This 2022-2023 academic school year, Utah Tech University has approved two new degrees that will be fully operational in the years to come.
- A Master of Science in Nursing Education Leadership
- A Bachelor of Science in Special Education
With a timely process for researching, discussing and planning that goes into getting a degree approved, the academic colleges had to go through multiple outlets before the degrees could be finalized.
Samira Hall, curriculum and graduate studies support specialist, said, once a degree is proposed, it has to get approved within the academic college that it belongs to.
Afterwards, it will move through different councils and committees at the university including the Academic Council, the University Curriculum Committee and the Graduate Council. The Utah State Board of Higher Education will then review it and send it to the university’s Board of Trustees. The board will send it to the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities for approval, and then the university can begin plans to carry out the degree.
Although the planning and approval process for some degrees take less time, getting the special education degree approved took over three years. Following the Board of Trustee meeting held in September 2022, the degree was finalized.
Kari Gali, associate professor of education who wrote the degree program, said, “Last year was my really concerted effort of writing and development, but discussion about the degree started two years before that.”
Now that the special education degree has been approved, there are various steps the college must take before the degree can be offered to students. Hiring faculty members, creating course content, finding available classrooms, and developing degree specifics beforehand will allow the degree to officially be offered in the fall of 2024.
Gali said this undergraduate degree will not only give students a degree of completion but also a license qualifying them to teach any students with disabilities following their graduation.
After the completion of prerequisite courses, students will be admitted into the program. Degree-related courses students can expect to see will be those that teach them strategies for educating students with disabilities, behavior management, methodology for reading difficulties and communication.
“Special education is an area of extreme shortage across the nation, so this is an area of big need,” Gali said. “It’s critical that we have teachers to help teach all of these students.”
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act guarantees students with disabilities have the right to free public education, and with Utah Tech adding to the many Utah universities that already offer this major, more students will be prepared to combat the shortage.
“We look forward to building something that can serve lots of kids and lots of individuals in the future while putting some teachers out there,” Gali said.
Adding to the special education degree, the nursing education leadership degree will also be available for students in coming years.
“Some of the new degrees include one that we’re really excited about, which is our first online master’s degree: a master’s in nursing education leadership,” said Marc Lundstrom, director of Utah Tech online. “That one is being developed right now, and we’re working with the nursing department on that.”
Although this degree will also be offered in person, Utah Tech online has added 14 programs, including degrees and certificates, since summer 2021 and is currently working on seven more.
Lundstrom said as Utah Tech online continues to work with the academic colleges that offer online degrees, they will continue to identify the degrees that may best fit an online platform while helping colleges develop and design them.
Lundstrom also said, “Online degrees can be more convenient and flexible for students, so there are a group of students on campus that find value in taking them.”
Respiratory therapy and hotel and resort management are just two of the seven programs Utah Tech online is currently working on. They are also working on a virtual reality set up to help students complete online courses and labs.
Although these online degrees and newly approved degrees are not yet offered, they will be along with many others that are awaiting approval.
“The goal of this institution is to attract more students and offer more options for their careers, so new programs are always nice,” Hall said. “I just think the university is in a good place, always growing, always expanding, and there’s always new ideas out there.”