Keeping on track: a closer look at potential academic additions

Category:  News
Wednesday, February 28th, 2018 at 6:20 PM
Keeping on track: a closer look at potential academic additions by Hannah McDonald
Graphic: Hannah McDonald

Off in the not-so-distant future, Edinboro’s academic catalog could look a bit different. The possibility of academic additions is looming for the Fall 2018 and Fall 2019 semesters. 

In recent years, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) has made changes to realign schools’ degree programs with what they’ve identified as needs of local and national workforces. This has resulted in the Board of Governors approving 59 new degree programs since 2015, covering 12 of the 14 PASSHE schools. 

For Edinboro, the original programs up for consideration in 2017-2018 were a Bachelor of Science in applied leadership, a Bachelor of Science in health science, a Bachelor of Science in brewing and fermentation science, a Bachelor of Science in actuarial science, a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Science in physician assistant practice and two post-baccalaureate certificates in financial planning and public accounting. So far, the Master of Business Administration has been approved. 

Beginning in 2016, Edinboro University created working groups (made up of professors, students and professionals) to research changes that would most positively impact the campus. These working groups evaluated the local economic needs and, with their help, Edinboro proposed additional degree programs for approval by the Board of Governors. 

“In terms of additional approvals,” Edinboro University Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Michael Hannan said, “At the January meeting, the BOG (Board of Governors) also approved a change delegating their authority to approve new degree programs to the chancellor.”

Hannan explained that this means when Edinboro submits new programs “through the chancellor’s office for their usual feedback and review,” the program can “be approved at that point by the chancellor, rather than wait for the next Board of Governors meeting.”

As the Board of Governors only meets quarterly, having the ability to go through the chancellor’s office should help quicken the approval process, Hannan explained. 

As of now, “A number of new programs are in the on-campus curriculum review process, and those needing to receive approvals from the office of the chancellor will be sent there as soon as they are through Edinboro’s internal review and approval process,” Angela Burrows, assistant vice president of marketing and communications, said. “We expect to be launching a number of new programs in Fall 2018 with more to come in Fall 2019.”

That said, it is unclear which of the other proposed programs will be approved next. 

“Given that they’ve not yet been approved at the state level, we can’t reveal details of specific programs,” Burrows said. “We can share that we have multiple programs in the development stage in the following areas: health care, applied sciences and applied data and computing.” 

Looking to the potential future

With the proposition of new programs and degrees in the works, changes are likely coming to Edinboro.

For the average person who is not an academic planner, it’s hard to picture what the addition of a new program might entail for Edinboro. Looking to other universities with programs in actuarial science, fermentation and brewing, and health sciences, though, gives some insight as to what the addition of these degrees may bring to Edinboro.

Before further investigation of what an actuarial science degree involves, Burrows noted the potential program is actually a revision of the already available program within the Bachelor of Science mathematics degree. “We will not be launching a standalone degree in that field at this time,” Burrows made clear. 

Actuaries compile and analyze statistics to calculate insurance risks, which is why it makes sense that the program is currently housed in the mathematics department.

If Edinboro was to approve the actuarial science degree, the program would be based around preparing students to take the preliminary exams organized by the Society of Actuaries, predicted Dr. Jean Lemaire, a professor of the same field at Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania. He has served as the director of Penn’s actuarial program since 1987.

“In other countries, actuarial programs are more independent, and actuarial professors have more freedom to design their courses as they see fit, but in the U.S. you can only be a certified actuary by passing a long series of professional exams, so actuarial programs have little choice but to follow the exam program designed by the Society of Actuaries or the Casualty Actuarial Society,” Lemaire explained. 

On average, 40 percent of those graduating with an actuarial degree will go on to work in insurance. The remaining percentage of people with this degree find work in the financial industry or work as financial consultants.  

Though these jobs are important to the economy — Erie especially as it is home to Erie Insurance, one of the largest local employers — Dr. Yvonne Yaz, professor and program director of actuarial science at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, said this may not be the best program for Edinboro to put its resources into. 

“It is a little too late to offer an actuarial science program, since almost every school has recently added a degree plan in this area,” Yaz said. “The market has already been saturated with actuaries, so only the best of the best will be able to find employment; there are not enough jobs in the market for all the graduates with a degree in AS. So, I don’t really advise them (Edinboro) to pursue that.” 

On the opposing side of Yaz’s opinion, CNNMoney published a report in May 2017 stating the actuary job field is projected to grow by 18 percent in the future. 

The art of fermenting

About 1,400 miles away, a state university in the Rocky Mountains is home to a Bachelor of Science in fermentation science and technology. Could Colorado State University provide a blueprint for Edinboro’s possible program?

CSU’s program is part of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. “Designed to prepare and educate students in the science and art of fermenting foods and beverages,” reads the program’s mission statement, “(The) degree program includes the development of practical research and outreach initiatives to answer questions facing the growing fermentation-related industries in Colorado, the United States and the world.”

Jeff Callaway, the associate director of CSU’s program, has spoken several times on various podcasts about the program. In an interview from January for a podcast called “The Session” — produced by The Brewing Network — Callaway said, “Brewing isn’t hanging out in shorts and sandals, like woo...let’s just drink beer all day.” 

Their program has three focal points that align with the current market, Callaway explained: food fermentation, research and brewing.

A student in CSU’s program spends their first year taking a plethora of core and math classes. As a sophomore, one is expected to take organic chemistry and microbial biology in addition to business computing concepts and science of food fermentation. 

Many of the courses offered by CSU and required for the fermentation science and technology degree are classes already hosted at EU.

At Edinboro, students pursuing a degree in chemistry take organic chemistry “1” and “2” and have the option to take principles of programming as part of their math requirements. Additionally, courses in biology, physics and other core classes are required.

Once the program was approved by the Colorado Board of Governors, two breweries were built on campus, allowing the program to begin in August 2013. 

Another state school, a little closer to home, has a degree in health sciences that can be analyzed.

“It is the perfect undergraduate program for students desiring a professional degree in healthcare fields such as medicine, physical therapy, occupational therapy, physician assistant, or dietetics. For those graduates seeking employment, there are many opportunities in the rapidly growing world of wellness,” Dr. Suzane M. Leson, division director of health sciences, medical dietetics and injury biomechanics at Ohio State, said.

Ohio State offers the health sciences program both online and on campus. Regardless of what medium they complete their degree in through, students take courses in a broad range of subjects, including medical terminology, physiology, anatomy and management principles, said Leson. 

“This type of degree is perfect for the student who wants to work in healthcare, but may not be too sure exactly what field. It provides the pre-requisites for most graduate professional programs,” she said. 

As far as the physician assistant program, Burrows said it is “currently in development, but will take multiple years to bring online due to a long accreditation and professional review process.”

Program Positivity

With this insight from similar universities, it is now slightly easier to imagine how these proposed programs may influence Edinboro University if approved. 

While there is nothing definite yet, and no one knows if the programs discussed will be added to Edinboro’s academic catalogue, Burrows expressed excitement about the possibilities. 

“Our hope is that the introduction of these new programs will attract more students to the university and provide expanded opportunities for continuing students,” Burrows said. 

And changes are already underway. “In areas where we need additional faculty resources, such as for the MBA, new faculty are being hired,” she said. “For many of the other programs, we already have the faculty expertise and other resources in place to offer the programs.” 

Hannah McDonald can be reached at

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