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Newkirk: ECSU updating its 'academic inventory'

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Vann Newkirk

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Elizabeth City State University continues to add new curriculum programs and online education options as part of its overall strategy to increase enrollment.

ECSU Provost Vann Newkirk told the Academic Affairs Committee of the university’s Board of Trustees last week that the university is “updating our academic inventory.” In recent years the historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that have lost enrollment have done so mainly because of an “outdated academic inventory,” Newkirk said.

Also, a recent report shows the main reason institutions have closed in recent years has been failure to capture a share of the growing market for online education.

An advantage ECSU has, according to Newkirk, is that the current faculty enables the university to begin a number of new curriculum programs without having to add faculty.

After a sharp decline in enrollment two years ago, ECSU has seen two consecutive years of enrollment growth and is looking for continued growth next year. Along with beefed up efforts in recruitment and other initiatives, one way the university aims to grow enrollment is through offering new degree programs and especially through expanding the opportunities that are available for online education.

Newkirk said he appreciated ECSU faculty and staff embracing the vision for online education.

The online degree in interdisciplinary studies is the fastest-growing curriculum program at the university, he said. The program is designed to enable students who had started at ECSU but never completed their degree a way to finish in an online-only format, he explained.

In addition, the interdisciplinary studies degree offers students who have hours in a variety of courses that might not meet the requirements for any of the other majors a way to combine all their credit hours toward a degree, according to Newkirk.

Currently there are 64 students enrolled in the online interdisciplinary studies degree program, four in the online emergency management degree program and 12 in the new program in special education.

A new degree program in digital media is awaiting Department of Education approval and is expected to be available beginning with the spring semester, Newkirk said.

Later this month the University of North Carolina Board of Governors will consider the proposed new degree in unmanned aircraft systems, Newkirk said.

Newkirk told the committee that the UNC System office is continuing to review the proposed degrees in homeland security and sustainability studies. Those two degrees got a green light from the ECSU trustees in June. At that time Newkirk told the trustees that homeland security would be ECSU’s second degree available entirely online, enabling students to pursue the degree from anywhere in the world where they could connect to the internet -- a feature particularly important for Coast Guard personnel and other members of the military who might be interested in the degree and who would be subject to being moved far away from the physical campus.

The homeland security program is designed to teach students about the role of intelligence and the impact of policy in securing the country from domestic and international threats and natural disasters, Newkirk said.

Newkirk said the sustainability studies degree would prepare students for jobs in the “green job market” such as renewable energy and would be the only four-year program of its kind in northeastern North Carolina, which has a growing presence of solar farms and wind turbines. The program in sustainability studies will enable ECSU to position itself “far ahead of the pack” in preparing students for jobs in the growing field of green energy, according to Newkirk.

The university also has converted its master of science in elementary education degree program to an online format in an effort to save the program, Newkirk said. The UNC System had targeted the master’s level program in elementary education for elimination, he said.

The online format will make the master’s degree in elementary education at ECSU more affordable, which should help rebuild enrollment in the program, he said.

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