New College and UF offer dual-degree program

President Donal O'Shea
President Donal O’Shea

From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 8-27-20:

During the past half-century, the increasing complexity of our economy has made a college degree close to essential for professional success. And in the United States today, students have a dizzying array of choices.

New College of Florida and the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering at the University of Florida (UF) are adding an exciting option to that list.

For more than a year, the two schools have been designing an innovative dual-degree program that will allow students to earn two degrees in five years: a liberal arts and sciences bachelor of arts (B.A.) degree from New College in a science major, and a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree from UF in an engineering major.

The two degrees separately have very different emphases, each of which are exceedingly useful. Indeed, a high-quality four-year liberal arts and sciences degree or an engineering degree count among the most powerful undergraduate degrees that today’s students can acquire. Individuals with either degree regularly go on to pursue a wide variety of careers, and a surprising number ascend to managerial and executive positions.

However, as Cammy Abernathy, dean of the Wertheim College, notes: “Our society is becoming increasingly complex, and people and groups are becoming more and more interdependent. We can no longer rely on the same way of doing things. Intricate and intertwined societal problems call for reimagined approaches and multidisciplinary skillsets.”

She could not be more correct. At the risk of caricaturing, a liberal arts and sciences degree emphasizes exploration, theoretical understanding, writing and empathy. An engineering degree emphasizes teamwork, practical knowledge, communication and doing. Today’s problems require individuals with both skill sets.

“The goal of developing this dual-degree program with New College is to offer students more assets for their intellectual ‘toolkit’ to support their innovation and creativity,” Abernathy adds. “Employers everywhere will want to hire these graduates.”

One might reasonably ask how one can fit two four-year degrees into five years. It helps that, while the two degree sequences involve very different subject matter, both share the same high-level structure. Both have cores that a) help students master the basic principles common to their different majors, and b) encourage students to sample the questions and viewpoints those different majors entail.

The core courses for students majoring in some sciences at New College or some engineering majors at UF are not that different. In addition to the skills and broad knowledge acquired in the core, both degrees demand learning in depth by insisting that students acquire mastery in a discipline of their choice. New College allows students great flexibility in choosing an area of concentration for a thesis, and the research done at UF as part of an engineering discipline can serve as the basis for that thesis.

As of now, the proposed articulation agreement for the dual-degree program allows engineering degrees in five key areas: Computer Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and Nuclear Engineering.

The program has been vetted by faculty members from both universities, and submitted for review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

The five-year program will require careful planning on the part of students. Nonetheless, as New College physics professor Don Colladay states, “We are hopeful that an engineering option will be a considerable attraction for incoming students who are interested in science in general. Often, students who are interested in technical STEM areas have a strong desire to have an engineering option available.”

Our region has an emerging entrepreneurial economy that requires an educated workforce with diverse skillsets. The dual-degree program leverages the assets of a small, high-quality, residential liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university to graduate engineers prepared to lead the charge in creative problem solving. New College needs no introduction here.

The Wertheim College houses one of the largest, most dynamic engineering programs in the nation, producing inventions at twice the national average – and startups at five times the national average — for every research dollar spent.

We look forward to this partnership, and to many others to come, with the extraordinary institutions in the Cross College Alliance. Working together will allow our institutions to respond to the evolving needs of Florida’s students and the organizations that will employ them.

And it will give New College’s intellectually curious students ever more opportunities to pursue lives of great achievement.

Stay tuned.

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