North Texas Daily

University launches eight new degrees for fall semester

University launches eight new degrees for fall semester

University launches eight new degrees for fall semester
September 23
13:00 2021

This fall semester, the university launched eight new degree plans, covering topics such as addiction studies, biomedical engineering and geographic information systems, according to a Sept. 8 press release.

“We are constantly evaluating our programs and looking for new ways to provide our students with the best possible opportunities for learning in our ever-changing world,” said Jennifer Cowley, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

Among these new programs is a Bachelor of Science in addiction studies, operating from the Department of Rehabilitation and Health Services at the College of Health and Public Service. The degree plan offers multiple courses exploring addiction and counseling. These courses are meant to prepare students for careers in counseling at various organizations, such as schools, hospitals and detox programs.

“It’s 30 hours of addiction-specific courses,” said Paula Garland, senior lecturer and addictions studies coordinator. “We have two courses anyone can take, one in drugs and alcohol and another in general addictions. Then we have some that are very clinical, like a counseling group. Two courses created specifically for this degree were professionalism and ethics and another in current issues of substance abuse.”

The addiction studies degree is expanded from a minor that Garland has overseen for six years. The push for the full degree program came in part from student demand, Garland said, as well as a 2019 study from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health that reported about 19.3 million Americans over the age of 18 struggle with a substance use disorder. 

“We’ve always had over a hundred students in the program for the minor and many of them said, ‘if it were an undergraduate degree that’s what I would major in,’” Garland said. 

Presently, 18 students are enrolled, with Garland suggesting plans for a course related to trauma in the future. 

Another newly introduced degree plan is a doctorate in biomedical engineering, with course work from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the College of Engineering.  The courses offered include research in genetics, tissue engineering, soft robotics and more.

The doctorate is split into two tracks — one path towards an academic career and another focused on a “startup management track, in collaboration with the G. Brint Ryan College of Business,” according to the department website

“Biomedical engineering plays a significant role in the lives of all human beings,” biomedical engineering founding chair Vijay Vaidyanathan said. “By offering two tracks for the students, the department seeks to produce biomedical engineers who can work in the industry, academia and research institutions, as well those who are entrepreneurs and can take their innovative doctoral research and turn it into a startup company that could potentially serve as the engine for job growth and technological advancement in the DFW region and Texas [at large].”

The biomedical engineering department launched its graduate programs back in 2017. As the years passed and more students graduated, Vaidyanathan thought there was a need to “address issues relating to specialization and technology translation.” 

“The department was developed with a spirit of innovation and emphasis on breadth and depth of knowledge,” Vaidyanathan said. “The department has implemented an innovative biomedical engineering curriculum oriented to industrial preparation as well as preparation for graduate studies.”

The doctoral program currently has 12 enrolled students. These scholars will have “opportunities to work on cutting edge research with world-class faculty and the knowledge to translate an innovative dissertation into a startup company,” according to Vaidyanathan.

A third recently introduced degree plan is a Bachelor of Science in geographic information systems and computer science. Housed at the Department of Geography and the Environment at the  College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, this degree offers courses on understanding and utilizing geospatial data in conjunction with computer sciences.

“One common feature of contemporary geographic information systems and computer science is both are data-driven disciplines,” assistant professor Lu Liang said. “Getting familiarized with both disciplines will give them a good foundation in handling data in different formats, types and sources.”

In terms of the program’s beginnings, Liang cited similar programs like the one at the University of Illinois, as well as a demand in Texas for graduates experienced in geographic information systems. 

“Our joint degree in geographic information systems and computer sciences provides that capacity,” Liang said.

The program currently has 10 students enrolled, with Liang looking forward to further expansion.  

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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