Wayland adding new speech major to academic offerings

Wayland Baptist University's Division of Fine Arts will add a major in speech to its academic offerings beginning with the 2001-02 school year.

The major will be in addition to the currently offered minor in speech but will involve a reworking of the courses that have been offered to this point. The move comes after much discussion and a growing interest in the field of study.

"When I came to Wayland, I was shocked that there wasn't a speech major," said Virginia Myers, associate professor of speech communication. "This past fall, we started talking about the role of speech departments in other universities and (administrators) asked about my interest in developing that."

Myers jumped at the chance. A longtime speech educator who has helped write several textbooks on the subject, Myers also serves on state groups that help determine curriculum essentials for high schools. Her interest and expertise has been handy in planning the new major.

"We were really limited in what we could offer. Speech rhetoric used to be the center of the liberal arts curriculum, so for us not to have a major is strange," she said. "We feel we can augment the current program in a way that will really add to the university."

Myers also enlisted the help of several of her current minors to get input on what courses they felt would be beneficial. Though many of the students have nearly completed degrees and cannot change their majors, they see the move to a speech major as a positive one.

"I think even as a minor, speech offers a world of opportunities," said Meredith Jama, a junior at Wayland. "You just have that background and information that helps so much. I'd recommend speech to anyone, because in today's society, no matter what you're doing you need to know how to communicate."

Myers said new courses toward the major could start as early as the Fall 2001 term. Some courses which are now lower level - the majority of the speech offerings, in fact - will be reworked and upper-level classes added to round out the program. Among courses in the planning stages is a methods course for those pursuing a teaching career, a professional communications class, and courses that will allow students to tailor projects to their individual interests. The department will offer a 33-hour major and a 31-hour program toward teacher certification.

"There is a critical shortage of speech teachers in Texas due to the new course requirement added by the state board," Myers explained. "Fewer schools are offering a good teaching program in speech, so this will hopefully get some students to Wayland with interest in that area."