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With marketing classes full, some forced to drop minor

by Jackie Tempera / Beacon Staff • April 25, 2012

It was two hours before Kara Pantano could register for the final marketing communication course she needed to fulfill her minor in the subject, when she said she checked her registration access page for the last time.

Pantano will be a senior next year, and said she hoped to conclude her minor in marketing communication by taking the MK 220, Understanding Consumers course, in the fall semester. After logging into the site to register, she saw all of the seats in the course were filled.

“I just stared at my computer and got extremely angry,” said the junior communication studies major. 

Interim marketing communication chair Donald Hurwitz said he was “informally aware” that many students in the department were unable to register for required courses. 

There is no data available on how many students were denied registration for marketing courses for the upcoming semester, said Hurwitz. 

He said the department will work to place students in the necessary courses. Hurwitz also said the marketing department is short-staffed, and the transition to a new, diversified curriculum left little space in classes.

“Clearly, the man was outstripping the supply,” said Hurwitz.  “We were running out of seats. We helped a number of people, but now we are waiting until smoke clears.”

Currently, members of the class of 2012 and 2013 take courses in the old curriculum, which focuses on launching public relations and advertising campaigns, said Hurwitz. Members of the class of 2015 take new marketing courses, which include broader options for students, including entertainment and digital marketing, said Hurwitz. 

The class of 2014 is split — half in the new curriculum and half in the old, said Student Government Association Marketing Senator Karlan Baumann. This divide makes it difficult for faculty to assess how many students will be registering for which set of courses, according to Hurwitz.

“We are dealing with an increased number of applications,” said Hurwitz. “I am also asked to sign off on major switches. I didn’t know how many people were in. This caused the scramble.” 

The marketing communication department has 525 undergraduate students enrolled, according to Hurwitz. The department has 14 full-time faculty members, the smallest number of any department in addition to communication sciences and disorders. 

In comparison, the visual and media arts department has 46 full-time faculty members, according to the Emerson College website. There are 1,200 undergraduate students in the department, said Colleen Kelly, the visual and media arts academic coordinator. 

Hurwitz said adding more staff members may help make it easier to add more sections and eliminate some registration confusion. 

“We are actively seeking to grow [the full-time staff],” he said. 

Hurwitz said he advises students who did not get into the courses they wanted to wait until the add/drop period at the beginning of the semester. He also said students should check course availability throughout the summer, as more sections may be added. 

“There is an unfortunate culture at Emerson that surrounds pre-registration,” he said. “But those who have stayed with it have been satisfied. Be persistent.” 

For seniors with a marketing minor such as Pantano, Hurwitz said he suggests these students not focus so much on the official completion of the courses of the minor. 

“Take what you can, don’t worry so much about the formal declaration,” he said. “If you wanted to be a main line marketer, you should’ve picked it as a major. Employers won’t hire or fire based on a minor; it is how you speak about your knowledge.” 

Hurwitz also suggested frustrated students take advantage of marketing-focused extracurricular activities such as EMComm and the Public Relations Student Society of America. If they are still having problems, Hurwitz said they should take it up with academic affairs. 

This outlook, said Pantano, is not helpful.

“That is actually literally absurd...if [future employers] don’t see that you have a minor in marketing they will probably overlook you,” she said. “I think for him to say that is literally ridiculous. He is literally not solving anything. If you want people to be in your program you have to tailor it to everyone’s needs.”

Junior Meghan Lowell, a writing, literature, and publishing major with a minor in marketing, was also locked out of her last class to fulfill her minor.

“The department is very nice and cordial in person,” she said, “But it is still incredibly frustrating.”

Lowell said if she cannot register for her last course — MK 220 Understanding Consumers — next semester, she will not be able to finish the minor.

“I picked the minor because it is what I want to specify in my industry,” said Lowell. “I want to be able to put that on my résumé.”

Baumann said he will work toward identifying the number of seats needed over the summer and the next semester.

“I think they just need to basically develop a better plan for the better gauge of how many students will be registering, some kind of a survey,” he said. 

He added that he believes this is an administrative problem.

“The administration is not planning accordingly,” Baumann said.