New majors welcome comedy and commerce

by Ross Cristantiello / Beacon Staff • September 15, 2016

Students with the high school superlatives “Class Clown” or “Most Likely To Succeed” now have a place at Emerson with the introduction of two new majors.

Members of the Emerson community are now enrolled in programs to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Comedic Arts or a Bachelor of Arts in Business of Creative Enterprises. Both programs have been in development for years, and each boasts an inaugural class of more than 40 students, according to Lu Ann Reeb, program director of business studies and entrepreneurship, and Martie Cook, the director of the comedic arts department.

The Business of Creative Enterprises, or (BCE) program is designed to help Emerson students avoid becoming “starving artists,” said Reeb.

A committee composed of faculty from the School of the Arts and the School of Communication met in fall of 2014 to start the project. The courses they developed focus on teaching students to successfully run creative enterprises.

In the classroom and in partnerships with companies around Boston, students will blend artistic endeavors with business thinking. Reeb uses Netflix, because of its track record both financially and critically, as an example of the kind of work students should aspire to do. 

“Unlike some of the other courses—where you sit in class and hear a lecture—we wanted these courses to have more hands-on, experiential learning,” Reeb said.

Some schools offer curricula centered on artistic entrepreneurship, but nothing quite like Emerson’s BCE program, Reeb said. While a business major may seem unconventional for a school such as Emerson, Reeb and Tylor Orme, a professor teaching in the BCE program, believe that learning the industry is essential to making a successful career in the arts.

“Having the BCE major opens us up to a new group of students,” Orme said. “They aren’t traditional Emerson students, but I think they’re going to really enrich the community in general.” 

Even more uncommon than the BCE major is Emerson’s comedic arts program. Emerson is the first college in the country to offer a BFA in comedic arts, said Martie Cook, the director of the comedic arts department.

Cook said she pitched the idea for a comedic arts degree for years, since Jacqueline Liebergott was Emerson’s president. It didn’t get the green light until President M. Lee Pelton came to the college in 2011, Cook said.

Five years later, approximately 42 comedic arts students have started their classes, including freshman Spencer Kash.

“I’m really enjoying the major so far,” Kash said. “It’s not just putting a bunch of people in a room and telling them to be funny; it’s more dissecting and studying comedy.” 

Both Reeb and Cook say that their new majors have received very positive feedback.

“I see the excitement in so many freshmen,” Cook said. “I get to know that we’re giving them a home to pursue their passions.”