Western Oregon University added six new programs and nine certificates in the last academic year that will prepare students for careers in growing job markets or to advance their careers.
WOU Biology Professor and outgoing Faculty Senate President Kristin Latham-Scott said adding a new curriculum takes into consideration the changing demographics, interests and needs of the students along with current opportunities for employment and professional programs.
Students can now earn bachelor’s degrees in Aquarium Science, Economics and Mathematics, Early Childhood Studies, Professional Studies in the Deaf Community and Cybercrime, Investigation and Enforcement and a minor in Sustainability.
The new undergraduate certificate programs are Professional Writing, Interpreting Studies: Teaching Interpreting, Gerontology: Aging and Older Adulthood, ASL Studies: Culture, ASL Studies: Linguistics, Infant and Toddler, Spanish-English Interpreting and Translation, Bilingual and Biliteracy in Spanish and Social Justice and Service Learning of Latino Communication. WOU currently offers 52 majors, with business, psychology, education, criminal justice and exercise science being the most popular majors.
“The WOU faculty thinks very carefully about the curriculum and degrees we offer at WOU so that it will be interesting, transformative, personalized and prepare our students to be successful in life after WOU,” Latham-Scott said.
It can take a department or a division more than a year to create a new program or degree and another year for it to be approved by organizations outside of WOU. The WOU Board of Trustees approved a Bachelor of Applied Science in Professional Studies in the Deaf Community and a Bachelor of Science in Cybercrime Investigation and Enforcement at its June 10 meeting. The next steps will be approval by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission and notification to WOU’s accrediting body, the NWCCU.
Cybercrime was added to the curriculum because the occupational forecast indicates projected growth of careers related to cybercrime and cybersecurity in the next decade. New programs also allow for partnerships such as the Bachelor of Science in Aquarium Science where students will study three years in Monmouth and their final year at Oregon Coast Community College. Of the dozen or so universities in the U.S. offering four-year degrees in zoo or wildlife sciences, only three have a degree that emphasizes aquarium science.
Service Learning and Career Development Director Adry Clark said WOU’s advantage of being a smaller institution is it can be nimble and responsive to needs of the job market.
“By creating certificates that position students to address current problems, our graduates will be in greater demand and more students will want to attend Western,” Clark said. “Professional certificates allow our students to receive a broad liberal arts education and have an edge in landing internships and jobs.”
Clark said many WOU students come from diverse backgrounds and are first-generation college students.
“They rely on us to help them be career ready,” Clark said. “When we give our students the training and proof in hand, via certificates, to become sought after, we help them develop confidence and agency to achieve upward mobility.”
Latham-Scott invites students to share their ideas of what they are interested in. “If we don’t currently offer it, we might consider it in the future,” she said.
She also encourages incoming and current students to talk with a WOU adviser if they don’t see the exact name of the degree they want to pursue.
“Very often, students want a suite of classes that actually are all offered at WOU, that will prepare them for what they want to do after graduating from WOU, we may just call it by a different name,” she said.