Texas A&M University Starts University Studies Degree
Texas A&M University is gearing up to begin its new University Studies Degree (USD) with the start of the fall semester, offering students the opportunity to have more flexibility in tailoring degree programs that may better fit their career aspirations than what has traditionally been available.
USD provisions give students the opportunity to select fields of concentration calling for 21 to 24 semester credit hours coupled with two minor fields of study of 15 to18 credit hours each, notes Interim Texas A&M President Eddie J. Davis. He points out this combination of 51 or more hours, in addition to the core curriculum courses required for all students, is in lieu of electing to “major” in one of the standard fields, such as accounting, biology, chemistry or one of the other program areas that have long been curriculum staples.
Davis says the new degree also is viewed as a viable means for helping more students graduate in a timely manner, a goal set forth by legislators and heartily endorsed by university officials. He cites instances in which students in good academic standing with the university have been held up in progression toward their degrees because of space limitations and other restrictions in some majors.
The USD flexibility should ease some of those class constraints, he adds, pointing out that a better flow of students through their degree programs also allows the university to maximize its classrooms and laboratories.
The USD program, which was developed over a period of several years, grew out of the recommendations of three university-wide task forces focusing on access to majors and enhancing the undergraduate experience.
Calling USD a “high priority,” Davis assigned Dean of Undergraduate Studies Martyn Gunn the responsibility for overseeing the formal launching of the new program, working closely with deans and department heads in the participating academic colleges.
“One concern is maintaining academic rigor,” Davis notes, explaining “this will be achieved by using existing courses, which have already passed the ‘rigor test,’ for the minors and areas of concentration. Any new courses proposed for a new minor or areas of concentration will have to be approved in the normal way, including approval by the Faculty Senate.”
Gunn says the intent is to start the USD program with a modest number of students this fall and then expand in subsequent years.
“We will start with fewer than 250 students so that we don’t overwhelm our current resources. But our plan is to allow the program to grow without restricting access and eventually to admit transfer and freshmen directly into one of the USD areas of concentration,” he notes. “Besides the important access issues mentioned by Dr. Davis, I’m also excited by the educational flexibility the USD program provides students. With the guidance of faculty and advisers, students now have the option of choosing an area of concentration and a combination of minors that best suit their academic interests and career goals.”
The current list of approved areas of concentration and the overseeing academic units include leadership studies, and agriculture and life sciences studies, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; global arts, planning, design and construction, College of Architecture; business, Mays Business School; dance, College of Education and Human Development; geography, College of Geosciences; race, gender and ethnicity, College of Liberal Arts; math for teaching, College of Science; biomedical sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; and marine environment law and policy, Texas A&M University at Galveston.
More information about USD is available at https://catalog.tamu.edu/undergraduate/university-studies-degrees/.