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Flexible degree program proposed for UWG-Newnan

  • By Rebecca Leftwich
  • |
  • Apr. 27, 2017 - 5:12 PM

That post-graduation job hunt may get a lot shorter for some baccalaureate candidates at the University of West Georgia-Newnan.

A new, flexible degree program set to launch in 2018 is designed to help UWG-Newnan grow instant workforces for local employers by tailoring students’ final few classes to specifically prepare them for available jobs, according to university administrators.

They presented the concept Wednesday during a breakfast on the Newnan campus for community leaders as part of a proposed plan for academic development of the facility. Business and political groups are also hearing presentations this month.

The proposed bachelor of science in interdisciplinary studies program could bring a concept into the state’s universities that has been successful in high school college-and-career academies, technical colleges and charter schools.

“Interdisciplinary studies is like concierge service for employers,” UWG President Kyle Marrero said. “That’s education for the 21st century.”

A student in interdisciplinary studies would take the core curriculum required of all students and some other basic courses, then enroll in a mixture of existing courses designed to develop the skills local employers need. As employers’ needs change, the mix for future students could easily change, too, offering greater adaptability than the establishment of traditional degree majors.

With nearly 24,000 square feet of space available for buildout at the former Newnan Hospital site, there is plenty of room – and educational need, Marrero said. The university’s goal is to have 15,000 students by 2020, with Newnan’s share increasing beyond about 6 percent of the overall student population.

Enrollment at the Newnan campus has nearly doubled since fall of 2012, when classes were still held at UWG’s former Shenandoah site. Administrators see potential for rapid growth to continue through attracting high school seniors and urging the return to college of the roughly 25,000 residents of Coweta County who attended college but never graduated.

Matching degree offerings with job opportunities as the new campus grows is part of the strategy to attract students.

“We have to align with where the market is,” Marrero said.

Hasco Craver, assistant city manager and business-development director for the city of Newnan, said the ability to customize a degree to meet an employer’s needs would give Newnan a competitive advantage in recruiting companies.

The city would be able to advertise the availability of a built-in workforce, which would not only include skilled production workers, but also employees trained in areas like human resources, finance and information technology, he said.

A four-year degree that incorporates specific training for in-demand jobs would be valuable not only to students but also to employers, according to Craver.

“The ability to quickly pivot and meet the needs of industry and business is something that was easier in other learning environments,” he said. “In the university world, in major public institutions, it’s hard to find. (The new approach is) a great opportunity.”

As UWG-Newnan continues to grow in enrollment and course offerings that align with market needs, Marrero said university officials will not lose sight of the community it serves.

“This is a partnership,” he said. “Together, we’re going to build this campus to serve you.”