SRU trustees advance four academic programs for approval


Professor gives a presentation for a new degree program

Nitin Sukhija, Slippery Rock University assistant professor of computer science, presents the proposed bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity to the University’s council of trustees.

June 8, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University's council of trustees today voted to send four academic programs to Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education interim chancellor for approval.

The programs, a Doctor of Education in Education Administration and Organizational Leadership, a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity, a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering respond to student and employer demand.

State System Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney will review the proposals through a new practice that accelerates the degree-approval process.

"With this new approval process, we're able to go from concept to classroom much more quickly while conducting the same rigorous review to ensure the new programs being introduced are of the highest quality and meet all appropriate academic standards," Whitney said. "This is an important element of our System Redesign, enabling our universities to be more responsive to the needs of students and their future employers."

Previously, new academic programs had to be approved by the board of governors after they were submitted by the universities and reviewed by staff in the Office of the Chancellor. The Board meets only four times a year.

The proposed doctoral degree program will help prepare leaders for administrative roles in both higher and secondary education settings.

"Leadership is arguably the most critical factor in achieving excellence in schools and universities," said Keith Dils, dean of the College of Education. "Slippery Rock University has produced terrific leaders from our special education doctoral degree, our supervision master's degree and our student affairs in higher education master's degree programs. However, with the growing complexities and demands schools and universities now face, there is a growing need for executive leaders with additional skills and abilities. We propose to meet these needs for executive leaders in schools and universities with a convenient, high-quality, online doctoral degree program."

Dils said that COE research shows that there is a significant market for this program in a convenient, online format. "Potential students tell us they want this program because of their desire to pursue career enhancements while also remaining in their current jobs," he said. "Such career enhancements for executive leaders in the K-12 schools include moving from curriculum coordinator to assistant principal, assistant principal to principal, principal to assistant superintendent, and - especially for those already holding a superintendent's letter of eligibility - assistant superintendent to superintendent. In higher education, career enhancements will most often entail going from assistant provost or director to associate provost, associate provost to a dean or provost, and a program director to associate vice-president."

According to the National Association of Secondary School Principal, one in five principals working in schools during the 2011-12 school year left their school by the 2012-13 school year. Other research shows that one out of every two principals is not retained beyond their third year of leading a school. School leaders who are retiring, transferring schools, or pursuing new opportunities within the education sector are not being replaced by enough qualified candidates. As a result, many school districts across the country report principal vacancies and a serious lack of qualified applicants to replace them. The demand for employment of elementary, middle and high school principals will grow by 6 percent nationwide by the year 2022.

"Our proposed doctoral degree program, with a track in K-12 leadership, will help to meet these needs. The program will be practical and its focus will be on the latest trends in education leadership and administration, data analytics, fund raising, distance learning and technology-enhanced marketing, which the literature has made clear is lacking in the preparation of many candidates attempting to fill presidential and other positions," said Dils.

SRU's Department of Computer Science proposed to convert its existing concentration in cybersecurity to a full degree program. The proposed program would offer two concentrations: secure software development and security governance, with some new courses being added to supplement the existing curriculum.

"Cybersecurity is a wide-ranging field that demands academic preparation spanning diverse concepts related to network administration, cryptography, software assurance, secure coding, security tools, security analysis, project management, incident response, automation, data science and data analytics, scripting, post-mortem deep forensics, ethical reasoning, malware behavior and analysis," said Deborah Whitfield, professor of computer science. "Additionally, students should be educated in writing proficiency, critical thinking, problem-solving, and communications skills."

Whitfield said the proposed evolution of the current concentration to a new degree program is motivated by a trio of factors, including:
-Significant enrollments in the current cybersecurity concentration demonstrating program success and sustainability.
-Increasing demands of comprehensive highly technical, legal and managerial skills required for fostering current and future cybersecurity workforce.
-Absence of a degree program or a major in the western State System that prepares students with comprehensive knowledge of the advanced practical secure coding practices for software and data applications in the cybersecurity domain.

"Moving the concentration to a degree will increase program visibility for prospective students and employers of graduates, especially since the program's focus is secure software development leading to the Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education designation," said Whitfield.

"Cybersecurity has become the top priority for organizations in protecting their digital assets and online activities," Whitfield said. As a result, the projected demand for qualified candidates far exceeds the supply of those college graduates with the unique combination of security and technical skills. "In fact, there are at least eight job openings for every cybersecurity bachelor's degree awarded," she said.

The proposed bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering is primarily concerned with the design, testing and manufacturing of various devices, tools, engines, machines, electromechanical units and systems. The curriculum would require students to apply principles of engineering, basic science and mathematics; to model, analyze, design, and realize physical systems, components or processes; and prepare students to work professionally in either thermal or mechanical systems while requiring topics in each area. Students will be trained in problem-solving skills, math skills, creative design, leadership skills and communication skills. A senior year capstone design course will integrate all aspects of learning in team-based design projects assisted by professional engineers in the field.

"The (proposed) program would have three focused areas of mechanical engineering, specifically mechanical design, manufacturing and mechatronics," said Athula Heart, associate professor of physics and engineering. "The curriculum is designed to provide students with knowledge and professional skills, thereby enabling potential graduates to successfully practice engineering as mechanical engineers for a wide variety of careers in various industries."

Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 data, mechanical engineer occupation has the second largest number of jobs in all engineering occupations. The BLS projects that jobs for mechanical engineers will increase by 9 percent by 2026, indicating strong existing and continued demand for graduates.

"Mechanical engineers are typically employed in private sectors ranging from manufacturing, automotive industry, power and energy industry, HVAC, medical and electronic sectors, and design and consulting firms," said Heart. "Mechanical engineers are playing an increasingly important role in keeping the 21st century life of the public and maintaining the competitiveness of our nation in the global economy in the age of automation."

The bachelor's degree in civil engineering will produce students who can:
-Develop expertise in fundamental theory, analysis and civil engineering design through the role of effective project managers or technical team leaders, to serve the needs of society and the profession.
-Provide leadership in developing comprehensive solutions to complex engineering problems from concept to completion within health and safety constraints.
-Grow professionally and ethically throughout their careers through professional licensure, certifications, continuing professional education, and lifelong learning.
-Effectively communicate complex engineering concepts and solutions to diverse audiences.

"Civil engineering coursework is primarily concerned with the design, building and maintenance of construction projects and systems including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges and systems for water supply and sewage treatment," said Steven Wei, professor of physics and engineering."

The proposed program will have three focused areas of civil engineering, specifically structural engineering, environmental engineering and transportation engineering.

SRU currently offers two bachelor's level engineering programs, one in petroleum & natural gas and one in industrial and systems engineering; as well as a cooperative pre-engineering program with students transferring to other institutions to complete their last two years.

"The proposed program is a natural addition to the suite of engineering programs SRU already houses, which would result in synergy among programs and potential cost savings in curriculums, faculty and facilities," said Wei.

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