MGA’s New School of Arts & Letters Focuses on Program Innovation, Marketplace Value

Author: News Bureau
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2020 12:00 AM
Categories: Students | School of Arts and Letters | Pressroom | Faculty/Staff

Macon, GA

On the right is Dr. Mary Wearn, dean of MGA's new School of Arts & Letters (SOAL), shown with U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, who visited the University in February 2020 for a reading and book signing. SOAL organized and hosted the reading, which drew one of the largest crowds in recent memory for an MGA arts/cultural event.
As the first dean of Middle Georgia State University’s new School of Arts & Letters, Dr. Mary Wearn is committed to countering the “false narrative” that liberal arts programs are great at producing creative thinkers, less so at preparing graduates to navigate the contemporary career world.

“Part of our mission is to create an environment that fosters students’ personal growth and development and also prepare them for the work world,” said Wearn, who joined MGA in 2004 as an assistant professor of English. “We believe our approach will help students appreciate and reflect on the human experience while providing them the credentials to land their first jobs and evolve within our rapidly changing economy.”

To that end, the school is rolling out new “work-ready” concentrations in various degree programs to help students chart specific paths into careers. They include sports communication, public relations, pre-law, teacher certification, and professional writing, among others. (See list below.)

“The goal in all of these curricular revisions is to provide flexibility, encourage interdisciplinary exploration, and articulate career options for liberal arts students,” Wearn said.

Wearn is a former engineer who found a second calling in teaching English and literature. At MGA, she moved into administration in 2010 when she became chair of the Department of Media, Culture, & the Arts. She has also been assistant provost for Academic Planning and Policy and, most recently, an associate provost. She is a past recipient of MGA’s Outstanding Scholarly Activity award.

The academic disciplines that now form the School of Arts & Letters had been part of the former Colleges of Arts & Sciences, which also included math and sciences now spun off into other schools. In this Q&A, Wearn talks about goals and plans for the new school and what it means for MGA students:

What is the reasoning that went into creating a new school for the study of arts and letters, which basically are what many think of as the humanities or liberal arts?

“It was part of the school-based strategy of our provost, Dr. Jon Anderson, which aimed to situate students within smaller, discipline-based, scholarly communities that serve as a ‘home away from home’ for the student body from the point of admission through graduation and beyond. We were a little tickled when we realized the acronym for the School of Arts & Letters was ‘SOAL,’ for we do see ourselves very much tied to MGA’s unique humanity and spirit. The creation of the School of Arts & Letters clearly signals MGA’s continued commitment to liberal arts education and the recognition of the importance of arts and culture to its University mission.”

What advantages does SOAL offer MGA students?

“SOAL will provide a rich, welcoming community for creatively inclined students who are interested in studying the human experience from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Our school encourages academic and personal exploration and gives students opportunity to discover their strengths and interests in practice. ”

How is the school establishing its identity?

“We are renovating and creating curricular that modernizes our academic portfolio and deconstructs the false liberal arts/work-ready divide. We are expanding our traditional role of being an engine of culture on our campuses by creating accessible extra- and co-curricular cultural and arts programming, much of which is open to the public. One big example took place this spring when we brought U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo to the University. We’ve also revived the theater program at MGA. We hope to build a broad audience for our programming in order to serve our communities well and elevate the stature of our University.”

Talk more about the program revisions that emphasize career paths for SOAL graduates.

“SOAL was specifically formed for students seeking a rich and affordable liberal arts education that would also provide the professional skills that are valued in the marketplace. While the name ‘Arts & Letters’ points to the best, most enduring elements of traditional education, SOAL also prides itself on being future-minded and fostering innovation. We have every confidence that our students graduate well-prepared to serve the economy of Georgia, but we need to make sure that their unique value is legible in the marketplace. So I would like to see every liberal arts major at MGA graduate with a distinct work-ready credential such as the Georgia Film Academy certificate, a professional minor, a teaching certificate, or an internship experience. For those who might prefer to go on to graduate school, we would require an intensive undergraduate research experience.”

What else would you like people, especially prospective students, to know about SOAL?

“The School of Arts & Letters has a truly amazing faculty who are premier scholars across a diverse array of disciplines in the arts and humanities. More importantly, our faculty are passionate teachers dedicated to helping students achieve their goals in and beyond the classroom. Engaged students are successful students, and SOAL offers an inviting, creative community in which students can thrive.”

Here is the complete list of School of Arts & Letters degrees and their revamped concentration options:

B.A. in Applied Art and Design (coming fall 2020)
• Film
• Visual Communication (geared toward careers in advertising and marketing)

B.A. in Contemporary Musicianship
• Performance
• Industry (geared toward the business side of music; a professional minor is required)

B.A. in New Media and Communications
• Public Relations
• Sports Communication
• Film

B.A. in English
• Professional Writing
• Creative Writing
• Pre-Law (English has a strong history of placement of their graduates in law school)
• Teacher Certification (secondary education)
• Literature

B.A. in History
• Documentary Film (with an option to add the Georgia Film Academy Certificate)
• Teacher Certification (secondary education)

For more information about the degrees and concentrations, call the School of Arts & Letters at 478.471.2490, email, or see