at all attempting to discredit the original article or the individual who wrote it; I've spoken to the author multiple times and appreciate her work ethic and her openness. That said, this is just my personal opinion in regards to the perceived "struggles" of being a student enrolled in James Madison University's SMAD program.

2) If you don't go to JMU or you're not a fellow SMADDIE, this post probably won't make much sense to you. That's okay--feel free to skip this one and come back next time.

Okay, let's get started.

The initial complaint that is raised in the original article is that SMAD majors aren't taken seriously by other students, and to some extent I agree. A lot of SMAD majors do, too: I've spoken to many of my SMADDIE friends and coworkers, and a lot of them assert that our math, science, and business-oriented peers don't quite understand how much work we do. Because SMAD only has a total of 36 credit hours, it's easy to assume we skate through our four years doing the bare minimum. And yes, it's annoying that other students don't understand how hard it is to learn the Adobe Creative Suite or to code even a basic webpage, but ultimately who cares? As a SMAD major, I've learned that it's a better use of my time to stay on my grind and produce work I'm proud of, instead of taking to heart the assumption that I'm stupid. I know I'm not stupid and I know most everyone else in this program isn't. But y'know what doesn't help to change everyone else's minds? Articles that do nothing but complain.

The application process is a good thing.

We were just talking about how SMAD majors are perceived as dumb or lazy, but can you imagine what everyone else would say if there were no admission requirements? Harrison Hall would be running rampant with students who failed 101 and might end up polluting the job market for those of us who maintained good grades throughout our SMAD progression! I'm kidding, a little, but really: you can't complain that SMAD is perceived as stupid and then also complain about the existing standards to ensure the program is full of bright and creative minds.

About those required courses...

The reason the SMAD program was created was to meet the needs of students who seek to create content in the ever-changing world of mass media. For a reference, Twitter didn't exist when our program was born, and look how many careers that website created on its own! Because of the unique nature of our field, the SMAD curriculum aims to teach students a range of skills to better prepare us for the "real world," whatever that is. I'm happy I can reference web design, basic video production, copy editing, feature writing, and media literacy in my skill set. Plus, courses are taught by professors who have field experience: I've taken classes from film directors, professional editors, published journalists, etc. Seriously, that's awesome. Even if my postgrad goals are primarily editorial, I'd rather be a Jack of all trades than a one trick pony.

SMAD is a made-to-order program, how cool is that?

When talking to my SMAD friends in other concentrations, (in case you forgot, there's Journalism; Integrated Advertising and Corporate Communication; Digital Video and Cinema; Converged Media) I'm always delighted to hear about their diverse interests and foresights. We're all technically the same major, but among us are web developers, student directors, graphic designers, editors, journalists...the list goes on! I can't think of another program that caters to such a wide range of creators; it's inspiring to be apart of, don't you think?

Plus, because SMAD is only 36 credit hours, there's the option to even further diversify your studies with another major, a cool minor, or electives all over the map. With those few credit hours, you're also given the time to pursue internships, jobs and bylines to build up your portfolio; SMAD is a great place to be a self-starter. And no, to the original author's point, you don't need to pile on multiple majors and minors "in hopes of graduating on time." Personally, I'm a creative writing minor, which both gives me lots of opportunities to write and lets me explore off-the-wall classes while staying on track. Trust me, many a SMAD major will tell you that it's totally possible to study pretty much whatever you want while still getting to be apart of the best academic program on campus. Maybe I'm a little biased, but I think it's time someone published an article about how cool it is to be a SMADDIE.