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ABSTRACT

This design brief is created with the aim of addressing


issues within the Department of English at the University of
Oklahoma and providing potential solutions to those issues.

Trey Crisp
ENGL 3143

Design Brief
The Department of English
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
CLIENT: UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA ENGLISH DEPARTMENT
Client Information: The Department of English at the University of Oklahoma is located
within the College of Arts and Sciences. Focusing in both Writing
and Literature and Cultural Studies, the Department of English has
students and professors in a multitude of areas of study.

Location and Contact: Cate Center 2


316 Cate Center Dr.
University of Oklahoma
Norman, Oklahoma 73019-2055
(405) 325-4661

Project: Identify major problems, and potential solutions to those problems,


within the department to recruit more students to become English
majors at OU.

Project Requirements: Identify the big problem the English Major faces.
Include a department branding statement.
Identify two specific problems that the department faces.
Propose four researched solutions to these problems, two each.

Objective: Implement these changes into the Department of English and


improve the departments climate at OU.

Audience: Professors within the department


Dr. Will Kurlinkus
Dr. Daniela Garofalo
Undergraduate Studies Committee
Graduate Studies Committee

Designer Signature:

Professor Signature:

Department Chair Signature:


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TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE BIG PROBLEMPG. 1

OUR ENGLISH DEPARTMENTPG. 1

USER PERSONA DESCRIPTIONPG. 1

THE PROBLEMS WE FACE

PROBLEM 1, PG. 2

SOLUTION 1, PG. 2-3

SOLUTION 2, PG. 3

USER PERSONAS FOR PROBLEM 1, PG. 4

PROBLEM 2, PG. 5

SOLUTION 1, PG. 5-6

SOLUTION 2, PG. 6

USER PERSONAS FOR PROBLEM 2, PG. 7


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DESIGN BRIEF
THE BIG PROBLEM
In recent years a trend has developed in which not only the English major but Humanities and Liberal Arts majors
have seen a decline in their enrollment. The American Academy of Arts & Sciences conducted a study where they
found that the number of bachelors degrees conferred in humanities disciplines declined 8.7 percent from
2012 to 2014.1 In 2014, enrollment within the Humanities disciplines was at its lowest recorded level ever. More
specifically, English departments across the country are seeing lower enrollment. The University of Marylands
English department lost 363 majorsabout 40 percent between the spring of 2012 and the fall of 20142. This is a
nationwide epidemic, where people who are majoring in English, or at least considering it, are choosing to major in
something that offers more hard skills, like engineering or business. The reasons range from worrying about debt
to getting a job after school to being pressured by their parents and society.

OUR ENGLISH DEPARTMENT


We arent going to be able to solve the national problem of English enrollment, but we can take steps to improve
our own department here at the University of Oklahoma. What many people dont understand, that we as English
majors do understand, is that a degree in English is many times more valuable than something like a degree in
business. We are able to more clearly communicate with other people. We can express our ideas concisely and
take complex ideas and boil them down to their essence so we can better understand and better explain them to
others. We have incredible research skills and the ability to critically analyze any material you put in front of us.

Dr. Catherine John at her semester showcase on March 30, 2017.

When I was at the career fair in


February, a corporate recruiter for
one of the companies present actually
said that she preferred English majors
because were better communicators
than most of the business majors she
meets3. We teach our students some
the most important skills that they
need to succeed in the professional
world but society doesnt seem to
realize that yet. As our website says,
we wed the theoretical with the
practical and creative and ask
questions about race and gender
economics, artistic forms and genres
and the global world we live in today4. Were not without our problems though and with some relatively simple
changes, we could improve our campus presence and our departmental community.

USER PERSONAS

What is a user persona? A user persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer5. In this case, it is
ideal students and professors and what motivates them to come to events or participate in things. Ive included
four personas, two students and two professors that encompass the problems I outline.
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THE PROBLEMS WE FACE

PROBLEM 1: POOR COMMUNITY


In my time as an English major here at OU, Ive noticed that our department has, compared to other departments
on campus, a relatively poor community. We have a few events, like Tea with a Professor and the semester
showcase, but those are more rooted in academia and dont typically get promoted that well. One big concern for
students are the social events that they can go to at the university. While there are a large amount of clubs offered
by OU, we could make our department even better by programming some events that allow for students to gather
together with professors in a context that doesnt involve academics. Were all people outside of our work in the
classroom, and its important for students and professors to be able to get to know one another on a more
personal level. Not only can these events be fun on their own, but they can improve the classroom setting by
allowing students to be more comfortable with their professors, which would in turn stimulate more engaging
discussion. This isnt just a concern for students, but parents as well. Many parents want their kids to get a good
education and have a certain degree of fun while doing it. It would make parents more confident in our
department as a whole if students told their parents about experiences where the student was able to get to know
the professor. Parents would realize that our professors take a vested interest in our students. A lack of
community can cause problems. Within towns, new residents need local social networks and shared community
experiences to build a sense of belonging and identity in new places6. For our department, if we dont build a
community students like, then it will stop people from being English majors, and potentially cause current students
to leave.

SOLUTION 1
I think a good way to improve our department community is to a hold a large mixer once a semester where
students, professors, and even alumni can gather together and just get to know one another. In my research I
found that the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences holds a picnic at the beginning of the semester
that students and professors go to. The Law School holds a dance once a semester and has events like a dodgeball
tournament, a pub night, and nights where they all go to Top Golf together. The business college has a business
fraternity, the honors college has multiple film series and
book clubs each semester. While Im not saying pay for
everyone to go to Top Golf, it would be good to have an
event, at least once a semester, where we can come together
as a department and get to know one another.

This event would be beneficial because it would show


potential students and their parents that or department takes
time to bring students together with professors. This event
could be opportunity to be a sort of awards/recognition
ceremony. We can recognize both new majors within the
department and people who are graduating each semester.
We can also recognize those students and professors that are
getting things published, working on large projects, etc. This
would make current English majors happy because it would
show that the department is recognizing achievements they
are accomplishing.

Potential Locations: Fall semester, the


large open space behind Cate 2 for a McClendon Honors College
Informal Reading Group flier
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picnic with nice weather. Spring semester, Blackbird Gastropub on campus corner has two rooms, a mezzanine
and a lounge, that can be reserved for large groups at no cost (Sunday through Wednesday).

Motivation to Participate:

1. Free food: Every event on campus has some sort of free food so, depending on location, we could make
the event potluck, or purchase a round of appetizers.
2. Convenient Scheduling: Schedule the event at a time when people arent typically busy or in class. To
maximize attendance, I recommend holding the event at the beginning of the semester when both student
and professor work load is smaller.
3. Student Recognition: Everyone likes to be recognized for their hard work. Recognize students as a group,
or individually, to show them the department cares about them.

Research: Historical Analysis on previous events within our own department and other department.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI): 25% of people within the department show up

SOLUTION 2

Another solution to our community problem that also addresses our problem of campus presence is to hold a
yearly book/school supply drive or fund raiser for a charity. There are multiple organizations dedicated to giving
books to kids such as Milk & Bookies and First Book. Milk & Bookies is a nationwide charitable organization that
gets books into the hands of thousands of children who need them, and kids across the country organize book
drives to give those books to kids who dont have access to them7. We could partner with one of these
organizations to plan a book drive for kids in the local area. Another option is to get in contact with the Norman
Public School Board or OKC School Board and organize a school supply and book drive for kids in the local area.
We could use a form of scale modeling to test the viability of this event by holding a smaller version within our
own department and then expanding it as it becomes more successful. We could
have students plan a majority of the event with perhaps one professor overseeing
the project. The drive could be held each spring so students and professors could
give donations and then we could deliver the stuff to each school. The objective of
this kind of event would be to both improve the community within the department
by getting students to rally around this event and improve our image on campus
while giving back to our community.
Milk & Bookies logo

Potential Locations: English department, entire campus, local businesses and restaurants

Motivation to Participate: Helping the community, resume building, connecting with fellow students

Research: Experience Prototype by holding a small-scale version of the event within just the English department

KPI: raise $2500 worth of school supplies and books for kids
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USER PERSONAS FOR PROBLEM 1


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PROBLEM 2: MARKETING THE DEPA RTMENT


Another issue that Ive noticed in my time as an English major in our department is that we dont market ourselves
very well on campus and dont have a strong presence compared to the other departments at our university.
Other departments/colleges on campus have extravagantly designed websites, send out mass emails about events
that they are holding, and work to be involved on campus outside of the scope of their department or college.
Our department only has a Facebook profile. With connectivity being so huge today, we need to be active on
social media. It can benefit an organization hugely because 92% of marketers in 2014 claimed that social media
marketing was important for their business, with 80% indicating their efforts increased traffic to their websites8.
On our site we have posters of events instead of photos from actual events, this subtly implies that people dont
show up to our events. Our professors photos arent uniform to one another and some change when you click on
the professors name (ex: Dr. Zeigler). Its important that our department take steps towards doing that as well so
that we can attract more students to our department and gain respect on campus. If we are known on campus
then more people will come to our events and this could potentially lead to more people majoring in English and
getting more funding.

SOLUTION 1

An easy and quick way to improve our


image on campus and help to market
ourselves and our events is by revamping
our departments website and start
actively using social media. Other
departments on campus have in-depth
websites that do a great job of marketing
what they are about. Gaylord College of
Journalism calls themselves a college of
creative minds9. No other department or
college on campus is more creative than
Gaylord College of Journalism homepage the English department. Price Business College has links to their professors
achievements on their website. Other English Departments like the University of
Utahs shares links to their professors recent published works, while University of Michigan has a calendar of
events and links to important news about people
in their department.

All of these examples have links to their social


media sites so people can stay more actively
updated. We link our Facebook, but we should
also have an active Twitter and Instagram. The
connectivity of social media makes it so we
could share posts between the three sites with
something as simple as clicking a button. We can
rewrite the introduction on our website so
people have a better idea of who we are. Right
now, although it is accurate, it sounds generic. It
doesnt show our inherent skills as English
majors and professors. Our website as it is, does a poor job of describing us. We have Price College of Business twitter
account
vast interests and skills, and we could do better to make people realize that. We can
make all of our professors photos on our website uniform so we look more professional and we can actively use
social media to market our events. Dr. Zeiglers James Baldwin class is having multiple speakers and our
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departments Facebook only shared information about the one on Feb. 21. There were a few fliers for his speaker
that came in March but no social media posts.

We should be sharing information about our events daily. This could be as simple as giving multiple professors
access to the accounts so they can share things as they come up. We can survey students within the department
to find out if they knew about events that we were having before they happened to know how much more we
need to use social media. A KPI for this solution could be if 50 people like or share our posts about events then
well know we are using social media actively enough.

SOLUTION 2

Another solution to improving our campus presence and marketing ourselves to people on campus is to have an
academic and creative writing journal that OU students can get published in. We already have World Literature
Today and the Aster Review, so we could just bring those into the fold of the English
Department and make them more connected to our department or we could start
another journal that students could get published to. The Maine review is a journal
that has a commitment to having 20% of each issue authored by Mainers10.

The University of Chicago has five journals that are featured on their website and
Notre Dame has eight. We could merge these concepts of having multiple journals
and have a specific amount of OU students published in each volume. Depending on
the type of journal we wanted to create, we could have a professor in a
corresponding area head it, and we could even partner with the University Press to
help publish it.

We could use a WordPress website for the journal which would be little to no cost and
World Literature Today issue
charge a fee for a subscription to help pay for the journal. We could contact other people
who run these journals to find out what makes them successful and find out strategies to keep it up and running.
This journal could be open for students across the university and across the country. A KPI for this journal would
be to have at least 50 submissions for the first issue and we would know it would be successful.
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USER PERSONAS FOR PROBLEM 2


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1
https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/03/14/study-shows-87-decline-humanities-bachelors-degrees-2-years
2
https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/01/26/where-have-all-english-majors-gone
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Business Recruiter for Paycom
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http://cas.ou.edu/english
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https://careerfoundry.com/en/blog/ux-design/how-to-define-a-user-persona/
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http://www.futurecommunities.net/socialdesign/188/lack-social-infrastructure-affects-community-wellbeing
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http://www.milkandbookies.org/about/
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https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/08/11/the-top-10-benefits-of-social-media-
marketing/#45a7260d1f80
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http://www.ou.edu/gaylord.html
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https://www.newpages.com/literary-magazines/maine-review