Ursula Muñoz Schaefer/Assistant Opinion Director
When I transferred to FIU two and a half years ago, it was thanks to a natural disaster.
Hurricane Maria had ravaged the island I grew up in, and I was lucky to transfer to a University that met the needs of Puerto Rican students who found the situation back home too unstable to spend the rest of our collegiate careers in.
Now, just a few months before my graduation, I find myself back at home, taking online classes thanks to the global pandemic dubbed the coronavirus. If it wasn’t for FIU’s temporary online transition meaning a loss of the valuable experience my hands-on courses had to offer, I’d find it funny how things came full-circle.
But unfortunately, the School of Communication and Journalism program is designed in a way that forces students to take all their hands-on courses in their last year of uni. Right now, it’s only my experiences at PantherNOW, my personal endeavors and the connections I’ve made that have me feeling equipped for what’s to come after I graduate.
Being a communications major with a track in television production means most of the classes I’m taking in my final semester before the capstone are practical. Writing an essay for my Studio Production class instead of actually spending time in the studio isn’t going to teach me the skills I need once my cap and gown slide off.
I realize that there’s only so much I can complain about. This isn’t a criticism of how the University is handling the outbreak because FIU did the right thing by moving classes online and advising those of us who live in the dorms to go home. Preventative measures like these are necessary in containing a virus that spreads like wildfire and has already reached 2,100 cases in the United States alone.
I’m also not criticizing the professors who are doing what they can under the current constraints. The ones I’ve had this semester have been great, and it’s not their fault that many of us questioned why we were only stepping foot in a studio or using Adobe Premiere in our senior year. If I’d been able to do so earlier, maybe corona wouldn’t be taking such an emotional toll on me at the moment.
Even before the outbreak, a lot of the conversations I had with my classmates at the beginning of this semester reflected insecurities about our level of preparedness for the future. Many, like me, were vocal about their thoughts that FIU’s SCJ program should have emphasized hands-on experiences a little more.
Classes like Law & Ethics are entirely necessary, but so is having experience reporting in the field or shooting behind a camera. And while Marshall McLuhan was fun and all, I’m not sure why he was covered so extensively in at least three separate courses I took.
“Students should be taking classes for their major since the beginning of college in order to get a long-term understanding of your major, and not just in the last year,” said Leticia Cobas, a senior double-majoring in Spanish and communications.
Cobas also cites her Multimedia II and Studio Production professor Michael Sheerin as part of the reason she was looking forward to the rest of this semester.
“This has been the most insightful semester I’ve had [thanks to] Professor Sheerin because of the skills, information and production value we learned in these classes,” she said. “I was disappointed when classes were cancelled because I had been very excited for my role in the live segment we were going to produce.”
Emely Fumero-Méndez, a senior majoring in television production, said she didn’t mind waiting until senior year to take those same classes—in fact, she had actually planned it that way. But with the unforeseen pandemic came a whole set of frustrations she didn’t expect to face.
“Before the outbreak, I believe that SCJ was doing a very solid job in teaching me a lot of the factors that I am going to need in the field,” she said. “But of course, I can’t put these practices to work now.”
Typing this article up had me experiencing a kind of déja vu, so I decided to do some snooping online. As it turns out, I’m not even the first to write about this for PantherNOW. This is an issue students have been voicing for years now.
Seniors may be experiencing the biggest coronavirus frenzy at the moment, but while this semester would’ve been vital to us no matter what, we wouldn’t have had the same concerns if we’d done some of this before.
Featured photo from FIU Flickr.
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