Liberal arts/tech degree has employers recruiting

A new WSU degree combining technology and liberal arts has employers eagerly seeking qualified graduates. The degree is called digital technology and culture (DTC).

To create this unique degree, liberal arts and technology courses were combined. Today there are 150 students majoring in DTC.

If a parent questions: Can my child get a job with this degree? said Pullman coordinator and assistant professor of English Patricia Ericsson, “the answer is, there has been no placement issue at all.”

The initial concept for a degree began seven years ago on the Vancouver campus in response to the technology industry’s demand for graduates who were both computer literate and had a broader background in culture. WSU Vancouver also wanted to appeal to potential students who had associate degrees and who were already employed.

Headed by associate professor of English Michelle Kendrick, the program was originally launched as a humanities degree option.

After a couple of years the program was offered at Pullman, headed by Ericsson, and the Tri-Cities, under the direction of assistant professor of English Joddy Murray. In 2003 it became a stand-alone degree program at all three campuses.

The Vancouver campus has the largest program, with 70 majors, while the remainder are split between Pullman and Tri-Cities.

Three concentrations
There is a 24-credit core that all students take. Then they choose from among three concentration areas. The most popular concentration is media authoring; these students typically are hired to do things such as Web design.

A second concentration on technology and culture has prepared two of its graduates for graduate school. They are pursuing degrees in library and information science and technical and professional writing.

One graduate of the third concentration, informatics, does database management.

Career spectrum
But the career options for DTC graduates are tremendously varied. Opportunities range from Internet development to desktop publishing, entertainment media and project management. DTC also allows students to minor in many different areas and to do internships. One student completed a study abroad program in Spain.

In an online conversation with an employer at a publishing company, the publisher sent Ericsson a list of publishing jobs a DTC graduate could do. A Chicago employer said he’d been reading the want ads in the Chicago Tribune to see what kinds of jobs DTC grads would be qualified for and said a person would have to hire a secretary to keep track of all the potential jobs. Starting salaries for graduates can range from $30,000 to $50,000, depending on the specific job and the student’s experience.

“Students who have database management skills and can digitize and archive print and visual materials are commanding the upper end of the scale right now,” Ericsson said. “Those who have good Web development and technical writing skills are being offered around the middle of the scale.”

The DTC program is housed in the English department on all three campuses, but students take courses from anthropology, computer science, fine arts and sociology as well.

“In one course, Digital Diversity, you look at the haves and the have nots,” Ericsson said. “Race, class and gender are issues in the digital world. Whether or not you have access to technology can profoundly influence your life.