Class of 2022 journalism students will have to purchase a $1,500 MacBook Pro as part of a journalism initiative, according to Department Chair Janet Kolodzy.
In 2016, the journalism department piloted the CreativityKit program for the current freshman class. Incoming journalism majors received a 13-inch MacBook Air with downloadable programs such as Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Office, and Final Cut Pro X.
Originally, current journalism sophomores were required to pay $250 per semester and trade their laptops in after two years for another Apple laptop. Now, they can keep the computers until graduation and will not have to pay the semester fee, according to an email sent by the department this spring.
Kolodzy said a survey she conducted last fall for freshmen and sophomores concluded that the majority of sophomores didn’t want to pay a lease-fee for their laptop but would rather purchase their own.
“During the first year, the college decided this aspect of the program, in which a lease-fee would be required, was not the way to go,” Kolodzy said.
This academic year, incoming journalism majors were instead required to purchase their own $1,500 13-inch 2017 MacBook Pro model and have the CreativityKit programs provided by the school installed.
Kolodzy said current sophomores were going to turn in their MacBook Air laptops after two years because the department predicted the laptops’ hard drives would not last four years.
“We knew that a MacBook Pro would be a powerful enough computer to last four years,” Kolodzy said. “We’d rather give you what we think should be a strong, powerful, and useful laptop.”
She said some sophomore journalism students have already experienced technological difficulties with the MacBook Air.
According to a survey conducted by the Beacon, which received responses from 40 out of 158 first-year journalism students, a third of those surveyed felt like they could not afford the required model.
Amanda Rasinski, a junior transfer student taking freshman-level journalism courses, said she took out a loan her first semester to pay off the price of the laptop.
“It is quite a scramble to already pay for tuition and then to require an expensive laptop on top of that. It was a bit of a burden,” she said. “Part of me was like, what happens if I show up and I don’t have this computer? Are they not going to let me in the program?”
Of the freshmen surveyed by the Beacon, 10 answered they never bought the required model. In February 2018, the department opened up the CreativityKit fund, a pool of money offered through the Office of Financial Aid that incoming journalism students can apply for if they demonstrate financial need and cannot afford the specific MacBook Pro model. The college posted the information online a little under a year after admitting the class of 2021.
Journalism Department Administrative Assistant Christopher Wilson said students who received a MacBook Air last year and choose to change their major or transfer must return their laptop before moving to a different program or school. Wilson joined the department six weeks ago and serves as the contact for additional questions about CreativityKits.
Kolodzy said the department is also trying to incorporate the CreativityKit programs more in classes.
Many freshmen responded to the journalism department’s survey with concerns that professors are not integrating programs featured on the Kit, such as Final Cut Pro X, until the Digital Journalism class in their second semester.
“We probably should be getting more use of the CreativityKit,” freshman journalism major Megan Ellis said.
Ross Ketschke, a senior journalism major who doesn’t have a CreativityKit, interned at WCVB NewsCenter 5, a television station in Boston. He said his work never required him to use Final Cut Pro X, which is heavily advertised in the Kit. He said most of his workplaces used Adobe Premiere, which all Emerson students can access for free.
“It definitely made me have to take the initiative to go learn something on my own that I otherwise would have liked to learn in class,” Ketschke said.
Justin Pham, freshman journalism major, said he purchased a new HP Inc. laptop before enrolling at Emerson. Pham said it irritated him when he discovered he had to purchase another laptop. Pham said he finds the CreativityKit underwhelming because the featured programs exist on desktops in the library or on-campus labs.
In terms of the CreativityKit’s future, the department wants to focus on clearer communication with students on how to best utilize what the Kit offers, Kolodzy said.
“We are constantly looking at how can we make the integration of technology in journalism better,” Kolodzy said. “Part of the job of the journalism faculty with the curriculum is to make sure it is using the tools for the benefit of journalism.”