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New UAFS programs include robotics, finance and global business

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

A Tuesday (Feb. 11) Board of Visitors meeting at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith provided an update to three new degree programs at the university, as well as two new certificate programs and an update on the state's coordination of educational efforts across all grade levels.

The new degree programs launched at UAFS this year are bachelor's degrees in international business, finance and general studies.

According to Dr. Georgia Hale, interim associate provost for academic affairs and dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology, each degree program meets a need on the university's growing Fort Smith campus.

The new international business degree was designed to meet the needs of today's global economy, she said, fulfilling student and workforce demands.

"Students want to work in industries that have a global perspective and this will give them an opportunity to look at, go beyond American business (and) into international business," she said. "And also as they progress, it gives them more job opportunities because they will have an international perspective from the courses they've taken here."

UAFS's new finance degree was brought about after university officials noticed a rise in the number of business majors who were maxing out the number of finance courses students were taking as part of their degree programs.

"We did surveys and a lot of our students said if we had a finance major, they would certainly go into that area of study," she said, adding: "On the national level, the demands growing for students who have a background in finance."

By adding the major, the College of Business is now among the other 69% of accredited business schools that offer a finance major. While the finance major is a useful standalone degree, Hale said there is an expectation that many accounting majors may choose to double major now that the degree has been offered.

The third new degree offering is a bachelor's in general studies, which allows students with 45 hours in another major to apply those credits toward a general degree. According to Hale, the degree is targeted to students who either decided to change majors or were not accepted into some competitive academic programs, thereby allowing them to complete a degree with the hours already earned toward a specific major.

UAFS has also added two new certificate programs this year — a certificate in professional sales and another in robotics. The need for additional robotics education was a result of the university's notice that various companies across the state, including 21 in the Fort Smith region, are utilizing robotics of some sort in the course of doing business and yet there is not a single trained technician in the state, according to Hale.

In launching the new certificate program, UAFS Chancellor Dr. Paul Beran said he was able to secure $300,000 from Gov. Mike Beebe to help launch the program, as well as receiving a donation of equipment from Baldor.

With the equipment in place, Beran said the next step is getting faculty trained and ready to lead the state in robotics education.

"With this contract also comes a significant amount of training for our faculty, so they are truly proficient and have a high skill set themselves so their ability to teach it matches and exceeds what people need to know when they go out in the industry."

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He said the program was not "on a whim," but was created after much research. He added that the closest known robotics program at a university was in Indiana, confirming the need for such programs in Arkansas.

The three new bachelor's degrees and two new certificate programs come nearly a month after UAFS announced it was in the early stages of preparing a new master's degree in healthcare administration, the university's first master's-level program.

In other business, Dr. Mark Arant, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and the interim dean of the College of Education, presented the annual report of the Arkansas Commission for Coordination of Educational Efforts.

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