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YSU to focus on STEM fields to aid Valley success



Published: Thu, October 26, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Transition teams are being formed, and the change could take place next fall.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A plan designed to emphasize the growing importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics would reorganize two of Youngstown State University's colleges.

"Increasing the visibility, academic effectiveness and enrollment in so-called STEM fields is key to the future economic well-being of the region, state and the nation," Provost Robert K. Herbert said. "It is important that YSU align its academic programs in such a way to better address those disciplines in the 21st century."

YSU's academic division has six colleges -- engineering and technology, arts and sciences, health and human services, fine and performing arts, education and business.

Herbert's plan calls for reorganizing the colleges of engineering and technology, and arts and sciences.

The new breakdown

The result would be one college focusing on STEM disciplines, including biology, chemistry, geology, physics, computer science and information systems; mathematics and statistics; civil, environmental and chemical engineering; engineering technology; mechanical and industrial engineering; and electrical and computer engineering.

The second college would focus on humanities and social science disciplines, including English, history, psychology, sociology and anthropology; philosophy and religious studies; political science; economics; foreign languages and literature; and geography.

Under the planned shifting of programs, arts and sciences would essentially be reduced by 50 percent and engineering would increase accordingly, Herbert said. He said that the changes are structural only and that the university will continue to offer the same degrees through the same departments with the same faculty.

The names of the colleges would be changed to reflect their new directions, he said, noting that new names have not yet been selected.

There is no significant immediate cost to implement the changes, because no new programs or departments are being created, he said.

New programs, faculty members

However, there is hope that the changes will eventually lead to the development of new programs that will require extra faculty members to teach, Herbert said. Biomedical engineering would be a nice program to add, he suggested.

The plan involves a realignment of departments, which will require the approval of Dr. David C. Sweet, YSU president.

The YSU Board of Trustees won't have to vote on this particular change, Herbert said, though it will be asked to endorse the overall Academic Strategic Plan, of which it is a part, Herbert said.

The reorganization could be implemented fall semester 2007, he said, noting that transition committees are being set up next week.

"This is an important opportunity for the university to advance itself in a way that will effectively serve students, faculty, staff and the Mahoning Valley for years to come," Herbert said. "I want to stress that the details of the collegiate reorganization remain to be worked out. To this end, a committee of faculty and staff will be appointed in the next few days."

YSU officials say the reorganization is in line with calls by national and state officials to increase the number of college graduates in STEM fields.

Nationally the number of jobs in STEM fields is growing at five times the rate of other occupations, according to the Council on Competitiveness, yet the number of Americans receiving college degrees in STEM fields is on the decline.

gwin@vindy.com




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