September 2021

As the working world continues to evolve, Minnesota Private Colleges are constantly thinking about innovative ways to offer undergraduate majors that resonate with students, including ones that will address their career aspirations. Right now, many of our colleges are taking that step to create new programs. Here are three examples of this innovation.

Concordia College, Moorhead:

Music and business entrepreneurship

Concordia College has combined two areas of interest for students by offering a new music and business entrepreneurship major. While Concordia is widely known for providing a strong music curriculum, there has been widespread interest among students to incorporate an entrepreneurial component in the curriculum.

“This new degree program combining music and business entrepreneurship is the realization of a dream that is several years in the making. It combines two of the college’s most popular programs, creating a synergy that is sure to benefit students into the future,” Nathaniel Dickey, chair of the music department, said.

Bree Langemo
Bree Langemo

This led Concordia to approve the music and business entrepreneurship degree this past July. Bree Langemo, the director of the Entrepreneurship Center, has worked with many enthusiastic music students through her Entrepreneurial Mindset course, engaging in collaboration with the music department to provide enriching opportunities for them.

“Music students go on to be entrepreneurial in whatever form or fashion it may be. They must figure out how to self-advocate and create value to promote themselves. It has worked well,” Langemo said.

Last year, the college started a music and entrepreneurship residency where musicians who are entrepreneurs were brought in to share personal experiences about their work in the music industry. There was a seminar that went along with it where students could deepen their learning and ask questions too. This gave students the chance to get insight on how to use entrepreneurial skills to be successful.

“I just love [our] students since they’re so curious and engaged. We apply our learning in the classroom so it’s not just me being the expert up at the front [of the classroom]. What we have done at Concordia is focus on applied learning, so it’s not just knowledge that’s available everywhere, but how we spend our time together applying what we’re learning,” Langemo said.

Concordia University, St. Paul:

Digital marketing

Brian Evans
Brian Evans

Marketing and Communications Director Brian Evans has always had a deep relationship with Concordia University-St. Paul. He graduated with a bachelor’s in marketing and went back to earn his master’s in administration too. Now Evans is not only on staff leading marketing but also teaching in the marketing department—a fulfilling experience that gave him an opportunity to give back to a campus he calls home.

In today’s highly digitalized world, there is a need to focus on specific skills students need to be successful. In the marketing department, Evans helped revise the curriculum to incorporate a digital element.

When considering the breadth of the new digital marketing major, Evans noted that “it’s pretty amazing where they can go. Our students can be social media coordinators and run social media accounts. They can also do digital management of all their promotional ads. There is the website side of things such as analytics. Those are all careers available to them. And that’s just scratching the surface,” Evans said.

A key aspect of the new digital marketing major at Concordia University is that the program is working to be more efficient and innovative as new modern techniques are discovered. The purpose is to foster critical thinking instead of just teaching tactics. As the digital marketing major evolves, there is potential to include career tracks such as advertising, media management and crisis communications.

“We just put them on the path toward a lifetime of learning. The digital marketing major will continue to evolve and will grow on its own as we’re seeing most of our students and businesses are asking for it,” Evans said. “These businesses need these people with the skills and can’t wait for somebody to graduate with a Marketing degree and go figure it out.”

Macalester College:

Data science

Data science has been increasingly popular at Macalester College, with strong student interest in the existing data science minor and 50-75 students participating in the DataFest competition each year. This interest led the math, statistics and computer science department to begin offering a new major in data science this fall.

David Shuman
David Shuman

David Shuman, associate professor in the department, understands the appeal for this addition to Macalester’s curriculum.

“Data science is very much a liberal arts subject. The goal is to better understand how the world around us works, how to interact with it and how to use data to draw inferences and make more informed decisions.” Shuman said.

Shuman describes how the approach to the curriculum is to combine the hard sciences with a liberal arts focus. The requirements for the major include courses in data science, statistics, computer science and math, many of which emphasize open-ended projects. While most of these courses were in place, the department added a new intermediate data science course to supplement its introductory and advanced data science courses.

The data science major prepares students to communicate data stories and work on teams with people from different disciplinary areas, Shuman noted, describing how students can learn to inquire about others’ research questions and jointly determine what kind of data analysis would be most useful.

“Whether our students are going on to partner with community organizations, conduct research or work in industry, we want them not only to have the core technical data science skills, but also to have experience communicating with domain experts, refining research questions and presenting key findings through visualizations and stories in a way that is both reproducible and accessible to a broad audience.” Shuman said.

By Monali Bhakta