Developing a Major

John Coggin describes what it was like to create his own major and how he became involved with the Department of Communication.

Interview on 2012-05-30


00:00:00.000 Well, I accidentally signed up for a communication major.
00:00:03.409 Growing up I did not have an imaginary friend like most people have imaginary friends.
00:00:10.065 I had an imaginary television station, John TV-I was very original-
00:00:14.505 so I had always had this sort of fascination with television and television production.
00:00:19.801 Then, you can tell I was a very discerning high school student, I looked at the list of majors in the application
00:00:26.637 and I thought it was: Check something you're interested in.
00:00:30.587 So I saw "Communication Media: Film and TV Production" and thought, cool! You can major in television?
00:00:35.876 So I checked that box thinking, okay, I want to learn more about this.
00:00:39.430 Well I get my acceptance letter in the mail saying, "Congratulations, John, you've been accepted into the College of Humanities and Social Sciences as a communication major."
00:00:47.578 I thought: What? I didn't mean to do this.
00:00:49.962 But I sort of stuck with it. The freshman semester they put you into the introductory communication class.
00:00:56.572 I had Ed Funkhouser as my professor for that, who is the voice of the Wolfpack at the NC State football games
00:01:03.182 and who has been my mentor ever since,
00:01:05.892 and I fell in love with it and I knew that's what I wanted to do for my major,
00:01:10.528 because if I had gone into something like the First Year College
00:01:15.136 I never would have been able to settle on my major because I'm interested in so many things,
00:01:19.750 but with communication the way we communicate has an impact on so many different disciplines and areas of life.
00:01:27.372 Whether it's in science or whether it's in politics or whether it's in art,
00:01:32.269 being able to communicate with each other has a great impact on how successful we are in our endeavors,
00:01:40.019 and having such a broad focus, but also such an important one, was just wonderful for me in my college education and future career.
00:01:51.594 So I chose my communication major with a media concentration and I stuck with that,
00:01:56.052 and then I had all this extra time. I entered as a sophomore
00:02:01.510 so I could take some classes on the side and I was trying to decide what to do with that time
00:02:07.141 to coalesce it into some sort of program.
00:02:09.280 I went into my advisor one day
00:02:12.503 and said I want to do three minors. I want to do biology, history, and religious studies.
00:02:19.688 Her name's Sandy Stallings and she's one of the heads of the interdisciplinary studies program
00:02:26.821 as well as a communication advisor,
00:02:29.053 so she said, "Have you ever thought about putting those together into your own major?"
00:02:32.824 So I said, "No, but I'll think about it."
00:02:35.494 So I designed a major studying science and religion in American society,
00:02:40.356 how they interact, how they clash,
00:02:42.914 and the sort of sociological implications of that.
00:02:46.137 That was an incredible experience because I got to design my major.
00:02:50.164 I got to take courses-. The whole point is to build bridges between colleges at NC State.
00:02:54.960 So often we create these silos of academia where science has to talk with science
00:03:00.199 and CALS has to talk with CALS and CHASS has to talk with CHASS,
00:03:04.850 but to create a program that's explicitly designed to cross those silos
00:03:11.340 and break them down, so to speak, was a really great experience at State
00:03:15.538 because I was able to take biology and anthropology and genetics courses
00:03:20.471 and pair them with history and sociology
00:03:24.893 and think about how they interacted and how they interplayed, so I thought that ended up being a very good choice for my major.