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UVSC wants to offer 4-year `integrated' degree

A new four-year degree proposed for Utah Valley State College will create future employees who are critical thinkers and are better grounded in the liberal arts, administrators say.

Many students leave UVSC after one or two years because they fail to get a good liberal arts grounding, the proposal said. That should change with the new "integrated studies" baccalaureate degree."This has been on our minds for about three years. We've been gathering data for two years and have been working hard on it for five months and extra hard for the past two months," said Lucille Stoddard, vice president for academic affairs, of the proposed degree. The major will offer a liberal arts grounding combined with business, science or technical training using "fields of study UVSC has traditionally offered," the proposal says.

But Elaine Englehardt, assistant vice president of academic affairs, said a similar degree was turned down about five years ago, probably because some on the Board of Regents "thought we ought to be a `voc tech' school. But people in this valley are demanding it."

UVSC has more than 15,000 students with about 10,000 freshmen, 3,000 sophomores, 1,250 juniors and 700 seniors. In past years about 7,000 students have left after the first year, but only 1,400 transfer to other colleges, Englehardt said. The rest drop out, although some may go on LDS missions. "We don't really know," she said.

"The students have been very involved in the degree. They really want it," Englehardt said.

Dave Nabrotzki, a student senator with the Associated Students of Utah Valley State College, is behind a push to get students involved. It failed to pass earlier because it lacked student support, he said.

Not so this time. Nabrotzki organized two days of campaigning on campus with petitions and an education effort explaining "why it's important for UVSC to get this degree," he said.

"We collected 500 student surveys with about 2,500 names. They were very supportive of this degree and we coordinated (the effort) with Dr. Englehardt and (President Kerry) Romesburg," the college sophomore said.

"The degree is written. It goes to the (UVSC) Board of Trustees on Thursday and to the Regents in November as a non-action item," Stoddard said. "It's being circulated among the vice presidents of all the institutions in the state for their responses right now."

The integrated studies major is an interdisciplinarian approach that gives students 13 areas of emphasis - from science to the liberal arts to business.

"It's a degree that's offered at the University of Utah, Weber State, Utah State and BYU. We see it as the degree of the future," said Stoddard.

"Students won't be just taking classes in the sciences, social sciences, art or history," said Englehardt. "Instead they'll be integrating that with business and technology."

Stoddard said she had lunch recently with the executive of a major builder of passenger jet aircraft who emphasized the need for continued learning. "He happened to mention that CEOs are really looking at lifetime learning because technology changes so fast. They're always educating their employees, so they need (people with) a softer background," she said. "They need people who are interested in teaming, have a strong commitment (to the business) and who understand business fundamentals. They need a broader approach. That is what this degree does."

Employers want people who are flexible and capable of retraining, she added.

Future integrated studies students will be giving presentations using cutting-edge technology and will learn how to use newly developed technology because that's what business wants. Future employers want people who have good judgment, are problem solvers, can collaborate with others and are good at manipulating words and numbers, she said.

The discipline would give each student three faculty members to act as advisors and guide them in their course of study. "In the past we were very narrow. Now we need superb managers with a keen sense of judgment (who have) leadership qualities, can negotiate well, think well, write well and speak well. That's really what it's all about," Stoddard said.

The degree will include a strong ethics component that also teaches critical thinking and problem solving. Englehardt calls that a strong selling feature.

UVSC offers a core or series of ethics classes now. That will be required, along with two classes in professional and practical ethics. More ethics classes will be designed once the degree is approved. Future ethics classes would more closely deal with students' areas of emphasis, she said.

The degree requires a total of 124 semester hours of study, including 64 hours that will earn students an associate of arts or an associate of science degree in a specific field. Once they complete that degree, students will move on to 15 hours in integrated core classes, 18 hours in a specialty area and 18 hours integrating that with the sciences, business, technology or a trade. Students will also take nine hours of electives, often prerequisites for other classes.

The degree would be in both bachelor of science and bachelor of arts forms.