By andrew Katz
COLLEGE PARK – The University of Baltimore continued its undergraduate expansion on Friday, winning approval from the Board of Regents for two new degree programs in environmental and international studies.
The University System of Maryland Board of Regents met through an unusual conference call Friday morning necessitated by snowstorms that blanketed the state in the past week.
They approved Baltimore’s proposed Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Sustainability and Human Ecology.
The programs, which system documents show will be funded through tuition, fit into the university’s three-year effort to stray from upper-level, graduate-only coursework and enhance its undergraduate offerings.
The board’s approval brings the programs one step closer to joining the university’s 17 undergraduate majors, 26 graduate degrees, seven joint degree plans and three law tracks. The programs still need approval from the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
The 120-credit International Studies degree, housed in the School of Public Affairs, will focus on the political, social and economic aspects of the international system to prepare students to “view and analyze global conditions,” according to system records.
The documents note that “informal” surveys conducted of existing classes indicate between 12 to 15 percent of current students expressed an interest in the proposed degree.
“If 15 percent of each incoming class elects International Studies as a major, there should be approximately 100 majors at the end of a four year normalization period,” the records state.
Patricia Florestano, chairwoman of the system’s Education Policy Committee and a former government professor at Baltimore’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy, said graduates would be suited for jobs in business and government at local, state, national and international levels.
The other four-year program in Environmental Sustainability and Human Ecology approved Friday illustrates the university’s commitment to thought-provoking, interrelating undergraduate tracks.
“What we have an obligation to do is expand the sciences, which we didn’t have very much of before,” said Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Joseph Wood. “Part of the work that we’re doing is building capacity to support full baccalaureate degrees, support education and do so by either building in the sciences or connecting strengths that we have already from the various baccalaureate programs.”
Sixty-seven of the degree’s credits are devoted strictly to major courses and research, according to system documents, including human adaptive strategies, environmental ethics and field investigations of Greater Baltimore urban ecosystems.
“This program examines the interaction of people with their environment using a multi-faceted, cross-disciplinary approach,” said Florestano, a former state higher education secretary.
System records show students will work to understand human-environmental interactions from various standpoints, receive a “firm grounding” in theoretical and investigatory environmental science and ultimately be “prepared to deal with real problems facing communities today, from the Greater Baltimore area to cities in the developing world.”
Florestano added that graduates would not be “environmental scientists per se,” but they will be employable for the city, state, federal and private sectors involved in environmental compliance, hygiene, research and nonprofit opportunities like the Peace Corps and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
The degree, administered by the Division of Liberal Studies, will also include hands-on study of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and touch on the formulation of public policy.
Wood said it’s the university’s “obligation” to offer additional, “more robust” bachelor’s degrees as it enrolls more first-time freshmen and transfer students.
The university began admitting lower-level students three years ago and is working toward a target enrollment of 8,000, according to system documents. Currently at 6,500, the university continues to build its undergraduate inventory and fill in the gap between the lower- and upper-divisions.
The regents also unanimously passed a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a modification in the Bachelor of Sciences in Art & Design for Towson University, as well as a Bachelor of Art in Graphic Communication and Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity for the University of Maryland University College.