Stephen Trinkwald

Equinox Staff


The little teaching school in Keene, N.H., once known as the Keene Normal School, has expanded its breadth over the last century. What was once just a school for aspiring educators now offers undergraduate programs in more than 30 disciplines.

Communications is just one of many majors at Keene State College that continues to grow. According to Dr. Nigel Malcolm, who is serving as interim department chair for Communication and Philosophy, the department has seen rapid growth over the past few years.

“Four out of the last five years communication has graduated the most students out of all of Arts and Humanities and our major has grown by 142 percent over the last four years,” Malcolm said. KSC senior William Piro said he decided to major in communication because of the wide variety of options it can lead to. While the options are nice, Piro said he doesn’t have a set plan for after graduation.

“A major like education you have a set job when you graduate. With communications you can really do a lot of things and there’s not really a limit with what you can do,” Piro said.

He said he originally planned on majoring in journalism, but it wasn’t too long before he changed his mind. “I didn’t really want anything to do with journalism [as a major] after I took a couple classes,” Piro said. He did add he wished he had kept journalism on as a minor, however.

Junior Lora Damon said she came to KSC without knowing what she wanted as a career or even what she wanted to study during her time in college. Damon said after taking Intro to Communication she realized the vast number of paths a communication degree could lead her down. “I realized that I could apply [a] communications [major] to a lot of things, because it was so broad so I decided that would probably be the best fit for me,” Damon said.

Malcolm said he and his colleagues in the communication department try to stress the importance of how to apply the skills taught in the program to whatever field graduates want to explore. “It’s very hard to name a field in which communication won’t play a role and a person can be very intelligent but if they don’t communicate well that’s probably going to be a detriment to them in the long term, maybe even the short term,” Malcolm said. The interim department chair said that he wants his department to encourage communication students to pick up a double major.

“When I think of communication I think about communication about what? That there has to be something else that you apply it to,” Malcolm said. While Malcolm said the growth of the program has been a blessing, he said it has also been a curse.

“Being a popular major, having such rapid growth, does present us certain concerns we want to manage,” Malcolm said. He said that part of that problem is making sure students get the individual attention needed to succeed and gain the “comparative advantage” Malcolm said is important to finding a job out of school.

Of course communication isn’t the only popular major at KSC. The college is also known for its education and safety programs, something that led junior Elissa Coburn to KSC. Coburn, who is a double major in early childhood education and journalism, said KSC was not her first choice, but the combination of the school’s proximity to home, its campus and the education program’s fine reputation is what ultimately drew her here.

“It means a lot to go to Keene State [College] and have an education [degree]. So I was really excited about that. It’s well known I guess that Keene has a pretty good education department,” Coburn said.

While it was the program that helped draw Coburn here, other students, such as junior Will Steeves, said it was just about everything else that led him to transfer from the University of Rhode Island (URI) to KSC. Steeves, a biology major, said he wanted to come to KSC after visiting a friend. He said he realized that URI was a little too big and expensive for what he was looking for. Steeves said he appreciates being at a smaller school because of the opportunity for more personal interaction between professors and students.

“The people are all very helpful and teachers and staff and stuff really just want to get things done and in terms of the student they’re very helpful in that aspect,” Steeves said. Damon, a Massachusetts native, said even without knowing what she wanted to study coming out of high school, after one visit to KSC she knew this was where she wanted to do it.

“I loved the New Hampshire scenery, I loved everything, the campus; it was not too big and everything was really close,” she continued, “It was just the environment and all the people were just so welcoming it was just like; I knew once I stepped on that campus it was for me,” Damon explained.

Piro said he heard about KSC through his mother, who heard about it from a co-worker, who is a KSC alumnus. Piro said the size of the school was also a factor in coming to KSC.

“I wasn’t looking for a school that was way too big where I wouldn’t know my professors that well,” Piro said. Junior Katelyn Root said she had been familiar with KSC from when her older brother, earned his safety degree here. Root, an environmental studies major, said she originally came here to study education, but changed her mind during her freshman year. Root said that changing majors has not set her behind schedule for graduating on time.

KSC senior Craig Gurley originally planned to major in management, but when he saw many of his friends study safety, Gurley followed. “A lot of my friends did safety so I kind of just fell into it and then I started to like it after a while,” Gurley said.

While many students are concerned with the job market, Gurley said he believes there are plenty of opportunities in his field. “I think there’s a lot of safety jobs out there, so I think the job market’s pretty good,” Gurley said. Whether other students share Gurley’s concern or not, the variety and popularity KSC offers continues to appeal to students year after year.


Steven Trinkwald can be contacted at

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