The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will offer a bachelor of science in professional studies major starting in fall 2024 to promote bachelor’s degree completion for students who have either earned an associate degree or have significant college credits.
The UW System Board of Regents on Feb. 9 approved the new major that will provide a flexible bachelor’s degree option through fully online, face-to-face or a combination of delivery formats at the Eau Claire campus and at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County.
The degree program focuses on increasing the number of Wisconsin residents with bachelor’s degrees and providing educational opportunities to residents in the region and state. Program development is supported by UW-Eau Claire’s $9.4 million Workforce Innovation Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
“This new major provides a great option for students who may have stopped out of a four-year program and now wish to complete a bachelor’s degree,” says Dr. Michael Carney, interim provost and associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. “The ability to complete courses in the major in person or completely online is perfectly aligned with UW-Eau Claire and Universities of Wisconsin strategic plans to address the needs of our region, especially the needs of working adult students.”
The new major in the College of Education and Human Sciences will meet the needs of three distinct populations:
- Students who have completed an associate degree.
- Students who have completed significant credits but have not graduated.
- Current UW-Eau Claire students whose interests or circumstances have changed and are better served by a more general degree.
The program was designed to be interdisciplinary by offering students skills and knowledge across academic disciplines. Courses will originate from all four UW-Eau Claire colleges and a variety of departments.
UW-Eau Claire projects that the new program will have 65 new students within five years, with 33 graduating during that time period.
“One of the most innovative and exciting features of the new major is for students with a completed technical associate degree who want to build on their technical knowledge with a broad-based liberal education program,” Carney says. “The professional studies major allows students with a completed technical associate degree to apply a block of 60 credits from their degree toward the 120-credit bachelor’s degree requirement, thereby providing an efficient pathway to a four-year degree.”
The new major is a critical step in UW-Eau Claire’s commitment to developing bachelor’s degree programs that will be available at the UW-Eau Claire – Barron County campus. Some in-person courses will be taught on the UW-Eau Claire – Barron County campus by its faculty and staff, which means students will not need to relocate to complete a four-year degree, says Dr. Abbey Fischer, campus director.
“The professional studies major exemplifies our institution’s commitment to ensuring the vitality of Barron County and surrounding region by significantly increasing the accessibility of a four-year degree,” Fischer says. “Students with associate degrees — from technical colleges or from universities — will be able to readily transition into this bachelor’s degree program. And students will receive the personalized advising and support for which UW-Eau Claire – Barron County is known.”
The new major creates an opportunity to strengthen ties with Chippewa Valley Technical College and Northwood Technical College in Rice Lake by creating a pathway from a technical associate degree to a bachelor’s degree.
Dr. Lynette Livingston, provost and vice president of academic affairs at CVTC, says the college values its collaborations with the Universities of Wisconsin as a way to help students find their paths into the workforce. CVTC students often intend to transfer to a university immediately after completing their credentials or later in their careers, and credit transferability is an essential component of that process, Livingston says.
“UW-Eau Claire’s professional studies degree is a great option for students who have the goal of earning a generalized bachelor’s degree,” Livingston says. “CVTC can help make that happen by helping students complete credentials at CVTC that directly align with regional workforce needs. In addition to this new degree that casts a wider net of accessibility to a path for technical college graduates to a general bachelor’s completion degree, our institutions continue to work together to advance articulation agreements between us for specialized degree paths.”