[dropcap]One[/dropcap] way that universities keep up with the changing times is offering coursework that fits with the needs of incoming students. When the marketplace shows a need for more coursework in a given field, universities respond with new programs to help students succeed from the moment they get their degrees.

What are college kids looking for today? University of Tulsa students are excited about a new degree in creative writing. Roger Blais, provost at TU, says that this new major grew organically out of a tradition of opening the campus to authors.

“Over the years, we’ve had some very distinguished writers on the faculty,” Blais says. He’s talking about accomplished authors like Germaine Greer, an influential second-wave feminist; Paul Scott, winner of the Booker Prize and author of Jewel in the Crown; Grace Mojtabai, who writes about religion and culture; and Darcy O’Brien, known for true crime and historical fiction.

“We have a Russian poet on our faculty – Yevgeny Yevtushenko – who is possibly the best-known poet in the world right now,” Blais says. “The new creative writing major just seemed natural.”

Another growing field is medicine. Oklahoma City University just rolled out a new physician assistant major in January. The 28-month program features a year in the classroom and 16 months of clinical training. OCU is only the third institution in the state to offer a PA program, joining OU Health Science Center programs in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

“It’s a high-demand area. The program itself is very rigorous and intense, but students love it,” Interim Provost Kent Buchanan says. Students in the PA program can do their clinical rotations in one of over 90 sites statewide, 30 of which are in Oklahoma City.

Students today also are looking to carry less debt after college. TU meets that need by offering students a coordinated degree in 13 areas so they can gain a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree concurrently. Participants who take these coordinated degree programs typically finish their coursework a year or more ahead of students enrolled in more traditional degree programs.

Coordinated degrees are becoming more popular because of their cost savings, Blais says. “It’s one of the things parents (and students) are concerned about. The combined degree program saves a year of tuition and room and board. Students can start earning money sooner.”

At the University of Oklahoma, popular new academic initiatives include the Peggy and Charles Stephenson School of Biomedical Engineering, which begins offering undergraduate degrees this fall. OU’s Debt-Free Teachers Program in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education, funded by gifts from alumni and donors, gives new graduates an incentive to stay and teach in Oklahoma.

All in all, these new majors and accelerated degrees allow Oklahoma students to maximize their tuition dollars, their time and their resumes for a successful career down the road.

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