Monmouth College will offer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs in Data Science, Engineering, and Neuroscience beginning in fall 2019. The college called the new programs part of a "major academic innovation" that responds to demand.
“Students were asking more and more about STEM fields. At the same time, I think everybody knows that the world is moving in more and more technical directions,” said Mark Willhardt, Interim Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Monmouth College.
“There are lots and lots of job openings in these fields so starting these three programs is really about maximizing both the front end and the back end. The students want these sorts of programs. Employers want the sort of people who can work in these sorts of areas.”
He said the college’s administration asked the faculty for ideas of interesting new majors that could be developed. He said about a dozen possibilities were considered before the list was narrowed. The college also conducted market research to gauge student interest and determine whether there would be jobs for students who completed the programs.
Willhardt said no other programs will be cut to make room for the new majors.
“Our Board of Trustees believes in this idea strong enough to give us a special consideration and that’s going to help us build the programs,” Willhardt said.
He said it’s no secret that higher education is in a rough spot right now. He said Monmouth College decided several years ago to address the coming challenges by building on its strengths.
“Our way of answering that (the challenges facing higher education in Illinois) was not to begin to think about lessening what we’re already doing. It was about growing what we’re doing and building that. I think it’s a position that allows us to envision a future where we are stronger and where we are building on all the things that we can build,” he said.
Willhardt said Monmouth is anxious to start the STEM programs.
“We want the world to know that we’ve got these really interesting things that we’ve got in-line and that we’re moving on them quickly. The one year lead-time is not very long for most academic programs. We’re going to try hitting the ground running on these,” he said.
“It’s possible to go slower. I don’t think it’s necessary in this case. We have the faculty in place already. We’re hiring the ones we need to help build the majors. We have a strong liberal arts core that will help us support all of the things that we’re trying to do. And I think we’ve got both the imagination and the vision for how we want to carry it out so we might as well go ahead and move on it.”
The new programs will be housed in the Center for Science and Business, which opened this decade.
The college offers more than 60 academic programs. Its enrollment is around 1,100 students.