Duane Bonifer  |   Published July 23, 2018

New STEM programs

Data science, engineering and neuroscience part of major academic innovation
  • Monmouth’s three new academic programs will be housed in the College’s Center for Science and Business, a 138,000-square-foot academic building opened earlier this decade.
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College has launched a major academic innovation that will further position its students to be competitive in careers related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.   Beginning in fall 2019, the liberal arts college will offer STEM programs in data science, engineering and neuroscience. Engineering will be a “renaissance program” that offers an area of concentration in chemical, electrical and mechanical engineering. 
“At a time when many colleges and universities are being forced to retrench or pull back, Monmouth is fortunate to be in a position where it can invest in and aggressively expand its academic programs, especially those in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Monmouth President Clarence R. Wyatt. “These three new programs are built upon the foundations of our outstanding established academic programs, and these enterprises honor their roots while looking forward to the needs of a changing world. In the best tradition of Monmouth College, these programs and other innovative ideas that will follow will engage our students in evolving fields of inquiry and prepare them for new fields of endeavor.”

The new programs in data science, engineering and neuroscience were created and proposed by the College’s faculty.

“Our extensive research showed that there is a great deal of regional and national interest in these programs, and long-term job prospects are substantial in all three areas,” said Monmouth interim Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs Mark Willhardt.

Monmouth College Board of Trustees Chairman Mark Kopinski said one reason the board unanimously voted to fund the new programs is because they are the product of faculty initiatives.

“In responding to the demands of tomorrow’s education, this is a prime example of successful collaboration between the College faculty, administration and the board of trustees,” said Kopinski.

Business leaders said Monmouth’s decision to invest in high-demand academic programs is an example of its “forward thinking.”

“These new academic initiatives are impressive – they represent an institution that is forward thinking,” said Morningstar Inc. CEO Kunal Kapoor, a 1997 Monmouth graduate. “All three programs will prepare students for careers that will be in high demand for the foreseeable future, and because the programs are grounded in a strong liberal arts education, students will be well-equipped to deal with the challenges of an ever-changing world.”

Policymakers also praised Monmouth’s leadership and faculty for creating academic programs that prepare students for “an ever-evolving global workforce.”

“A hallmark of liberal arts colleges has always been their ability to be adaptable, flexible and innovative in providing curricula that is current and relevant to the needs of students. This flexibility allows colleges to better prepare students to be productive citizens in an ever-evolving global workforce,” said David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. “The new academic programs that President Wyatt and the faculty at Monmouth College have introduced reinforce the public purpose and critical role that private, nonprofit colleges and universities play in their communities and highlight the benefits students receive from such a diverse, and forward-looking mix, of academic courses.”

About the programs   Monmouth’s three new academic programs will be housed in the College’s Center for Science and Business, a 138,000-square-foot academic building opened earlier this decade. The building’s laboratory and research spaces make it an ideal location for all three programs.

“The Center for Science and Business was designed to be flexible,” said physics professor Christopher Fasano, who designed the engineering program. “If you think about the Center for Science and Business as the connection of science and business, that’s what science and business do when they converge – they make engineering.”

The engineering program is based on three cores: science, engineering and renaissance thinking.

“The world needs engineers who can communicate effectively, who can solve complex problems, who can work with diverse groups of people, and who can understand the culture and context of the decisions they make. That is what a liberal arts education at Monmouth is about,” said Fasano. “The big problems that we face as a society require a renaissance person to be able to see the big picture as well as focus on the details.”

Professor of mathematics and computer science Logan Mayfield said data science is a “perfect fit” for Monmouth.

“Our new program will equip students with a background in statistics, machine learning, programming, algorithms, data analysis and data visualization while leveraging the liberal arts environment to gain expertise in the areas of study where data scientists are making a real difference and attain the breadth of knowledge needed to make sound, ethical decisions from and with data,” said Mayfield, who helped create the program.

Neuroscience encompasses disciplines ranging from physics to philosophy. The program’s courses will appeal to students interested in exploring health, societal and legal influences of neuroscientific research.

Psychology professor Marsha Dopheide said that one of the most exciting aspects about the neuroscience program, which she helped create, is that “it will embody Monmouth’s interdisciplinary approach to teaching.”

“The new program will allow us to bring in two neuroscientists – one in the biology department and one in the chemistry department,” said Dopheide. “As a result, science majors interested in pursuing advanced degrees in neuroscience will benefit from cutting-edge lines of research being added to the already-strong research programs offered through these two departments.”
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