Regents approve UI request for Bachelors in Screenwriting degree

The University of Iowa received approval from the state Board of Regents to begin offering a Bachelors in Screenwriting for students in Fall 2020.


Katie Goodale

Board members listen during the Board of Regents meeting on September 12, 2018 in the IMU Main Lounge. Regents members discussed remodeling various buildings and sights across various Iowa campuses.

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter

After three years of discussion and support from faculty, alums, and students, the University of Iowa will offer a much-anticipated bachelor’s in screenwriting arts after approval by the state Board of Regents on Sept. 19.

The degree will highlight and complement the writing program and corresponding classes already offered at the UI, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Tanya Uden-Holman said at the regents’ Sept. 18 meeting.

Although other colleges in Iowa offer courses and programs related to digital media, none offer degrees in filmmaking like the UI does, Uden-Holman said. Similarly, no degree such as the new UI screenwriting program existed before its approval.

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“Although we don’t currently have a screenwriting program, we do have multiple alumni of the University of Iowa that have come through English, creative writing, and other degree programs and other majors that have done very well in the industry,” Uden-Holman said.

The degree will require 42 credit hours, and students will take introductory courses alongside the B.A. in cinema, UI Cinematic Arts Professor Steven Ungar said. In their final two years of study, students will take courses teaching long and short-form writing, and learn the history and theory of screenwriting, he added.

Students in the program will also be required to take nine credit hours of cinema or a neighboring program such as theatre arts or creative writing, Ungar said.

“This major intends to work by creating a custom plan of study between the student, and the adviser, and the faculty,” Ungar said. “We’re not looking to churn out screenwriters. We’re looking to exploit all the resources in creative writing, the Writers’ Workshop, and theatre arts.”

Planning for the degree stemmed from collaboration between communications studies, the theatre-arts program, and the English department, Ungar said.

The UI will offer courses in the program starting in the spring semester, he said, but the major will begin in fall 2019, as soon as its added to the school’s system.

“[The screenwriting program] will help to make the University of Iowa a destination university for students interested in creative writing in the context of visual cultures,” Ungar said.

The Cinematic Arts Department taught its students screenwriting for decades, even without a major, Department Chair Paula Amad said.

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The major will also respond to the increased demand for writers and careers in the film industry, with the emergence of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming services in the last decade, she said.

Amad and her colleagues are confident students will be excited about this degree and said there is a healthy and strong student demand for screenwriting. Faculty have worked to give students this degree opportunity, she said.

“We really see it as building upon the University of Iowa’s international renown for writing and for film studies and filmmaking, and what the screenwriting major does is it actually bridges the two,” Amad said. “It bridges the art of writing with the art of cinema, and that is screenwriting.”

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