UAS to offer math, marine biology degrees, more health programs

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The University of Alaska Southeast can start dangling several newly offered degrees and certificates before prospective students.

The University of Alaska Board of Regents last week approved bachelor of science degrees in mathematics and marine biology at the Juneau campus, and an associate of applied science degree in health sciences at all three UAS campuses - Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka.

The regents also approved certificate programs in health information management privacy and pre-nursing qualifications, and a community wellness advocate program.

Officials said they hope the offerings attract more students and keep them from leaving after a couple of years for schools with the degrees or certificates they seek.

"We're hoping, assuming, that more students would come to UAS to get a math degree if we had the actual B.S. (degree) as opposed to just the emphasis," said Brian Blitz, assistant professor of mathematics.

The Juneau campus enrolls 613 full-time students and 1,321 part-time students, officials said. About 800 students are enrolled full-time at the three campuses combined.

But only about a fifth of full-time freshmen seeking bachelor's degrees are still enrolled four years later. That figure underestimates the retention rate because it doesn't refer to part-time students, of which there are many, or students who stay in Juneau but take courses through another branch of the state university, Chancellor John Pugh pointed out.

The new programs won't require added funding, UAS officials said.

The math and marine biology curricula aren't new to UAS, but so far they have been offered as "emphases" in liberal arts or biology degrees.

Offering majors will allow undergraduates to take more courses in their field and be better prepared for graduate school, said Provost Robbie Stell. The math major will be useful to students who want to teach math in secondary schools, she added.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires teachers to show they are well-qualified in their academic field, such as by majoring in the subject.

The new majors round out the university's effort to offer degrees in the core areas of the liberal arts, Stell said. The regents approved majors in English and social science last year, among other new programs.

"We're well-positioned now to work on the teacher shortage at the secondary level, where content majors are the entrants," she said.

It's too early to say whether the majors approved in February 1993 have drawn more students, Stell said, because they were approved after many of this school year's freshmen were recruited.

The regents also approved four health care-related programs.

The programs provide the ground-level courses to help students work toward health care professions such as nursing, information management, and laboratory and technical work, said Sheryl Washburn, patient care administrator at Bartlett Regional Hospital.

"There's a shortage of nearly all health care professionals, some more than others," Washburn said. It's expensive and difficult for Alaska providers to recruit out of state, she said.

The community wellness advocate program, based in Sitka and available in rural sites, would be offered in conjunction with the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, the Native health care provider in Southeast.

Wellness advocates promote good nutrition and healthy lifestyles in villages, said Robert Sewell, the health science coordinator for UAS.

The certificate program in health information management privacy, offered in Sitka and by distance delivery statewide, prepares health care workers in how to handle and when to disclose information about patients.

The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act limits what providers can disclose about patients.

"As time has gone by, Americans have gotten more apprehensive about their personal information spread around in ways they did not anticipate," Sewell said.

The certificate program in pre-nursing qualifications will be offered at all three UAS campuses. It prepares students to enter nursing programs, such as that offered by the University of Alaska Anchorage in Juneau and Ketchikan this school year and in Sitka next school year.

The certificate programs are designed as part of career ladders so that graduates can get entry-level jobs in the field, then go on for associate's degrees and higher degrees.

The associate of applied science in health sciences degree will be offered at all three campuses. It's intended for students interested in a variety of health care jobs.

In the past, students might have taken a variety of courses without sufficient advice on what to take to meet their career goals, university officials said.

"It often ended up being a bunch of bricks lying around, but no building," Sewell said.

• Eric Fry can be reached at

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