Thursday, December 02, 2010
University Committee Supports New Major
By James Monteleone
Journal Staff Writer
One week after the University of New Mexico said it might cut degree programs to streamline operations, a regents committee Wednesday recommended adding a major.
A master's degree in biomedical engineering won the unanimous support of the regents' academic affairs committee.
If the new program is adopted by the full board on Dec. 14, it would be the ninth degree or certificate created by UNM this year. The other new offerings, including pre-engineering, nursing and pre-professional health sciences, were made available for branch campuses.
Biomedical engineering courses already are offered for engineering graduate students, and the major wouldn't require additional resources, said Steven Graves, associate director for UNM's Center for Biomedical Engineering, established in 2007 with seed money from the state Legislature.
Some UNM students have created their own biomedical engineering specialty by taking all available classes in that curriculum, he said. Some, however, have gone to other states to earn a formal biomedical engineering degree, Graves said.
The new degree would offer a significant benefit to graduate students pursuing careers in that field, without requiring new courses and additional academic resources, Provost Suzanne Ortega said.
The additions come as UNM reviews academic and administrative programs to see which could be cut or consolidated. The provost's office has asked eight degree programs to submit comprehensive information before decisions are made in January.
Although cutting majors isn't a significant budget savings, it streamlines operations enough to offer new programs when needed, Ortega said.
"To the extent we identify places where we're no longer meeting a need, it creates space to start a conversation about the things we might need, like biomedical engineering," she said.
Faculty Senate President Richard Wood said UNM is addressing its students' changing needs by considering cuts to waning programs while identifying new academic opportunities.
UNM majors facing elimination are: an education degree in chemistry; a joint degree in economics and philosophy and Russian; Portuguese; and Russian studies. Graduate degrees are a master's in Portuguese and Ph.Ds in French studies and Latin American studies.
Because faculty in those programs teach other in-demand courses, their positions likely would not be cut, the provost's office has said.