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Colleges add majors to respond to employer needs

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In an effort to stay relevant and better equip future employees, area colleges are tailoring the curriculum and developing new majors at a fast clip.

Here is a roundup of recent changes at a few area colleges and universities.

Millersville University

Some of the school’s latest offerings include majors like applied disability studies, digital journalism, educational studies, entertainment technology, environmental hazards and emergency management, science writing, sports business and sports journalism.

University spokesperson Janet Kacskos said the majors were developed as a result of student and/or employer demand.

The university’s multidisciplinary studies major, meanwhile, gives students the opportunity to craft a major – with the guidance of an administrator – that suits their career goals.

York College

Students can look into new majors such as civil engineering, integrated marketing communication, music production and entrepreneurship, as well as master’s degree programs in leadership, medical humanities, and philosophy and business.

“There is a strategy of looking for new majors that fit how the economy is changing or how we can expand successful programs to engage more of a particular area. Much of this new program development is based on what is ahead in the future of curricular development,” said Laura Niesen de Abruna, the school’s chief academic officer.

How are new programs born?

Though each institution is different, many make it a point to connect with area businesses to get a sense of what life after school is like. Colleges also try to gauge what interest to high school students as that, too, can help shape future programming.

In addition, institutions can access a variety of data such as surveys that show the skills employers are looking for in prospective employees, said Betty Rider, senior vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty at Elizabethtown College.

Schools can also look at SAT results.

“In 2015, for example, more than 83,000 students in Pennsylvania took the SAT. There was one major that had only 20 students out of the 83,000 express an interest. This would not be a fruitful new major to develop, particularly if other colleges or universities in the Commonwealth already offer this program,” she said.

But when they do find something that might be a hit, colleges and universities are quicker than ever to respond, Rider said, noting that access to information about trends in the workplace, learning innovations, and what’s working or not working is almost instantaneous.

And they are increasingly attuned to what employers need, said Laura Niesen de Abruna, chief academic officer at York College.

“I think that is a clear result of the higher number of students seeking a college degree for the sole purpose of getting a job out of college,” she said.

Still, traditional majors – business, nursing, engineering, psychology, and criminal justice – remain among the most popular. Niesen de Abruna believes it is because they combine a liberal arts core with a professionally oriented major that will provide access to a career.

Elizabethtown College

Among the new majors are data science, chemistry laboratory sciences, engineering with a biomedical concentration, engineering with a civil concentration, finance, marketing, graphic design, criminal justice, and business analytics.

The Lancaster County college also has introduced a new entrepreneurship and family business concentration, which provides an additional opportunity for students who are interested in starting their own business or working with startups. Hossein Varamini, a professor of finance and international business at Elizabethtown, said he’s seen great interest in social entrepreneurship in an effort to address global social challenges.

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Emily Thurlow

Emily Thurlow

​Emily Thurlow covers York County​ for the Central Penn Business Journal. Have a tip? Drop her a line at ethurlow@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter @localloislane.

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