This semester marks the first year that the new Journalism minor is available as a graduating credential to Bachelor of Arts students at VIU.
The credential only involved one new course being added to the extensive list of Creative Writing classes already available to students, and this class was already in the process of being created before the Journalism minor was established. Due to the well-developed Crew program already available at VIU the journalism minor did not pull heavily on financial resources to get up and running, according to Richard Dunstan a CREW and Journalism professor at VIU.
Dunstan said, “VIU was already working with existing courses and resources, the only thing we didn’t have before was the [journalism] credential.”
Dunstan said the Journalism minor is a great program because it is done in conjunction with another minor or a major in another subject field, preferably one that will be beneficial in a career in journalism such as global studies or political studies, this particular way of educating future writers is hoped to create more well-rounded and knowledgeable journalists.
Dunstan said, “We couldn’t find another program with the same parallel” in other institutions. At the time that the Journalism minor was accepted into the list of available credentials, about 6 months ago, It was, and still is to Dunstan’s knowledge, the only BA minor in journalism in B.C.
Although Dunstan is one of the main minds that have been working on getting a journalism minor available at VIU over the last several years he is sure to give credit to two very influential men who got the ball rolling and kept it going. A past VIU graduating student, Wawmeesh George Hamilton, “set the fire” under Dunstan in a series of e-mails several years ago saying that he had taken journalism classes a Langara after graduating from VIU and he believed that VIU had the skill and resources to provide a journalism specific qualification.
Another influential and integral part of the development of the minor is another CREW professor at VIU, Steve Guppy, who according to Dunstan employed his knowledge of the administrative routes associated with submitting a proposal that lead him to help co-author the proposal and ultimately get it accepted.
It is not just due to the way the minor is laid out in conjunction with another area of study that makes the journalism minor at VIU special either. The professors in the department are all previously writers because they are all in “their fields first and then teaching” Dunstan believes this is one other aspect that makes the education students received more valuable because of the industry experience the professors bring to the table.
“The journalism [at VIU] is part of a CREW department which allows for cross fertilization of writing styles” which Dunstan believes also improves a writer’s skill in the long run because of the ability to familiarize with different forms of writing.
“I think my journalism helped improve my thesis writing and my ability to write academically improved my skill as a journalist” Dunstan said with regards to the positives of a broader education, such as the one offered at VIU, rather than a strictly journalistic degree.
When asked if he believes that the growing industry of internet forms of publishing where anyone can click send, such as blogs and online forums, Dunstan said that although the use of the internet is not a bad thing, as it provides a wealth of information quickly, it is still beneficial and important to have trained writers entering the industry with technical training.
There is no governing body for journalism and an education in journalism, according to Dunstan, provides students with more than just the skills to write, it also provides them with a set of professional standards to follow within the industry, as well as hands on experience within the classes.
Creative writing has been offered at VIU since opening in 1969 but did not become a department of its own, separate from English, until 1989. It wasn’t until 1991 that degrees in CREW were offered at VIU, and now 22 years later journalism has become its own credential within the CREW department.
At this time VIU is only offering the Journalism degree as a minor towards a BA and there is no talk of a major, in fact a major coming out of a minor “isn’t a natural outgrowth of a minor” says Dunstan, but who knows what the future will hold.