LJWL Announces New English Major For Fall 2024

By: Amber Paulin

This month, Point Loma Nazarene University’s Department of Literature, Journalism, Writing and Languages (LJWL) has informed its students that the department will be welcoming a new major this coming fall: English.

Professor of American literature Karl Martin, a graduate of LJWL who has taught at PLNU for 26 years, explained that the English major will be a consolidation of three existing academic paths: the writing major, the literature major and the literature major with a concentration in education.

“Historically, we have had a literature major for decades,” Martin said. “But the writing major is fairly new — it’s been developed in the last 15 to 20 years when we saw the kind of demand there was. We noticed that there were students that wanted writing, but didn’t want to be journalists.”

The new major came as a surprise to some students in the department. 

“I was kind of shocked,” said Vanessa Venegas, a first-year now-English major with a concentration in education. Venegas was formerly majoring in literature-English education, but after learning of changes within the program in the State of California regarding teaching certification, Venegas made the switch.

Some members of the LJWL faculty view the curricular change of creating an English major as a way to meet the needs of students.

According to professor of literature Bettina Pedersen, who has taught at PLNU since 2000, the state of California changed its requirements for those seeking certification to teach middle school and high school students in California.

Pedersen said that “as long as [prospective educators] come from a Bachelor of Arts degree in the subject that they want to teach, and the Bachelor of Arts degree names that subject in the first word of the earned degree,” prospective educators are free to get teaching certification for that subject. 

Essentially, according to Pedersen, this means that former literature and writing majors switching over to the English program are free to pursue certification as English teachers and instruct middle school and high school students in literature and composition. However, PLNU’s English majors will still be able to pursue their specific interests by choosing between three distinct concentrations: English-literature, English-writing and English-education.

Pedersen recommends that those interested in pursuing education certification after graduation stick to the English-education track. Still, “the really wonderful reality,” Pedersen said, “is that all three of these concentrations will be a direct pathway to teaching.”

Rachel Lemmen, a third-year writing major, said she thinks that this new program provides an exciting alternative for those interested in pursuing education. “I think it will benefit people who want to be teachers… if you [want] to study writing, you could still get your teaching credentials, which is super cool.”

However, Lemmen said that she will not be changing her major to English-writing because as a junior, it is not feasible at this point.

In addition to keeping up with new teaching guidelines, Pedersen said LJWL is also interested in providing their literature, writing and education students with more variety and overlap within their coursework.

“We wanted to create a strong core of classes that all of those students would be in together,” Pedersen said.

Every branch of the English major will now be required to complete a uniform 48 units, and at the heart of the major will be a set of shared classes in which all three concentrations will participate.

For example, Venegas said that as an English-education student, she will now take ENG 2020, an introductory creative writing course previously required exclusively for writing majors. In turn, former writing majors will be required to take a couple more literature classes.

“Joining the major programs together will give the students of related disciplines a few more classes where they can be together,” Martin said.

Although LJWL is excited at the prospect of uniting sister disciplines and widening career paths for students, another concern came into play in making this decision: class sizes.

“The lit major has varied in size from year to year,” Martin said. “The numbers went down during COVID, and enrollments have not rebounded from the pandemic as quickly as we would have liked. As of fall 2023, there were 13 writing majors, and 25 lit majors — and the number of lit majors would be split in half between literature and English-education.”

And according to Martin, “The university would like to limit the amount of classes with less than ten students.”

Pedersen also said that as they stood, the titles of the programs may have been hindering the department’s ability to draw new students into these paths of study. 

“For most prospective students interested in this field, they typically look for English majors,” Pedersen said. “And if they are looking for that now [at PLNU], that’s not what they’re finding. They’re finding literature or finding writing.”

In other words, according to Pedersen, PLNU’s nonconformity to the typical program labeling “may actually be a deterrent.”

“It’s an admissions thing,” Pedersen said. “It will make it easier to attract new students.”

Martin said he is excited about the English major and to see where it leads in the department.

“I hope that it encourages camaraderie between students and creates a diverse program,” Martin said.