Requirements for the Major
Before being accepted into the major, students should take MDST 110 and 201 (exceptions are made only at the discretion of the Media Studies director and only when logistically necessary). In addition, during the first or second year of study, students should take introductory courses in the fields relevant to their broader interests in media (e.g., government, sociology, history of film, anthropology). Students are accepted into the major only upon review of their applications. This is a competitive process that takes into account the applicant’s GPA and application essay, as well as other factors.
Applications should be completed in the spring semester (normally that which coincides with the student’s fourth semester). Deadlines will be posted in the Media Studies program office and on the web (www.virginia.edu/mediastudies); the deadline will be on or about March 15. In exceptional cases, students who have not taken MDST 110 and 201 may apply for the major by petition to the program director. If admitted, they are required to take MDST 110 and 201. With the director’s approval, third-year students who have not yet taken MDST 110 and 201 may transfer into the major on a space available basis. However, the requirements for completion of the major may preclude this approval except in very special cases. Students are expected to have a GPA of 3.400 at the time of application.
The application consists of a description of courses taken, with grades; a one-paragraph statement of purpose delineating career plans and goals; and a plan of study briefly describing the student’s objectives for the major. This should not be a list of courses to be taken, but an outline of intellectual goals to be achieved through course work in the field of media studies. A statement such as “I like to watch films” is insufficient; however the following formulations, accompanied by a description of the means to achieve these goals, would be sufficient: “I’m interested in the evolution of the studio system,” or “I want to trace the relationship between notions of intellectual property and Internet law.”
Include a total of 9 courses (approximately 27 credits) comprised of three upper-level core courses (MDST 301, 350, and 401). In addition, five courses must be taken to fulfill breadth requirements. Of these five, at least three must be from the group of primary electives and at least three taken at the 300 level or above (exceptions may be made with the advisor’s approval). The balance of courses may be fulfilled with either primary or adjunct electives. A list of these electives (which change each semester) is available through the Media Studies Program office and is meant as a guide only. Finally, students must either take one course in the practice of media or a 3-credit internship, which may be completed in the summer by arrangement with the program director. Only in rare instances, and at the discretion of the Director of Media Studies, will more than one course in the practice of media count toward the major.
Core courses include MDST110 (Information Technology and Digital Media); MDST 201 (Introduction to Media Studies); MDST 301 (Theory and Criticism of Media); MDST 350 (History of Media or approved equivalent); and MDST 401 (Fourth-Year Seminar).
Media Studies students are strongly urged to choose electives according to an individual plan of study. Students should consider the broad range of topics relevant to a full understanding of media studies: media aesthetics (rhetoric and the shape of argument in media, formal analysis, media criticism, and theory of a specific medium); the history of media (film, photography, television, digital and print media); the individual experience of media (psychology and sociology); the social experience and effects of media (political science and government, law, or public policy, anthropology, and sociology); and the economics and business of media.
Students may also choose to declare a concentration in a particular area of Media Studies by taking at least four electives in that area (e.g., film studies, media policy, or any other focused topic approved by the Director). Specific courses cross-listed with media studies may not always be available on a regular basis. The plan of study should be founded on intellectual goals and be flexible with respect to fulfilling them through course requirements. In all cases, students must develop their program of study in consultation with a faculty advisor. Media Studies’ majors are encouraged to study abroad, however, all majors must be present in the Fall of their junior year and the Spring of their senior year to take required courses for the major.
Distinguished Majors Program in Media Studies
Students with superior academic performance are encouraged to apply for the program’s Distinguished Majors Program in which they write a thesis or complete a substantial project with appropriate documentation demonstrating independent study of high quality. The requirements for admission to the DMP are:
- satisfaction of all College requirements as stated in this Record with a GPA of at least 3.400 in all university courses;
- a GPA of at least 3.400 in all courses taken as part of the Media Studies major;
- completion of at least 12 units of advanced work in the major (300 level and above, with at least one 400- or 500-level course);
- approval of the faculty committee in Media Studies, and willingness by one of the faculty to take on the responsibility of supervising the thesis or project.
Students must apply for the DMP with a proposal for their thesis or project. After obtaining approval of the faculty committee in Media Studies (generally proposals will be reviewed at the beginning of the Fall semester for students graduating at the end of the academic year, but in exceptional cases, a thesis could be undertaken with approval at the start of the Spring semester in which the student will graduate) students can register for three credits of Media Studies 497. Students will produce either a thesis of approximately 10,000 words, which must be approved by two members of the faculty (one may be outside the Media Studies core faculty), or a project (film, digital work, or other media project) with appropriate intellectual accompaniment (an essay or research statement of 3000-5000 words). Copies of all theses and projects will be deposited in the Media Studies office and students will be expected to make a presentation of their thesis or project in a DMP symposium at the end of the spring semester. In awarding honors, the Media Studies faculty considers the quality of the student’s overall performance in the major as well as the work done on the thesis or project.
Students may receive distinction (but not high or higher distinction) if they have not enrolled in or have discontinued enrollment in the DMP but have completed their degree with a grade point average of at least 3.600.
There is no minor in Media Studies.
For more information, contact the Media Studies Program, 142 Cabell Hall, P.O. Box 400866, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4866; (434) 243-8855.