Board of Visitors approves new degree programs

In order to meet the demands of the job market, Mason has proposed four new academic programs. Starting fall 2014, Mason will provide a Bachelor of Science in cyber security engineering.

A Ph.D. in bioengineering and Masters of Science in data analytics will be available to graduate students.

The proposals for the new programs were approved by the Board of Visitors on Oct. 2. According to Provost Peter Stearns, the next step is approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, which may take time.

“The State Council has a fairly demanding format for submitting proposals and there’s a bit of a time lapse between our approving the programs and having them ready to present to the state,” Stearns said.

The new programs will include existing engineering classes with new ones with entirely new curriculums. Most of the faculty will consist of already hired staff.

Associate Professor Peggy Brouse worked with vice president of Information Security and Cyber Initiatives for Northrop Grumman Michael Papay on the cyber security program. Papay helped tailor the program to give students desired skills.

According to Brouse, the new cyber security program is different from others because it aims to create proactive engineers.

“This new degree and these new graduates, these cyber security engineers will be a part of the development team from the very beginning,” Brouse said.

Because Mason will be pioneering this path, there is excitement in the work force and education departments.

“Most of these classes have some kind of a lab component or a practical component so students are actually doing something, they’re not just listening to people talk,” Brouse said. “The other thing we have is that we discuss a lot of the physical systems. It’s not just all the software that goes wrong.”

Mason has received indication from Richmond that the Department of Education is excited for the creation of the cyber security engineering degree, Brouse said.

Data analytics engineering is a quickly growing field. The proposal for a Master’s of Science in data analytics was approved by the Board of Visitors and will be reviewed by SHEV on Oct. 20 and 29.

The program prepares students for a career in communicating mass amounts of data, or “big data” into English.

The initiative for data analytics came from several departments, each of which contains various aspects of data analysis.

The new program contains components of each department. Statistics, systems engi­neering and operations research, computer science, implied information technology, electrical and computer engineering all played a part in the creation of the proposal.

“All of them were interested in working together to try to put together a degree that would capture all of these methodologies and technologies,” Senior Associate Dean Stephen Nash said. “There are components of all of those departments that play a role in this interdisciplinary data analytics field. The strength, I think of the degree comes from the range of our capabilities within this school.”

A Bachelors of Science in bioengineering has been available from Mason, however, the department desired Ph.D. level students to add research.

The field of Bioengineering combines biology and life sciences with engineering new technologies.

“So many of our faculty are active in research, there’s always a desire to have a PhD program where they can train students to do research and bring students into help in research projects,” Nash said.

The growing field has proven attractive to students with interest in both biology and engineering, according to the Board of Visitors agenda.

One of the first goals of the doctoral program in Bioengineering is to train potential faculty, who will then guide the increasing number of students in this field.

Martha Bushong, the recently hired director of communications for Volgenau, said she plans to help publicize the new programs by networking through existing students and faculty.

If approved by SHEV, the new programs will be available for students fall 2014.

Each proposal details a new course of study that aims to be interdisciplinary and has involved input from faculty and workers in several different fields of study.

“When you bring together people from different disciplines, they have to learn how to trust each other, communicate with each other and develop a set of shared goals that don’t necessarily match their individual goals,” Nash said.

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