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UW-Rock County may get another 4-year degree

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Gazette staff and Associated Press
June 10, 2010
— UW-Rock County’s campus in Janesville might be expanding once again into the land of bachelor’s degrees.

The latest foray would allow UW-Rock to grant its own four-year degree.


UW-Rock and 12 other UW Colleges traditionally have offered two-year associate degrees. Many have branched out in recent years, partnering with four-year campuses to offer local bachelor’s degrees that are conferred by the bigger schools.


UW-Rock itself would be able to confer the proposed bachelor of applied arts and sciences degree. The BAAS degree would be geared toward “place-bound students” who have earned associate degrees but can’t transfer to finish at four-year universities.


UW-Rock Dean Diane Pillard, who worked on the committee that developed the plan, said UW-Rock has a long history of students who get associate degrees but cannot continue because they can’t leave town.


Courses in the BAAS degree would emphasize problem-solving, teamwork and communication skills as well as an understanding of global issues.


Those skills stood out in a statewide survey of employers, UW officials said.


“That is really the key, because that’s what makes it ‘applied,’” Pillard said. “That’s what makes it very applicable to the communities in which we live.”


Pillard did not know what local companies were surveyed, but she said a company such as Prent Corp. of Janesville would appreciate employees with a global outlook as well as those with communications skills.


Pillard said students will be able to choose an emphasis, such as business, in which to concentrate, but the skills required for the degree would be applicable to a wide range of jobs, from work in a nonprofit organization to middle management to insurance agent.


The degree also would make a great stepping-off point for someone who decided to get a master’s degree later in life, Pillard said.


“It really offers some key skills that will help them throughout rest of their lives,” Pillard said.


University officials say the degree would be a cheaper and better alternative to distance-learning programs offered by for-profit colleges such as the University of Phoenix. The Board of Regents will consider the plan during a meeting at UW-Milwaukee today.


The regents won’t decide whether to move forward until their August meeting, and the program couldn’t start until fall 2011, Pillard said.


Completing the program would offer the unemployed a better chance at finding work and help those already with jobs advance in their fields, said David Wilson, outgoing chancellor of the 13 two-year college system and UW-Extension.


“We want to provide these individuals around the state with a high quality, reasonably priced baccalaureate degree that will enable them to contribute handsomely to their local area and stay in the region,” Wilson said.


Wilson said employers insisted the program go beyond book learning. That’s why seniors would be required to complete a seminar in which they work with professors on a project on a community problem to help launch the next phase of their careers.


The other campuses included in the plan are UW-Baraboo/Sauk County, UW-Barron County, UW-Marshfield/Wood County and UW-Richland.


Wilson said the campuses were chosen because their populations lag behind the state average for four-year degree holders. Many of them also have been hit hard economically, with layoffs and plant closings in those areas in recent years.


The plan requires each of the five campuses to team up with a partnering four-year university to deliver courses. They would include a mix of distance and online learning and traditional face-to-face instruction.


UW-Rock is partnering with UW-Platteville. Pillard is trying to get UW-Whitewater to join in as well.


WHAT’S AVAILABLE

UW-Rock County already offers four programs that allow students to live in Rock County while earning four-year degrees from bigger UW schools. The bachelor’s degrees are offered through:


-- UW-Platteville: Electrical and mechanical engineering.


-- UW-Oshkosh: Nursing.


-- UW-Whitewater: Liberal studies.


-- UW-Milwaukee: Organizational administration, communication or information resources.


More detailed information is available online at gazettextra.com/degrees.

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