St. Olaf College: A Holistic Health Curriculum

St. Olaf Magazine: “From 2011 to 2016, 75 percent of St. Olaf students who applied to medical school with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.60 were accepted, compared to the overall national average acceptance rate of 47 percent among students with comparable grade point averages during the same time period … Students interested in the health professions earn majors across the liberal arts, including science and non-science disciplines. Those who are considering medical school can pursue pre-med (or pre-health) studies in tandem with their major.”

“Among those who do head to medical school, the Association of American Medical Colleges notes that, nationally, only 51 percent of medical school enrollees in 2012 majored in biological sciences. The remaining matriculants majored in the humanities, mathematics or statistics, the physical sciences, the social sciences, or specialized health sciences … St. Olaf’s philosophy is to help students think past the title of ‘doctor’ to examine how they can best use their skills to improve the lives of others.”

“While nursing students earn a bachelor of arts degree in nursing, they also partake of St. Olaf’s liberal arts curriculum by completing the general graduation requirements, such as courses in a foreign language, oral and written communication, and abstract and quantitative reasoning …pre-health students can also study abroad … Many choose St. Olaf’s service learning–focused Peruvian Medical Experience, during which students assist alumni health professionals who are serving the dental and medical needs of Andean communities in and around Cusco, Peru.”


Planetarium is ‘High Point’ at HPU

Greensboro: At High Point University, “The Wanek School of Undergraduate Sciences is more than 70 percent complete and on schedule to open in August. Not only will this four-story building serve as the new home for the university’s growing undergraduate programs in biology, chemistry and physics, the $65 million facility will also complement the university’s graduate-level offerings in pharmacy and the health sciences.”

“The main lobby of the new science building is nearly 50 feet high, topped by a cupola. A hallway leads into the building past big windows that show off two labs — microbiology on the left, physics on the right. At the end of the hallway is one of the building’s key features: a planetarium with 125 stadium-style seats and an overhead dome that’s 50 feet in diameter. HPU students will use the planetarium for earth studies, astronomy and other science courses. It’ll also be the site of one of the few planetarium operations courses in the country, said Brad Barlow, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy.”

“The science building will have classrooms, faculty offices and 30 labs, including ones for animal, insect and cadaver research. It also will have a makerspace so students can work on their own projects outside of class. Next door to the Wanek building, HPU will erect a 15,000-square-foot conservatory that will house a new greenhouse for botany research and to grow the trees, shrubs and flowers that are planted throughout campus.”


Major Dilemma: What to Study at College?

US News: “College majors can be conventional, such as business, or off the beaten path. California State University—Fresno, for example, offers majors in viticulture and enology through its agriculture program, where students learn about grape cultivation, wine production and the industry … The most popular college majors, based on National Center for Education Statistics data on degrees conferred in 2014-15, were ‘in the fields of business (364,000), health professions and related programs (216,000), social sciences and history (167,000), psychology (118,000), biological and biomedical sciences (110,000), engineering (98,000), visual and performing arts (96,000), and education (92,000)’.”

“Another field experts expect to grow is unmanned aerial systems, often referred to as drones … uses for drones include agriculture, real estate, medicine, security and more. Another in-demand major at the University of North Dakota is petroleum engineering, which fetches the highest median earnings among college majors, coming in at $136,000 annually, according to research from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.”

“To help students narrow down their college major options, some schools offer online quizzes. Loyola University Chicago has a 35 question online quiz to help students learn more about potential majors … Marquette offers a similar quiz, but instead of suggesting individual majors, it groups students into categories such as communicator, entrepreneur, helper, problem-solver and thinker. When a student completes the college major quiz, suggested disciplines are matched to their results.”


How to Study for Jobs of the Future?

NPR: “Eighty-five percent of the jobs that today’s students will do in 2030 don’t exist yet, the Institute for the Future has predicted. That might seem like a high number to reach in only 12 years. But think about the now-mainstream careers that did not exist just a handful of years ago: drone operator, social media manager, app developer and cloud computing engineer, among others … Even if that 85 percent is ultimately smaller, the number begs an important question about how the workforce is preparing for the future, starting in the classroom. What role should colleges and universities play in preparing students for a workplace that is constantly changing?”

“At the University of Utah, the new Degree Plus program seeks to fill the job skills gap. It offers eight-week courses intended as an add-on to a student’s main degree. The courses include data analysis, web design and digital marketing, all taught by industry professionals … The model is similar to ‘badge’ programs, which aim to give students a certificate showing they know a skill that employers might find useful.”

“The University of California, Berkeley, is another school that is trying to foster student-driven pursuits, which may not have a traditional, professional outlet. Students there can design their own courses, such as ‘Blockchain Fundamentals’ and ‘Impact of AI,’ a class that explores ‘various economic, social, and ethical challenges facing AI’ … In addition to allowing students to study subjects not taught in a standard university class, the DeCal, short for Democratic Education at Cal, program is designed to foster creativity–a skill that could be valuable in any job market.”


MIT Launches Billion-Dollar AI Intitiative

The Verge: “MIT has announced a $1 billion initiative to … establish a new college of computing to train the next generation of machine learning mavens.Importantly, the college isn’t just about training AI skills. Instead, it will focus on what MIT president L. Rafael Reif calls ‘the bilinguals of the future.’ By that, he means students in fields like biology, chemistry, physics, politics, history, and linguistics who also know how to apply machine learning to these disciplines.”

“MIT is also angling the college as an ethically minded enterprise; one of its stated aims is to research ‘ethical considerations relevant to computing and AI.’ It’s a frequent criticism of contemporary AI efforts that researchers sometimes ignore the history and lessons of the fields they are trying to ‘disrupt’.”


Which Majors Pay Off Biggest?

CBS: “A student’s major as well as their college can make a significant impact on their career earnings, according to a new study from compensation site PayScale … Not surprisingly, the top-earning majors are squarely in the STEM-related fields, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students who attend top-ranked schools like Ivy League colleges or those known for particular expertise, such as the U.S. Naval Academy, also tend to earn more than those who matriculate from middle-of-the-pack colleges.”

“But is it important to attend an elite or expensive college? Not necessarily, said Lydia Frank, vice president of content strategy at PayScale. For instance, a student who wants to study engineering — already a top-paying field — may not be hampered in her career if she attends a lower-ranked college because engineering skills are in strong demand.”

“As for the old-fashioned liberal arts degree, Frank said there’s still demand for the types of skills that students learn in such majors. ‘It’s about critical thinking and communication skills,’ she said. ‘When we ask employers about skills that are lacking in new college grads … what we hear from employers is often the new hires right out of college are lacking things that you think everyone in college should graduate with, which are communication skills and critical thinking’.”


Goucher Announces ‘Major’ Cutbacks

Baltimore Sun: “Math majors at Goucher College will soon be a thing of the past. Gone, too, will be physics majors, music majors and students in a range of subjects the school is eliminating from its offerings as part of a cost-cutting ‘academic revitalization’ … The liberal arts school in Towson joins a growing number of institutions removing majors such as math and physics to save money. Seven Texas universities began eliminating their physics programs in 2010. The University of the District of Columbia cut 17 degree programs, including physics, five years ago.”

“Liberal arts colleges, in particular, have faced closures and cutbacks … Still, the announcement drew outrage from alumni who majored in the subjects to be eliminated … Other majors to be cut include Russian studies, studio art, theater, religion, elementary education and special education. Minors to be phased out include book studies, German and Judaic studies.”

“At least one new major will be offered, in visual and material culture. Freshmen signed up for the 2018-19 academic year will still be able to enroll in the programs to be eliminated, and courses in math, physics and other subjects will still be offered.”


Ivy League: What Are The Most Popular Majors?

Business Insider: “So what do undergraduates at the eight Ivy League schools like to study? Turns out, it’s surprisingly similar no matter which school they attend. At six of the eight schools, economics is the most popular major among students who graduated in 2016. The most popular major at the two outliers, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania, were engineering and finance, respectively.”


Colleges Offer Career Help For Liberal-Arts Majors

US News: “Unlike an undergraduate degree in a technical field such as nursing, engineering or business, liberal arts students tend to be exposed less to direct career messaging within their disciplines, experts say … In recent years, schools have developed courses or programs tailored toward helping these students enter the workforce, college career advisers say, and many of these programs rely heavily on alumni networks.”

“UConn piloted its alumni mentor program for its liberal arts college students, now used by 200 students, almost two years ago. Under the program, upperclassmen self-select an online alumni mentor for career support, asking questions related to internships, resumes or jobs … Muhlenberg College, a small liberal arts college in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with nearly 2,400 students, offers day trips to major cities for students to network with alumni at their workplaces … For the visit to the Big Apple, students networked with alumni, who worked at several different large companies, such as Deloitte, NBCUniversal and MTV.”

“Programs to enhance the value of a liberal arts discipline aren’t limited to smaller schools. The University of Iowa has been offering these types of courses, which are available to its 23,357 undergraduates, for more than two years … In some of the courses, the UI spokesman says, students learn how to write a resume and develop job interview skills.”


Female Scientists Thrive @ Harvey Mudd

Quartz: “Harvey Mudd College, in Claremont, California, has been an outlier in producing female programmers for a decade. This year, for the first time, more women than men graduated with a degree in computer science. Nationally, about 16% of undergraduate computer-science majors are women. At Harvey Mudd, that figure is 55%.”

“It has done it by removing obstacles that have typically barred women—including at the faculty level. The school emphasizes teaching over research, hiring and rewarding professors on the basis of their classroom performance … And it places women in leadership positions throughout the school.”

“The school … redesigned its introductory course, required for all first-year students, to emphasize practical uses for programming and team based-projects, and switched from the Java programming language to Python, which more closely mimics the way humans communicate … To make everyone feel at ease, professors urge know-it-all students who always have their hand in the air to talk during office hours, instead of in class.”

“As a result of the changes, women who take the introductory course are more likely to leave with a positive impression of programming, and often sign up for the second class in the sequence. Many go on to internships or research projects in the field after their first year, and by then, they’re hooked.”