By Miranda Warren-Zacharias
You have probably seen her around campus. She’s a short, spunky little blonde who has a smile and a kind word for everyone. Her name is April Curtis, and she is the chairperson of the Media Arts and Communications program.
Curtis started working at EOU in 1992 as a part-time speech, part-time theater professor. When she first started at EOU, the theater department was in desperate need of help. Since she had experience acting, directing and designing costumes, she was recruited to that department initially. She spent most of her time there, but still managed to teach one or two speech classes for about 15 years.
Four years ago, the Dean of Arts and Sciences approached Curtis about creating a speech minor. She began researching minor programs at universities across the country that summer. The minor became popular almost immediately. The Dean then decided that Eastern needed a communications degree program. This was the birth of the MAC program.
Curtis taught the 100 and 200 level classes, but did not feel comfortable teaching the higher division classes because she did not have a PhD. They interviewed and hired Xiaowei Chen, PhD., and began developing the communications degree.
Curtis and Chen, along with Kevin Roy, Mike Sell and Neil Gustafson worked together and created the Media Arts and Communications program. The common core included courses from art, digital media, and journalism and the communications concentration. The MAC program has flourished since its inception, with more than ten students graduating this spring.
Because of budget cuts, the MAC program has lost a large number of its classes. Some students now find themselves scrambling to find classes to replace the required common core classes. Contrary to popular rumor, however, the MAC program is not going to be cut. “It’s a very popular major, and a very popular concentration.” Curtis said.
Regarding losing some of the courses within the MAC program, Curtis said, “We were all really sad about the cuts, particularly to journalism.” She explained that while it was a bit of a surprise, she also realized that cuts in newspaper staffing have increased in recent years. “But it was still a painful cut,” she added. Curtis noted that there is a person teaching journalism courses online for EOU beginning winter term.
Currently, Curtis and other professors are working on a new major with a common core with three different elective paths in teaching, business and media arts/broadcasting. “In terms of the future of the program, I think Kevin Roy has some new ideas about developing new media, web authoring and some interesting new concepts that he’s going to develop into the minor.
Curtis said, “I’m really looking forward to the future of the communications program and the new challenges we’ll have for the whole program going online, being onsite and on campus. She added, “With some innovation, some imagination and some communication, things can improve.”
Not only is Curtis chairing the MAC program and working on the new communications major, she is also on the College Personnel Committee. She is traveling to Argentina in the spring with Academic Horizons Abroad International to check out communications programs there.
Outside of the university, Curtis is a wife, mother, grandmother and puppy mother to the handsome Django. “And no, he’s not named after the movie,” said Curtis.
Those interested in communications or the MAC program can contact Curtis at Loso 151 or via email at email@example.com.