HomeOn CampusPreparing the State Workforce in Biotech, Environmental Studies, Utilities Management

Preparing the State Workforce in Biotech, Environmental Studies, Utilities Management

Three recently approved programs promise to meet workforce needs and prepare Southern students for jobs in exciting, rapidly evolving fields.

The university is adding Bachelor of Science degree programs in biotechnology and in environmental systems and sustainability studies, both of which will start this fall. While the two programs are rooted in science, they will be multidisciplinary in nature to provide students with the breadth of knowledge and the tools to take on real world issues.

Meanwhile, a concentration in public utility management – within the Bachelor of Science degree program in business administration – is designed to focus on utilities, such as water, gas, electric and wastewater. The program also is interdisciplinary and intended to provide students with an opportunity to fill managerial and technological job openings that are occurring as a result of the aging of the workforce in the public utilities field.

The B.S. in biotechnology requires 32 credits in biology and 23-24 credits in the related areas of math, physics and chemistry. The program will include a combination of existing courses and several new courses – such as Introduction to Bioinformatics and Seminar in Biotechnology. It also will provide students with internship opportunities with bioscience companies throughout the region.

“We are very excited to offer this major,” said Nicholas Edgington, an associate professor of biology who will serve as coordinator of the new program. “Jobs – good, high paying jobs – are plentiful in this cutting-edge field. Students will come away with a background that will enable them to be competitive for these biotechnology positions.”

Christine Broadbridge, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Research and Innovation, said she is thrilled with the launch of the degree program. She noted its connection with the Bioscience Academic and Career Pathway Initiative (BioPath) — a partnership between Southern and the city of New Haven that was designed specifically to meet the workforce needs of area biotech companies.

“We have optimized our courses to align with the needs of local industry,” Broadbridge said. “Students will be uniquely prepared for internships with these companies and for immediate employment.”

Examples of biotechnology uses include the biopharmaceutical industry to treat or cure diseases, such as cancer; testing the body’s reaction to medical devices, and clinical genetic testing.

The B.S. in environmental systems and sustainability studies will offer students the chance to focus on one of three concentrations within the major – environmental systems, coastal marine systems, and environmental policy and management.

“It really is going to be an exciting program,” said Vincent Breslin, professor of the environment, geography and marine sciences, who helped organize the major. “It takes a holistic, multidisciplinary approach to environmental and sustainability issues.

“As an example, let’s take climate change. Sure, the solution sounds simple – eliminate the use of fossil fuels. But realistically, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. So, what are our options? What steps can we take? The students will look at those options and the social and economic consequences they could have on society. There is a need for professionals who understand the complexities associated with environmental problems and solutions,” he said.

The program will require students to take about 40 credits in their major, differing slightly based on their concentration. All students will take 15 foundational credits, including an introduction to environmental and marine studies, an introduction to the principles of sustainability and a research methods course. They will also will complete an experiential component, such as an internship, research experience and participating in a seminar.

Breslin said the major incorporates various disciplines – including biology, geography, earth science, environmental studies, marine studies, public health, political science and business management.

The public utilities management concentration requires 30 credits, including courses in crisis/risk management, green energy and environmental sustainability, and workforce safety and industry regulatory codes. It also includes courses in business communications, business law, public utility/governmental accounting, and business continuity planning.

The program is a collaborative effort that also includes public utility companies in the region and Gateway Community College. Students at Gateway can earn a certificate or an associate degree in public utility management, and then transfer to Southern to pursue a B.S. in business administration with a concentration in public utility management.

The departments facing the most pressing hiring needs in the public utility field include customer service, field operations, employee relations, information technology, purchasing, and finance and quality assurance, according to an industry study conducted by SCSU and Gateway.

“At Southern, one of our commitments is to meet the needs of the state workforce,” said Ellen Durnin, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This is exactly the type of program that will accomplish that goal. At the same time, it will provide our students with skills necessary for a career in that field.”




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