Regents approve five new UAS programs

University officials hope expanded offerings will draw more students

Posted: Friday, February 21, 2003

Alleyne Koyuk thought she would have to leave Juneau to further her education in computers, but a new degree program at the University of Alaska Southeast will keep her here.

UAS officials hope that decision will be repeated many times as they begin to offer two new certificate programs and three new bachelor's degrees next fall in Juneau.

The University of Alaska Board of Regents, meeting this morning at the Juneau campus, approved one-year certificate programs in automotive technology and building science, and bachelor's degree programs in English, social science and information systems.

"We believe one of our limitations as a university has been the low number of programs we've been able to offer, not only to attract students but to retain them," said Paul Kraft, the dean of students and enrollment management.

UAS in Juneau has about 700 full-time undergraduates and 1,500 part-time students. The problem is that only about a fifth of full-time freshmen seeking bachelor's degrees are still enrolled four years later, according to university information.

The new bachelor of science degree in information sciences will keep Koyuk, 25, at the campus for at least two more years. She earned an associate's degree in computer information and office systems last semester.

"The industry is changing, and I think the B.S.I.S. degree is really important because it gives students hands-on experience with new and emerging technology that's really important in the industry," she said.

Department faculty said the new degree is one of perhaps a dozen such programs in the country. It meets a practical need that briefer certificate programs in computer use and mathematically oriented bachelor degrees in computer science don't fill, they said.

The degree prepares students for careers in network administration, application programming and e-commerce on the Internet.

"We can teach people how to write a Web page in a single class," said Steve Johnson, an assistant professor of computer information and office systems. "... An e-commerce site is like an ad in a magazine. 'Can I get sales? Can I make it work?' That takes more skills than one or even several courses can teach."

Faculty hope the new bachelor's degrees in English and social science will attract students who want more focus on their chosen discipline than they would get under the current bachelor of liberal arts degree, which allows an emphasis in those studies and others.

But an emphasis isn't the same as a major, students said. The B.A. in social science requires 57 credits in the field, compared to the 30 credits needed for an emphasis in the liberal arts degree. Courses are three credits.

"People want to major," said assistant professor of psychology Shelley Theno. "It's a sense of belonging to a major in an area. It's dedicating yourself to a discipline and owning."

Students will be better prepared for the job market and graduate school under the more focused degree, Theno said.

Daniel Peterson, 20, a Juneau School Board member and UAS undergraduate with an emphasis in government, said he was planning to transfer out of state rather than complete a liberal arts degree in Juneau. But he may join the new bachelor's in social science program instead.

It "offers a better opportunity for the growing minority of traditional students coming out of high school," he said. "It lets them focus on a set of disciplines. The B.L.A. is fairly broad in its requirements."

The bachelor's degree in English will suit students who want to teach English in elementary or secondary schools, go to graduate school, or take entry-level jobs in fields that heavily use writing, faculty said.

Students who want to teach "really wanted a bachelor's program that was much more content-rich, that was focused in language and literature," said assistant professor of English Alexis Easley.

The program includes a specialization in literature and the environment that could become "a magnet program for people in the region, if not the country," she said.

The liberal arts degree will continue to be offered in several fields.

Students in the new vocational certificate programs will be eligible for loans, and the programs include academic courses that can be applied to associate degrees, faculty said.

The certificate in residential building science will be one of a handful of such programs in the United States, said assistant professor of construction technology Marquam George.

"This is the physics of building, something that's really lacking," he said. "We learn how to put buildings up, but we don't understand the systems or dynamics."

The course - intended for builders, lenders and inspectors - studies the health effects and energy use of housing.

"It's how health and housing collide," Marquam said. "We think fashion overrides physics. It doesn't work that way."

The certificate in automotive technology, designed for entry-level jobs, will focus on four areas automotive employers in Southeast said were most important to them, said assistant professor of automotive technology Tony Martin.

"It's a wonderful first step," said Steve Allwine, co-owner of the Mendenhall Auto Center dealership. "Automotive technicians are very well paid. It's to the point when it truthfully requires an education. You can't do stuff off the cuff anymore. ... There are more computers on a car than there were on the first lunar landing module."

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