ICS Department dissolves, divides major into four separate degrees

Written by: 
Courtney Bow Nielsen

In order to allow students to be able to study their field more in-depth, the International Cultural Studies major has been divided into four separate majors included in different departments starting this semester, marking the end of the ICS Department.

Phillip McArthur, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities said that with 240 students enrolled at its peak, ICS was one of the biggest majors at BYUH. It used to consist of four disciplines or tracks: cultural anthropology, communications studies, intercultural peacebuilding, and integrated humanities.

Students would choose two of these for their major, one as a primary emphasis and one as a secondary emphasis. Now they’ve been divided into four individual majors and fit into newly reconstructed departments, according to McArthur.

“We used to have a department of English and Theater, a department of Music and Visual Arts, a department of Language and Cultures, and a department of History,” said McArthur. “They were kind of becoming a little uneven anyway and so we decided that if we pulled ICS apart, we could reconfigure this and put like programs with like programs a little better.”

This means that the emphases within ICS have been placed into complimentary programs.

McArthur explained the departments the four individual disciplines went to:

  • Communications is now part of the Visual Arts and Communications Department, which includes graphic design and painting.
  • Cultural anthropology and intercultural peacebuilding are now part of the Culture and History Department, which includes Hawaiian studies, Pacific Island studies, and history.
  • Integrated humanities is now part of the English and Humanities Department, with English as the only other major. (The theatre minor was moved out of the English Department in order to accommodate the integrated humanities discipline. It is now integrated with the music program and is part of the Music and Theatre Department, which was previously the Music and Visual Arts Department.)

Students explained that these changes didn’t come as a surprise and were beneficial to their plans.

“I remember getting an email at the very end of last semester from one of the heads of the departments of ICS saying they’re changing everything around,” said Sarah Pukahi, a senior from Massachusetts who is still an ICS major because it’s her last semester, though her emphasis is communications. “They explained that if you were at a certain credit level, they’d just let you stay on with ICS and grandfather you in or if you decided to, you could just go to the new system.”

McArthur explained, “I’d say about half are picking the new system and of the returning students about half are saying ‘Aw, I’ll just finish what I started because I’m almost there.’ So we’re letting them decide.”

Not only will this help students be able to focus and become more knowledgeable in one field, but also students and staff said having a degree with the name of the specific field will help graduates get into grad schools and have better job opportunities. Before the change, students’ transcripts and resumes had “ICS” without any further explanation on the specific discipline they studies, such as communications or anthropology. “A lot of grad schools only see ICS, and they don’t really know what that is,” said Pukahi.

McArthur said, “Now the student can go in deeper and focus on one of those fields. And then, with all the minors, they can do those complimentary things that they want to do. The curriculum for each of those programs has been fleshed out a little more so that it looks more and more like a regular major from any other university in those fields.”

The response has been generally positive among students in the major. “I think it’s good particularly for the peacebuilding program,” said Gabriela Covett, a junior from Washington D.C. studying intercultural peacebuilding. “There are a lot of opportunities that are opened from having a liberal arts degree.”

Date Published: 
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Last Edited: 
Thursday, October 19, 2017