Community members reflect on Medill degrees’ STEM designation


Daily file photo by Owen Stidman

Fisk Hall, home to the Medill School of Journalism, at 1845 Sheridan Rd. Months after Medill degrees received STEM designation students, the dean reflected on changes.

Diego Ramos-Bechara, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

In December, Medill School of Journalism announced that all its degrees were immediately switching to STEM designations. This thrilled students, who took to Twitter to celebrate. 

“MEDILL KIDS ARE STEM KIDS SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS,” said Medill sophomore Mac Stone in a tweet.

The announcement followed a program review from Northwestern’s Office of the Registrar. The review resulted in updated CIP Codes, the coding scheme used for programs in higher education, which updated Medill’s bachelors and masters degrees. While some students were excited about the news, they still had questions about what exactly prompted this change. 

In an email to The Daily, Medill Dean Charles Whitaker confirmed the change came after faculty realized the old classification was “hopelessly outdated.” After this revelation, the Medill administration decided to switch the designation after many peer journalism programs had already done so.

“We feel the STEM designation is a better reflection of the technical training that has been a core aspect of our curriculum for nearly a decade,” Whitaker said. “The response has been positive, particularly well-received by our international students.” 

The new classification enables international students to extend their F-1 visas by an additional year. 

Before, F-1 visa recipient students that weren’t enrolled in STEM degrees would only have 12 months to work in the U.S. post graduation as a part of their Optional Practical Training, after which they would have to be sponsored by their company in order to continue their employment. According to Study International, most companies refuse to offer sponsorship given the financial constraints that come with it. 

A STEM designation provides F-1 visa recipient students with a possible 24-month employment extension of their OPT, which increases the amount of time they’re allowed to work in the U.S. without sponsorship. 

“This change is huge, because now students that are studying the humanities actually have an opportunity to become employed,” said Weinberg freshman Raza Ayoob. “It’s just a great way to make it so more opportunities become available for international students that want to work in the U.S..” 

Dean Whitaker said he’s proud of the certification –– he said that Medill’s programs “prepare tomorrow’s journalists and marketers.” He bolstered the skills one achieves by obtaining a STEM degree and says the skills obtained are “essential to leading in the media industry.” 

Medill sophomore Sami Berisha said that he hadn’t considered working in the U.S. prior to the designation, but he’s since changed his mind. 

Even though Berisha thinks it’s a “stretch” to connect journalism with STEM, he expressed his content with both Medill and the university because the change in designation now gives him more options to explore career choices. 

“It’s great to have more options as an international student because sometimes it can get a bit hectic not knowing what you want to do,” Berisha said. “It’s great to have those options and to feel as though you just have more time to make decisions.” 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @D_Ramos42 

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