Students have mixed reaction to Humanities taking gaming major


The interactive games studies major has been moved from the Bill Munday School of Business to the School of Humanities.

Gabrielle Wilkosz

Before junior Harris Foster decided to go with St. Edward’s University for his higher education, Foster had two criteria he used to make the big decision.

First, he wanted a university that had a major with something he liked, particularly St. Edward’s interactive game management (IGMT). Second, he preferred to be in Austin.

It’s been two years since Foster made that list and a lot has changed since then. The biggest change? Foster’s major.

The following years since IGMT has become available, students in the major have raised concerns over quality of gaming professors, number of credit hours and overall lack of organization.

On. Feb. 1, the Academic Council voted to eliminate IGMT, however current students already enrolled could finish their degree plan. In the 2015-2016 Bulletin, it was announced that interactive game studies (IGST) would be moved from the Munday School of Business to the School of Humanities.

Like many students, during his freshman year Foster was under the impression he had everything he wanted. But by sophomore year, the game enthusiast’s attitude toward his dream degree had taken a 180 degree turn.

“The one class that I was super excited about, like over the moon, was called business of gaming and as the title implies, we would learn the ins and outs of the industry,” Foster said. “As that class went on I just came to find that the professor was unqualified, the content of the class was just flat and completely unrelated at times. It just felt like it was a class that was thrown together last minute because they had to have it. I just felt like that class was completely misguided.”

But not all students have had difficulty with the degree. Unlike Foster, freshman Stephen Neal has enjoyed his time spent in the major and doesn’t mind the upcoming changes. Even if Neal hasn’t taken highly specialized courses yet, his experience with fundamental classes like precalculus, rhetoric and composition, computer sciences and art foundations has left him with anticipation for the next four years.

“I was going to be a humanities major to begin with so I’m not worried about the changes to the major,” Neal said. “Austin has a huge growing industry, so if you want to be a gaming major, Austin is the place to be. I like how liberal it is and how everybody seems to be different.”

Regardless, a lot of questions surrounding games studies have come up. Concerning issues like whether business majors will get their degree in business and whether the university will continue to require students to complete 67 credit hours toward the major.

Kim Garza, assistant professor of graphic design and area coordinator for interactive game studies, has been tasked with answering these questions.

Helping to facilitate the transition of IGST from the business school to humanities, Garza has been looking at the curriculum, hiring faculty and adjuncts, reassuring worried undergraduates and working closely with Kim Livingston, the academic advisor for IGST.

“When I first took this on [Kim and I] actually went through what courses everyone has taken, learned the sequence of things, how things worked with the School of Business and then sat down and started figuring out how to make this transition work,” Garza said. “So we are looking at all that stuff to say, how can we be flexible and also what does it mean to have a game program in the School of Humanities instead of in the School of Business?”

In short, Garza has come up with a plan.

Having only just been approved in November, the updated program will go into effect in the fall.

“I understand the unnerving, ‘I thought I was on this degree plan, what is happening?’,” Garza said. “Students can actually stay on the exact same degree plan they have been on when they came in. When you come in, you’re on a particular bulletin and the school is responsible for delivering the bulletin until you graduate.”

After looking over other programs at comparable universities, the new degree plan will decrease major-specific credits to 57, giving students an extra 10 hours to earn a minor or take even more game studies electives.

Assistant professor of digital media in the School of Humanities Jason Rosenblum has taught both upper and lower division game studies courses such as the business of gaming and game design studio courses.

“I have taught pretty much anything that anyone has asked me to teach,” Rosenblum said. “The [IGMT students] that I have had, and I have only had a few, are very committed to their degree and certainly one student I had in gaming design was very committed to the production of games.”

Still, some of the courses that are already in the degree plan have never been taught, have had substitutions or are no longer supported by the schools they were originally in. Courses like these will be subbed out.

Yet for students like Foster, waiting for decisions to be made was not an option. Now he is a communications major.

“I haven’t regretted [switching to communications] a day since,” Foster said. “Ever since I changed over, these communications professors know what they’re talking about. They’re enthusiastic; they have the expertise.”