Online Chat about M.A. Program, with Dean Evan Cornog, July 26, 2006
Hosted by Evan Cornog, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, with Dean of Students Sree Sreenivasan and Assistant Dean of Students Melanie Huff.
In order to be as useful as possible, the transcript has been lightly edited for style, grammar, punctuation and clarity, and to put similar topics together.
Sree Sreenivasan: Good afternoon (good morning, good night, etc). It’s 1:05 pm, Columbia time. We are joined today by Dean Evan Cornog, coordinator of the M.A. program.
Jenny Marder: Do you suggest that we start contacting the professors now, or should we wait until we get on campus?
Evan Cornog: Start now by all means, but don’t be surprised if you get no response. But the real intense shopping begins the Tuesday after Labor Day.
Rong Cui: For students who haven’t taken the MS program, will it be a disadvantage?
Evan Cornog: It should have no bearing on your ability to get outside courses. And we wouldn’t have admitted you if we didn’t think you were up to the journlaistic expectations.
Sugi Ganeshananthan: any chance of getting a list of outside courses MA students took last year?
Melanie Huff: Yes, there is a list on the outside courses page at http://www.jrn.columbia.edu/students/outside_courses.asp
Jaime Cunningham: How difficult is it to get into classes in other schools in Columbia? Like a course in SIPA or the School of Public Health?
Evan Cornog: Jaime: It depends on the course, but we’ve got good relations with both SIPA and Public Health.
Jaime Cunningham: Cool. I’m looking forward to all my core courses, but I know from my undergrad experience that sometimes you have to really work to get into a course of your choice. Good to know we have good relations w/ other schools at Columbia.
Evan Cornog: Jaime–that’s true about needing to work at getting into coursees. But profs often like a mix of students.
Richard Lewis: Some faculty said MA science students had real difficulty with graduate-level science courses. How is that being handled?
Evan Cornog: It depends on the level of preparation you have, of course, and the specific course. There are a number of possibilities . . .
Richard Lewis: I think many of us have some knowledge, but no intimate grounding.
Evan Cornog: and courses that examine the sociology of a field (often offered within a discipline) can be quite valuable.
This is the main thing you will be spending your free time on the first two weeks here.
Jenny Marder: Hi everyone. Also, I noticed there are tests required for admission to some of the science courses recommended. Are we expected to take those tests?
Evan Cornog: Admission to most courses depends on the instructors apprival, and you can sometimes get around such tests. But don’t count on it.
Richard Lewis: Can MA science students take classes from the Earth & Environmental Science Journalism Dept.?
Evan Cornog: Yes, and Marguerite Holloway can recommend specific ones.
Jenny Marder: can you give some examples of what 2006 MA students did for thesis projects?
Evan Cornog: Jenny–we had a profile of a town losing its Wal-Mart, one on a New Orleans hospital during and after Katrina, and one that looks at the Millennium VIllages projects that was recently accepted by Harper’s magazine. They were an impressive group of articles.
Sugi Ganeshananthan: Are these available for us to read?
Melanie Huff: You can read the MA theses in the Journalism School Library.
Guest9021: Cool. Can we travel anywhere? Who pays for this? It’s great!
Evan Cornog: We hope that some money will be available, by application.
Sugi Ganeshananthan: I thought that last year each person was given $500? Is that funding no longer available?
Sugi Ganeshananthan: And people applied for additional funds beyond that?
Evan Cornog: We hope to be able to match that this year, but no gurantee yet. We’ll know better early in the fall.
Students did use their own funds, too. But local stories are easier to cover in depth, obviously. Some got outside funding, too.
Richard Lewis: So, is it fair to assume the thesis can tackle topics outside the NY region?
and is that recommended?
Evan Cornog: Yes, but you’ll need to assess costs, and the school’s ability to support travel, carefully.
Sugi Ganeshananthan: Any plans for group reporting trips like the one Professors Goldman and Sreenivasan took to India recently?
sree sreenivasan: No group class trips planned as of yet. The India trip was sponsored by a foundation for the CoveringReligion.org M.S. seminar.
Sugi Ganeshananthan: at what point should we really have our thesis topic nailed down? how much time do we have to explore different ideas?
Evan Cornog: You won’t have to nail the topic down until November or so, but the sooner you are work on it, the better.
JOBS, FREELANCING, POST-SCHOOL
amanda millner-fairbanks: Any statistics available in terms of numbers of last year’s MA class who are now gainfully employed?
Evan Cornog: Don’t have current stats–we’ll check with Career Services.
Jenny Marder: What are last year’s MA students doing now?
Evan Cornog: Working in various media jobs, trying to place their theses or editing them, weighing job offers, and some still looking. Some stuff going on Frontline.
Julia C. Mead: any book deals?
Evan Cornog: Not that I’ve heard of yet.
Julia C. Mead: will stories assigned in class be of the sort that could be freelanced?
Evan Cornog: A number of MA students last year placed class assignments outsdie–and professors are eager to find ways to allow you do do that.
Matt Malone: is there a different approach with career services for ma students v. ms
Melanie Huff: Yes, the approach is different.
Evan Cornog: In placing MA student swe have the advantage of the expertise in a subject area to sell. As the program becomes better known, we expect this to become easier.
Richard Lewis: Is there some kind of a meal card and how would it work?
Melanie Huff: Please see http://www.columbia.edu/cu/dining/docs/meal-plans-flex/plans.html
Sugi Ganeshananthan: On the list of outside courses, I see Independent Study in the Journalism School listed a couple of times… that counts as an outside course?
Evan Cornog: you can get an independent study in certain circumstances, with approval from your seminar prof and/or me.
Julia C. Mead: how many advisers are we required to have? my thesis is multi-disciplinary (socio-medical sciences). would be good for me to have two outside the J-school plus one in. possible?
Evan Cornog: That seems complicated. You can have as many folks “advising” you as you like informally, but we’re limiting it to two advisers.
Julia C. Mead: got it.
Evan Cornog: In fact, students in the MA learn to take advantage of CU profs in connection with many assignments.
Julia C. Mead: and can we get some help vetting those advisers for possible conflicts?
Evan Cornog: Your seminar instructors will help with that, but you’ll have to take responsibility for that mostly upon yourselves.
Jenny Marder: what do you think about us auditing classes outside the regular courseload? Is that an option?
Evan Cornog: Jenny: Our experience last year was that auditing seemed like a good idea to people Week 1 of the semester, less so by week 5. You will get very busy with your regular courses.
Evan Cornog: I don’t want to discuourage your deasire to take full advantage of your year here, just want to inject some caution.
Matt Malone: can you give us the breakdown of students in each concentration?
Evan Cornog: 10 in politics, nine in arts, 8 each in business and science.
CHANGES FROM YEAR ONE
Richard Lewis: I’m curious as to what changes/tweaks you all have made to the program after you had time to assess the first year.
Evan Cornog: We have made the shortened the History course to one semester, given room for an additional outside course in the spring. We have significantly retooled other courses to make them even better and we are working to make the assignments as valuable as possible without overloading you. We have retooled courses in the following ways: changing readings, lengthening or shortening sections of the course, the usual editing one does with a new course.
INTERACTION BETWEEN M.S. AND M.A.
amanda millner-fairbanks: there wasn’t much interaction last year between the MA and MS classes. Aside from the Frappr page, I think it would be a great addition to the school if there was more interaction.
Evan Cornog: Amanda: We are looking for ways to build more MA/MS interaction.
PREPARING FOR THE SCHOOL
Jenny Marder: Is there anything else we can do to prepare this summer?
Evan Cornog: Think about thesis topics, check out courses, read great stuff. And if you’re not from here, learn about NYC.
Jaime Cunningham: If anyone needs help learning about NYC, shoot me an email. I’ve lived her for about 10 years: jac2193.
sree sreenivasan: If you aren’t from NYC, checkout HopStop.com - Mapquest for the subways. It changed by NYC life.
Evan Cornog: I want to stress one thing, which doesn’t naturally come up in this context, which is that the readings and ideas you will encouter in this curriculum are really exciting and useful for high-level journalism.
I know right now you need to focus on practicalities, but didn’t want to leave that aside.
Evan Cornog: Thanks for your questions. We’ll do another of these soon.