Michigan Tech Board of Trustees Approves New Degree Programs

By Jennifer Donovan | Published

At its regular meeting on December 9, 2011, Michigan Technological University’s Board of Trustees approved two new master’s degree programs, two new bachelor’s programs and a new PhD program. The new degrees—in medical informatics, biomedical engineering, biochemistry and molecular biology, physics and physics for high school teachers—now must go to the academic affairs officers of the Presidents’ Council, State Universities of Michigan, for review and approval.

The new master’s degrees reflect Michigan Tech’s commitment to providing the kind of education that industry is seeking.  “The demand for master’s degrees is growing in industry,” said Provost Max Seel, “and we are trying to be proactive in meeting that need.”

The advancement of technology in the medical field, accompanied by the need to track and analyze vast amounts of data while keeping sensitive data confidential, created the need for the biomedical and medical informatics programs, he added.

The master’s degrees are professional degrees, designed to prepare students to work in the increasingly complex and demanding STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) specialties, Seel explained.

The University has also put in place an accelerated master’s degree framework, Seel noted.  “We want students to know that at Michigan Tech, you can go straight through to a master’s degree,” he said. 

The accelerated master’s program will enable students to complete a master’s degree in a shorter period of time than previously was possible.  Biomedical engineering, the School of Technology and mechanical engineering are the first ones planning to offer an accelerated master’s degree.

The new PhD is a non-departmental program in biochemistry and molecular biology, drawing on existing faculty and existing courses, Seel said.

The two new physics degrees are a Bachelor of Arts in Physics and a Bachelor of Arts in Physics with a concentration in secondary education. 

“The motivation for offering a BA degree in physics is to give students who are not planning to study physics in graduate school a strong foundation in physics but significantly fewer physics course requirements than our current BS programs,” Seel explained. “The resulting flexibility will allow students to pursue other scholarly interests and career goals in the arts, humanities, social sciences, business, entrepreneurship, medicine and law. Physics can provide an excellent foundation for interdisciplinary endeavors in all of these fields.”

Seel said the University is also following a recommendation of the Gender Equity report of the American Physical Society to increase participation of women in physics. The recommendation reads: "Make it easier to enter a physics program after the first year to allow for late starters or those with lower initial preparation in mathematics. Create flexible tracks for physics majors to allow interdisciplinary studies or to pursue an education degree."

The BA in Physics with a concentration in secondary education is designed to prepare more students to become high school physics teachers.

"The preparation of teaching professionals in the sciences has become an issue of national concern,” President Glenn Mroz said.  “We are very fortunate in our local school districts to have excellent high school teachers with strong science credentials, but this is simply not true nationally.  And if students don't have good science teachers in K-12, they will not be prepared to pursue the math and science-related degrees in college that are in the highest demand for jobs."

Strategic Plan Update

The Board also heard a report from David Reed, vice president for research, on progress in updating the University’s Strategic Plan.  The new plan is three-tiered, Reed said. A new section called “Portrait of Michigan Tech in 2035” sets out the long range goals for Michigan Tech. The plan itself spells out a five-year path toward those goals and the budget is the annual process of prioritizing activities in accordance with the plan, he explained.

A draft revision of the Strategic Plan, led by the dean, is now on the Michigan Tech website at www.mtu.edu/stratplan/, where the campus community is invited to comment until Feb. 10, 2012. The Board of Trustees will review recommended changes at its May 2012 meeting.

In other business, the Board:

  • Extended President Mroz's contract for two years, to 2016.
  • Granted emeritus rank to retiring Professor of Mechanical Engineering Sheryl Sorby.
  • Heard a report from Michigan Tech Fund Chair George Butvilas on the progress of the ongoing capital campaign, “Generations of Discovery.”  The campaign has raised $157,069,868 toward its goal of $200 million.
  • Learned from Vice President Reed that Michigan Tech received $15.1 million in sponsored funding from federal and state governmental agencies, industry, foreign sources and other sponsors during the first quarter of fiscal year 2012, which ended Sept. 30, 2011.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.