Students make a case for photography major

By Carolo Pascale

want to do for their career. They look at colleges and what programs they offer and decide which college best suits them. Some schools don’t offer majors in certain fields, and Rider is no different.

Rider offers over 100 majors, but looking specifically at the communications, journalism and media department, there are only six different majors. Sports media, the newest of the communication majors, was only added in 2016.

Photography is an expansive field

With just six majors, it’s hard to cover a lot of ground in those fields, and a photography major is something that could be used to expand the communications department. Photography as a whole is a vast and expansive career with aspects that could offer students success.

“The [photography] profession can offer students a rewarding career path. Photography can also be a great hobby and creative outlet for many students,” said Marketing and Communications photographer Peter Borg.

Rider does not offer photography as a major, with the closest option being graphic design. However, there is a single photography class, which five of the six communications majors are required to take.

Professor Jessi Oliano, who is one of the two professors that teach the course, said that many students enjoy taking the photography class and that there is definite interest in photography among students.

“Every semester, I get students who are like, ‘I loved your class, can we have a photo two class?’ and ‘I would love to have a photo two class,’ or some students say, ‘Can we have this as a major?’” said Oliano. “There’s always a waitlist. Every semester, I teach spring, I teach fall, I teach J-term, and I teach in the summer. And it always fills; there’s always a waitlist. So there’s clearly a demand for photography.”

Clear interest from students

Despite requiring five majors to take the photography course, Rider doesn’t offer any more photography courses or a major or minor on the subject.

Many other schools in Rider’s general vicinity, like Drexel University, Temple University, Arcadia University and the University of Pennsylvania, offer some form of a photography major. Because of this, students may choose to pursue their education at those other colleges over Rider.

Christian Angelini, a sophomore media studies and production major at Temple University, who came to Rider’s Broncast camp in the summer of 2018, said that if the university had a photography major, he “definitely would have considered Rider a lot more.”

Ashley Smithson, a sophomore photography major at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), transferred from Rider in 2020 because of this issue.

“I left Rider because of the fact that they didn’t have photography. For me, this was really hard. I loved the school, the campus, professors and all the people I had met,” said Smithson. “I was going to college and getting a good education for a very good price as well. I was on the cheer team too, and, overall, I was having a great time in college at Rider. Essentially, I had to leave this all behind to go after the major I wanted, even though deep in my heart, I wanted to stay.”

Students that are currently at Rider also would like to see a photography major be added to the communications program.

Andrew Xon, a junior graphic design major and photo editor for The Rider News said that Rider should see the potential benefits of a photography major.

“I think that Rider should have a photography major because it will help students who do want to pursue a career in photography gain the knowledge on what the career is about,” said Xon.

One of the students currently in Oliano’s photography class, Elise Spedding, a junior public relations major, spoke about how Rider should have a photography major considering all of its other choices in the communications department.

“I think photography should be a major because we already have classes and already have graphic design. We have sports media, but why not have one specifically for photography? I feel like that’s something that is growing right now, especially because of how easy it is to take photos nowadays,” Spedding said.

Another one of the students in the class, Matt Minton, a senior sports media major, echoed the sentiment as Xon and Spedding.

“When you look at the media industry and how digitized it’s become along with journalism too, and how important photos and the idea of visuals are in self-expression, I think it would be a wise idea for Rider to incorporate a photography major,” said Minton.

What could a photography major entail?

In terms of what classes could be offered in the photography major, they could be focused on the different aspects of photography.

Photography professor Andrew Wilkinson said that many components in the current photography class could be classes in a photography major.

“We look at things in the history of photography that’s relevant, which theoretically could be its own class, ideas in black and white, which again, could be its own class, ideas in portraiture, which could be its own class. So there’s so much that we could cover,” said Wilkinson.

Teaching so many aspects of photography in only a 12-week course is very hard and with that short of a window, it’s very hard to cover all of photography’s bases. With a full major, students would be able to learn the in-depth parts of photography and be able to find opportunities in the field such as internships and portfolio building experiences.

What a photography major can provide

Rider is all about giving opportunities to students to get involved and find a way to help them succeed in their respective fields of study. Those opportunities make Rider special as such a small college, however there are very few for photography. With a photography major, there would be so many opportunities for students to excel and get real-world experience in the photography field.

Angelini said, “With all of the opportunities around the campus and sports, it would make so many good moments to benefit from with a photography major.”

Both staff and students think that Rider should add a photography major. It’s something that would help improve the communications program and help bring in more students.

Smithson said, “I think they should have a photography major to simply just broaden the horizons of the programs and majors that they have. … Seeing they have film and television, I think adding photography would attract more students as well as help a ton of students who may have been or are currently in the shoes I was in a few years back, transferring out of the school simply because they don’t have photography.”

And as for if a photography major could happen in the future, Rider should seriously take a hard look at it and think about adding it to its communication program.

“It’s time to plan for growth. It’s something that the department needs to kind of discuss and as a whole, see if they can support something like that, too. And if there’s a demand for it I think that’s something that should be definitely investigated and researched,” said Oliano.

A photography major would only help to make Rider better for students and give them more opportunities in a field that can yield incredible success.

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