New minors coming next fall

Cinema and media studies and engineering design expand course offerings


Rice is expanding its course offerings in both engineering design and cinema and media studies as it prepares to offer minors in each field of study next year. The Faculty Senate approved the new minors at its Oct. 5 meeting, and students can begin pursuing each in fall 2017.

Cinema and media studies

An interdisciplinary program open to all students, the cinema and media studies minor will focus on understanding and observing moving pictures and developing critical thinking skills through the study of film and media.

1114_minor_2“Vision and perception organize our understanding of the world around us,” said Lida Oukaderova, an assistant professor of art history. “We study literature, theater and art, and it’s only sensible that we study film — and other moving images, from television to touch screens — too. In fact, we should study these even more due to their ubiquity in our society.”

Born from both faculty and student interest, the cinema and media studies minor will require three electives from current offerings and three core courses, which will be unveiled next fall.

“It’s essential we develop critical thinking skills about film and other moving images as they provide such a unique point of access to culture, history and politics,” Oukaderova said. “Think about how different this election could have been if it wasn’t so driven by entertainment. It’s vital we develop media literacy now more than ever considering the centrality of media to our lives.”

Engineering design

The George R. Brown School of Engineering’s engineering design minor will allow students to work on solving real-world engineering challenges alongside peers from other departments in the school in highly collaborative, multidisciplinary teams.

1114_minor_1“Both faculty who teach engineering-design courses and students with a passion for design have wanted this minor for a while,” said Maria Oden, director of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen and a professor in the practice of engineering education. “It’s important for the students and the companies looking to hire them that they hold a credential that demonstrates a strength in this area.”

After two informational sessions, more than 35 students have signed up as interested in officially pursuing a minor in engineering design.

“Many students spend endless hours pursuing projects in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen,” Oden said. “Building on that passion to offer a focused set of courses and provide depth in engineering-design experiences was important for us.”

Designed for students majoring in any discipline of engineering, the new minor will require four core courses and two electives. Students pursuing the minor will work on at least two varying design projects to gain different perspectives.

“For design projects, we’ll expect them to understand and implement the design process starting with defining a problem and taking it all the way through to a final product and subsequent evaluation,” Oden said. “Students will learn to communicate their solutions with a diverse set of audiences.”

Two of the core required classes are currently offered through the school, so the first students with an engineering-design minor could graduate in May 2018, according to Oden. Students who have already taken courses in the minor can count them toward the degree; students do not have to enroll in the minor as freshmen.

“By working on authentic design challenges, students can expect to become very proficient in the engineering-design process and gain enhanced leadership and communication tools,” Oden said. “They will hone a spectrum of skills — from project management to identifying potential projects to pursue, learning how to best manage teams and, most importantly, how to complete and deliver a solution to real-world engineering challenges.”

About Kendall Schoemann

Kendall Schoemann is a staff writer in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.