The Texas Tech agricultural communications program has implemented a block course structure for its seniors, allowing students to participate in numerous capstone course opportunities.
Dr. Courtney Gibson, assistant professor of agricultural communications and key figure in the development of the block, said this implementation was created on anything but a wild hair. When faculty within the program learned that Tech had been ranked the top agricultural communications program in the nation in 2016, Gibson said they began to realize change was necessary and inevitable.
“It took a little over two years of planning, many meetings, and about a thousand ideas shared to even create the block,” Gibson said. “It’s exciting to be the first program in the nation to try this – to our knowledge – but it can be scary because we don’t have anyone to look to for guidance in how they handle conflicts as they arise.”
The block schedule for the semester comprises four courses: advanced web design, advanced graphic design, campaigns and magazine development, each featuring various capstone experiences. A significant work project is also assigned, allowing students to create and develop usable content relevant to their area of interest.
Gibson said the agricultural communications faculty plan to effectuate the block system for each upcoming spring semester. The goal is for students to enroll in the four block courses during their senior year.
Adrian Smith, a senior agricultural communications student from Lubbock, Texas, said she feels the block is helping to polish students before they enter the real world, giving them the necessary skills to impress future employers.
“The block provides a great hands-on experience of what most of us can anticipate in the workforce,” Smith said. “The work we are producing is work we can and should use for our portfolios. We are definitely competitive job candidates in whichever field we go into following graduation.”
Dr. Courtney Meyers, associate professor of agricultural communications, said she feels both enrolled students and the program will benefit from the new block system.
“Because most of our students will go into a career where they will be asked to do many of the things we are working on in the block, it helps to create that atmosphere,” Meyers said. “While achieving the objectives that we have set out for each individual course, they’re also gaining valuable interpersonal and professional skills. The block allows us to do that in a unique way.”