Digital Studies Program Gives Graduates Competitive Edge in Both Tech-Related and Non-Technical Fields

By Tom McLaughlin

It’s time to make the connection, says Jim Brown, director of the Digital Studies Center at Rutgers University–Camden.

“There is really is no field that will go untouched by digital technologies,” explains the assistant professor of English at Rutgers–Camden. “Graduates heading out into the job market need to have ‘technical know-how,’ as well as an expansive arts and science education.”

Future graduates will have the opportunity to think constantly about the role of technology in their respective fields

Offering future graduates a decided edge over their peers, the interdisciplinary Digital Studies Center at Rutgers–Camden offers both a joint bachelor of arts degree and a minor in digital studies.

Students are asked to pair digital skills and coursework with any field of study in the arts and sciences, affording them the opportunity to think constantly about the role of digital technology in their respective fields.

“It means that students aren’t only focused on understanding technical details or the ins-and-outs of using digital tools, but how these tools impact the ways that we think, read, write, and work,” says Brown.

Citing a recent Forbes article, the Rutgers–Camden scholar notes an analysis of jobs in the tech industry, which found that, in August 2015, tech companies employed around 380,000 people in non-technical jobs – well beyond the roughly 140,000 employees in tech-related jobs. The analysis also determined that the majority of employees were comprised of computer science graduates, but a substantial number of other employees – collectively accounting for more than 50,000 jobs – had majored in economics, psychology, English, and political science.

In light of such statistics, Brown envisions students graduating from the digital studies program as fully equipped to handle the variety of positions in the tech industry.

Brown explains that the goal of the program is to create well-rounded thinkers who can understand the broader cultural concerns of technology

“These graduates will have the ability to speak the languages of the software design team, the marketing team, and the graphic design team,” says Brown.

Likewise, he says, computer science majors will graduate from the program understanding computer programming as both a problem-solving tool and an expressive, creative medium.

“Overall, our goal is to create well-rounded thinkers who are not only able to use digital technology, but to understand the broader cultural concerns of technology,” he says.

For instance, notes Brown – who teaches rhetoric, writing, and literature – the digital studies program can serve as a bridge between the invaluable skills learned by English majors and the many non-technical jobs in the tech industry requiring someone who is at least conversant in fields such as computer programming and media production.

“Across the board, the digital studies program is an incredible way to plug digital thinking and tools into a liberal arts education,” says Brown.

Charlene Mires, director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities at Rutgers–Camden, says that history majors benefit immeasurably from learning digital tools and techniques, such as digital storytelling, archiving, and data analysis. More importantly, she says, their deep understanding of history combined with their digital skills will help to preserve and transform the region’s historic sites, museums, and other cultural organizations.

Across the board, says Brown, the digital studies program is an incredible way to plug digital thinking and tools into a liberal arts education

Likewise, says Charlotte Markey, a professor of psychology and director of health sciences at Rutgers–Camden, digital studies is a valuable complement to a health sciences major, given the many ways that health behaviors and health-care settings are influenced by technology.

“Anyone who plans to work in a medical setting or promote health in their communities will need to be capable of utilizing technology, whether in the form of an electronic app, social media, or electronic medical records,” says Markey.

Students in the joint bachelor’s degree program complete the degree requirements of the B.A. in digital studies and the requirements of another major course of study. This ties digital media skills and theory to the disciplinary content and approaches of another field. Up to 12 credits in the digital studies major may also double count toward either general education requirements or the student’s other major course of study.

The interdisciplinary digital studies minor requires 18 credits. Students take an introductory course, four electives from departments across the Rutgers–Camden College of Arts and Sciences, and complete a capstone project.

For more information on the digital studies program, visit digitalstudies.camden.rutgers.edu/ds-major-minor

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