Rice University students now have access to two new minors in addition to the available curriculum: Engineering design and cinema and media studies. The minors are available for all students except graduating seniors.

The Faculty Senate approved these minors at its Oct. 5 meeting.

Engineering design

According to minor co-chair Maria Oden, who is also a professor in the practice of engineering education and the director of Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, Rice is famous for its Engineering School, and every year a cohort of students expresses their desire to pursue more engineering design education.

“We had a number of students who end up spending a lot of their time at the [OEDK]working on a variety of designing projects throughout their years of undergraduate,” Oden said. “While they felt very happy and satisfied with the opportunity that they had to work on designing projects, they expressed to me that they would really love to have an academic credential that we demonstrate their enhanced expertise in engineering design.”

Ann Saterbak, minor co-chair and the associate dean of engineering education, said for students who want to continue on their freshman design projects, or who identify new projects after freshmen experience, this minor can help them prepare for capstone project, which refers to the final year design project that engineering students take.

“This minor may fulfill some gaps between [students’] freshmen design course and their capstone senior design course.” Saterbak said.

The engineering design minor offers includes four core courses and requires students to take at least two additional elective courses and participate in at least two projects.

According to Oden and Saterbak, students who pursue this minor are expected to have deeper understanding of engineering design process and apply the knowledge from their majors to real life.

“It is our hope that students will bring the technical skills that they are learning in their disciplines, and apply those to projects that they work on in the design courses, so we are sort of supplementing but not taking place the engineering education they are getting from their majors,” Oden said.

Statistics major Harry Chen said there may not be many students who earn this minor despite the amount of expressed interest.

“It is a good opportunity for students to apply their theoretical knowledge to real life and learn about practical experience, but for engineering students, the workload of this new minor might be overwhelming, because team work for projects really need a lot of time,” Chen, a McMurtry College senior, said. “For non-engineering students, it is meaningless to take this minor.”

Baker College sophomore Jasmin Taylor said she supports the minor for its collaborative aspect.

“Students can work together with new ideas, and have more background of working with other people,” Taylor said.

Cinema and media studies

The cinema and media studies minor was mostly advocated by faculty who felt that similar programs in many universities, and films and other forms of media have profound impacts worthy of study and research, according to Lida Oukaderova, an assistant professor of art history and now heading the minor.

“Film and media studies programs exist pretty much in every university in U.S.,” Oukaderova said. “We are surrounded by moving images, so it is important to understand what effects they have on our life and why we desire to see them. It is a long history of attempt to understand what they mean, which constitutes the film study.”

Cinema and media studies requires students to complete at least three core courses and three additional courses. It covers general courses of film history, and focuses on theoretical analysis of cinema and other visual media. Students will learn how to analyze a film and how media affects our daily lives from this minor.

“Students will have a good grasp of film history, tools of how to analyze film, media and develop critical thinking skills and research skills — how to go from watching a particular film to understanding how this film is operating in a particular culture, moment and history,” Oukaderova said.

Lin Guo, a Jones College sophomore, said she thinks the minor will be useful in developing students’ analytical abilities.

“We don’t have anything specific on this field at this moment, and I think these courses do help students to develop critical thinking skills and to be a better thinker,” Guo said.

Ruby Pan, a Jones freshman, said she feels the minor lacks practicality in a real world context.

“It is an attractive minor, and I am sure that many students will have interests on it,” Pan said. “However, I don’t know what real things I can do after taking it. It seems useless in the real world.”